Drive and motivation determine our ability to achieve goals. Managing underlying problems and building on inherent interests can help.
What’s the biggest goal you’ve achieved? Some people have a quick response to this question. They might answer that they completed a college degree, raised a child, or bought a house. Other examples may be less obvious, but could include finishing a local marathon, learning a musical instrument, or overcoming a life difficulty like an illness or injury.
None of these tasks nor goals are easy. People don’t achieve them by simply living life day to day and seeing what happens. Meeting a goal requires interest or need, persistence, curiosity, energy, and motivation. The willingness and ability to complete the steps towards these goals make up our drive and motivation.
Drive and motivation is one of the subcategories measured in the Mental Health Million MHQ (Mental Health Quotient). Having a healthy drive and motivation means you are able to:
- Initiate and persevere with difficult tasks and activities through to completion
- Be curious, interested, excited, and enthusiastic about the world around you
- Overcome challenges and distractions that get in the way of your goals
We all have tasks in life that we haven’t finished for one reason or another. But if you have a chronic issue with not completing goals and projects, you may be struggling with low drive and motivation. In some instances, the following complications might interfere with drive and motivation:
- Personal circumstance (such as personal problems in the home, or public problems in your community or region)
- Recent or past traumas that are causing you distress or distraction
- Physical health issues that cause distraction or discouragement
- Addictions that dominate how you spend your time, such as problems with substances, video games, or gambling
If you are struggling with drive and motivation, it may help to determine what’s happening and how you can get support or help yourself. For example, many people with depression issues have low drive. One of the common questions therapists ask clients is if they have decreased interest in things they used to enjoy. Talking to a doctor or therapist about these feelings can be helpful to determine what’s going on. Then you can start to address the issue.
Taking care of other areas of wellbeing can also help with troubleshooting drive and motivation. Mood and outlook and mind-body connection both have a clear relationship to drive and motivation, for example.
If you have negative MHQ scores in drive or motivation, you should contact a doctor or qualified counselor. A professional can help you assess the situation and determine what’s going on. In the U.S., you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). If you have violent or suicidal thoughts, you should contact emergency services in your area, along with a doctor or therapist, and visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support.
See related post: A negative MHQ is a signal to seek medical help.
Increasing Drive and Motivation
If you are simply looking to maintain or improve your drive and motivation, there is no shortage of advice. Most of the self-help and coaching industry is built around this very concept.
Much research has focused on the importance of internal (or intrinsic) and extrinsic (outside) motivation. According to two positive psychology researchers (Stefano Di Domenico and Richard Ryan), people who are motivated from within “engage in an activity because they find it interesting and inherently satisfying.” When people are motivated by external factors, they complete an activity because they want the “attainment of a reward, the avoidance of a punishment, or the achievement of some valued outcome.”
For example, Sandra might be internally motivated to learn a new language because she loves linguistics, but be externally motivated to go to a job she dislikes because she needs to pay the bills. Most specialists agree that we need both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to be successful in our life goals, although some believe intrinsic motivations are what last.
If you want to increase your intrinsic motivation for tasks you find boring, you might consider tying in short-term, less desirable tasks to long-term goals. For example, showing up to work daily in a job that you don’t want may help you get a good recommendation down the road for a better one. Remembering this when you get bored or discouraged at work may be helpful. Similarly, getting a passing grade in a general education course like Algebra may help you finish a history degree which is important to you, even if the Algebra class seems totally unrelated.
We all struggle with drive and motivation from time to time. An occasional distraction or change in focus is normal. If you are finding yourself struggling with this more frequently, and you’d like to increase your MHQ score, then addressing the underlying wellbeing issues and identifying your intrinsic motivations can help.