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Kid Motivation

This is a guest post by Peter Bailey. He is the owner of American Display – a manufacturer of offline marketing products. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about his knowledge of traditional marketing principles, but adapting them for the online marketing environment.

At its core, motivation is our desire to do things. It’s the difference between getting up early and hitting the gym and lazing around the house all day. It plays a crucial role in setting and attaining our goals.

Some people just seem to have it more than others – grit, self-control, drive, work ethic, persistence, motivation – whatever you prefer to call it. And it’s probably not surprising to learn that it’s a common trait among successful people. So does this mean motivation is part of our genetic makeup? Or is it something we can learn to develop, like learning a new language or taking up a new sport.

In fact, research shows there are several ways you can influence your own levels of motivation and self-control, and these are not always the most obvious solution. If you’re feeling too nervous about something, leading you to procrastinate and put off getting started, you should try to calm down, right? Not necessarily…

If you’re looking for ways to increase your daily motivation, here are some researched-backed ideas to help you succeed in your everyday pursuits.

Use that nervous energy

Nervous Woman

Have you ever noticed how similar the symptoms of feeling nervous are to feeling excited? Fast heartbeat, trembling hands, brain racing… Although nervous energy might be stopping you from getting on with a task, trying to calm down isn’t necessarily the way forward.

This energy can be useful, and when channeled right, can actually help increase performance. The next time you can’t bring yourself to do something – ask your boss for a raise, confront a colleague about a problem, etc… –  because you’re simply too nervous, tell yourself that what you’re feeling is excitement.

This is a process called “reappraisal”, and a large amount of research has gone into studying its effects when it comes to motivation and other emotions.

For instance, in his book Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed, Daniel McGinn discusses research that suggests you can teach yourself to re-evaluate situations which produce strong emotions in a way which changes the emotional impact for the better.

In an experiment which required one group of people to make a work-related speech and another group to carry out difficult math problems, they found that the individuals who had talked about feeling “excited” before the task outperformed those who talked about feeling nervous, calm, or were told to try and remain calm.

So the next time you’re procrastinating on a task due to nerves, reappraise the situation and tell yourself that you’re excited about getting it done. You may not feel any different after telling yourself once, but keep working at it and think of it as developing a new skill.

Listen to motivational music

Listening to Music

Studies show that listening to just one minute of motivational music can give you a significant physiological advantage. McGinn references a 1995 study which compared the performance of athletes who listened to the Rocky theme before a race to those who waited in silence.

Although both groups had run the same time in the past, their results showed that the group that listened to Rocky music ran faster, had a quicker heartbeat, tense muscles, and lower anxiety levels than the runners who didn’t listen to any music.

If the Rocky theme isn’t for you, fear not, as there are plenty of songs out there that can help you feel more motivated. Costas Karageorghis, a leading researcher on music and performance, suggests that the key to finding motivational music lies in any song which you find physically energizing, stimulating, or activating.

Of course, the best song will differ from person to person. Whilst the Rocky song may get one individual’s blood pumping, Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” may do just the trick for another.

If you’re feeling unmotivated due to a lack of energy, the physiological effects of listening to a motivating song could give you the boost you need.

Give yourself a fresh start

The 1st of January is generally considered a good time to wipe the slate clean and give yourself a fresh start for the year to come. But for most people, this is just an arbitrary point in life which is no better than, say, the 3rd of June.

You can give yourself a fresh start any day of the year, which should lead to a new burst of energy, according to a study carried out by the Wharton School of Business. Inter-temporal markers can encourage you to disconnect from past failures and help promote a big-picture view of life, which in turn leaves you feeling more motivated to get things done.

Giving yourself a fresh start doesn’t have to be a lengthy period of contemplation, you can do it in five minutes. Think of a recent event which had an impact in your life, such as a promotion or a breakup, and contrive a fresh start. Once you do it you’ll find it more believable than just reading the advice in this article.

It’s best to sit down, craft a message, write it down, and make it as concrete as possible. Whether you want to make changes in your life or stop putting off your dream, tell yourself that “from today, I’m going to make things happen”.  

Develop your own ritual

Many professionals have some sort of ritual they carry out before getting ready for work. Think of an athlete warming up, a pianist playing scales, or the simple act of enjoying a cup of coffee before starting work.

Research shows that having a consistent ritual can actually improve performance, so if you don’t have one yet, it’s time to develop one. But don’t just copy what seems to be working for someone else, customize a ritual for you.

Sports psychologist have devoted a lot of time to studying the rituals that athletes carry out before they compete. Mostly, they found that athletes who use a well-conceived and consistent routine tend to perform better than those who don’t have one.

Having a consistent routine is a great way to beat procrastination and get you in the right headspace. By developing a habitualized response to starting – and let’s face it, taking that first step is often the hardest part – you can make this process much easier.

Developing personal rituals and using them consistently can make you happier and more productive. So whether you adjust your sock height so they match (a la Rafael Nadal) or wear a lucky pair of shorts before a big event (hey, Michael Jordan), you’ll be creating a mechanism which will help you focus and tackle whatever you need to get done.

The (surprising) value of superstition


As long as we’re on the subject of increasing motivation, it’s important not to underestimate the value of superstition. Okay, so this may an unscientific method of motivating yourself, but as with other ways of increasing motivation, this also been studied.

As mentioned above, carrying out certain rituals before starting your day can help you be more productive and put off procrastination, but they don’t need to be logical or rational. Far from it. It’s whatever works for you

The same goes for good luck charms. Deep down you may know your lucky pen doesn’t really have the magical powers to help you answer exam questions, but you use it anyway, just in case.

Why? Because at the end of the day, it gives you more confidence and makes you feel more effective, a positive thing when it comes to motivation.

McGinn references another study where golfers were divided into groups. One group was told they would be playing with a PGA player’s club, whilst the others played with their usual club.

Results showed that the group who believed they were playing with a PGA player’s club thought the shot looked easier than it was and sank 32 percent more putts than the control group, showing the power that your mind can have over your performance.

Strike a high-power pose

Research suggests that body language plays a very important role in communication. Not only does it affect how we’re perceived by others, but it can also affect our internal body chemistry.

Amy Cuddy, a professor at the Harvard School of Business, puts forward that nonverbal communication (body language) may be just as important as verbal communication, and one of the ways you can communicate nonverbally is with a “power pose”.

There are two kinds of power poses, high, and low. A high-power pose involves having your body open instead of hunched up, such as standing with your chest out, arms spread, and not slouching. The aim is to take up a great deal of space.

A low-power pose, on the other hand, is anything which makes you look small and bunched up, such as sitting down with your arms crossed over your body or sitting and slouching over a table.    

According to research, holding a high-power pose for just two minutes is enough to increase your levels of testosterone, which is associated with confidence, and reduce your levels of cortisol, which is associated with stress.

So effectively, standing hip-width apart with your hands on your hips for two minutes can be enough to create a physiological change in your body which leads to a boost in confidence and a reduction in stress.

Try incorporating this stance into your routine and see if it increases your daily motivation. It will only take up two minutes of your time!

Choose dopamine-releasing rewards

Assortment of fine chocolate

In simple terms, eat some dark chocolate. Many studies show that eating chocolate produces an increase in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes the feeling of calm, and an increase in phenylethylamine, which promotes stimulation.

As well as this, it triggers a dopamine release which can elevate your heart rate and increase motivation, and even acts as a mild antidepressant, as your brain responds to the stimulus by promoting blissful emotions.

Of course, you should eat it in moderation and always try to maintain a healthy diet. If chocolate really isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other healthy, dopamine-triggering foods you can eat such as apples, bananas, berries, seeds, nuts, avocados, beets, and artichokes.

How to motivate someone else

Even if you don’t personally struggle to feel motivated, you may encounter times when the people around you need a little push, such as motivating your work team or giving a friend a pep talk.

If you’re struggling to get your message across, you can take lead from the 5-step formula that general Stanley McChrystal used whenever he addressed special operations units such as the Navy Seals.

  1. Here’s what I’m asking you to do.
  2. Here’s why it’s important.
  3. Here’s why I know you can do it.
  4. Think about what you’ve done together before.
  5. Now let’s go and do it.

From giving Monday morning sales meetings to helping a friend through difficult times, it’s amazing how the right words can make a big impact when it comes to motivating others.

Final Thoughts

Feeling more motivated should help you figure out what you want, help you power through the pain period, and get you on the road to being the person you want to be.

The good news is, you do have some influence over how motivated you feel, and the advice above should help give you a boost if you feel you’re lacking the “get-up-and-go” attitude you need to set and attain your goals.

Remember, you don’t need to logic your way to motivation. It’s possible that not everything on this list will work for you, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s all about how you feel.

Once you find something that makes you feel more motivated, stick to it. If that means you listen to the Rocky song on your way to work, stand in a high-power pose for two minutes, adjust your socks, and then have a bite of chocolate, then so be it.

This is a guest post by Peter Bailey. He is the owner of American Display – a manufacturer of offline marketing products. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about his knowledge of traditional marketing principles, but adapting them for the online marketing environment.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. I came across a real-life application of a formula I learned about in school. The formula is Vroom’s Preference-Expectancy Theory of Motivation. The real-life application came from a course about customer service where the formula looks something like: Motivation = Value of the Event (percentage of 0-100%) x Probability of the Event (percentage of 0-100%)) formula to determine how much motivation you currently have to do (a) particular task(s).

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