6 Principles of Motivation

This morning I didn't want to get out of bed. I REALLY didn't want to get out of bed. For the past two weeks, I've been hitting the treadmill first thing in the morning and this morning, that sounded like the worst idea in the history of the universe. For basically no reason, I felt more tired than usual. The bed felt awesome and all I wanted to do was sleep in.

The problem is that I'm not naturally driven. I get a lot of satisfaction out of achievement, but I have a love/hate relationship with being a lazy piece of junk. I basically love it, but hate the consequences. Fortunately I like success a lot more than I like sleeping and watching TV, but that doesn't mean that I don't really like sleeping and watching TV.

I had to learn how to overcome a lot of negative tendencies when I decided that I wanted to make something of my life. Seven or eight years ago, I have to admit that I would have rolled over and gone back to sleep. I didn't want to be an under-achiever, I just hadn't figured out how to motivate myself. I was in a bad rut and had been for years. I wasn't unusual for me to sleep in until two or three o-clock in the afternoon for weeks or months at a time.


No matter how bad of a rut you find yourself in, you can always change. You can make different decisions and alter your momentum. For me, a big part of my self-reinvention was discovering what actually motivated ME. Growing up, my parents tried to motivate me and frankly, I just didn't give a rip. The problem there was that the things that they thought I should be motivated by didn't interest me. I thought for a long time that I wasn't a motivated person – that misconception fueled a lot of under-achievement but was ultimately untrue. I was eventually able to figure out where my true motivations lie.

Principles of Motivation

1. Needs – My problem with using needs as motivation is that I don't have many needs. Back in the day, I used to work for 15 hours a week and honestly, I was just fine. I had money for food, rent, and clothes. Sure, there were times when money was really tight but I never went hungry. When you're a single person, needs don't always work that great for motivation. I think that most of you would agree, however, that when you're really in a jam, motivation comes a lot more easily.

This principle didn't help me this morning – I don't need to run on the treadmill and I don't need to work today. I will eat, breathe, and have fun with my friends whether I am productive today or not.

2. Interest – Going to college was probably the most boring experience of my life. I would sit down in class and most of the time I would

snap out of my mind-daze right about when my classmates started getting up to leave. I have no problem at all day-dreaming for 50 minutes, or for an hour and 50 minutes for that matter. Learning about concepts that don't matter to me is really difficult. I simply don't care.

On the other hand, I am obsessive about learning about things that I'm interested in. I can read about business, sales, or marketing all day long and it will stick. It sticks because I care. It comes naturally.

The problem with interest is that it's more useful for learning than it is for producing. I know TONS about fitness – I know how to change my body. That doesn't mean that I'm interested in running on the treadmill. I hate running on the treadmill. It's really boring. For that reason, interest didn't help me today.

3. Values – This one is really interesting and is a lot more helpful to me. Being a hard worker is really important to me and this is what causes me to feel like a piece of junk after I'm not productive. I know that I will feel crappy if I sleep through my workout. I know that

I will feel crappy if I don't work hard during a day.

In order to let values work for you, you have to clearly define them. Working hard has become a very clearly defined value for me, in fact it's something that I'm known for among family and friends. However, let me be clear. I wasn't born to be a hard worker. I love being lazy. I want to be a hard worker and I have learned how to be one.

4. Self-actualization – A motivation that works extremely well for me is self-actualization. I want to be a better, stronger, more productive person. For me, it's really helpful to think about what kind of person I want to be when my motivation is lacking. This morning, my physical body didn't want to hit the treadmill – it wanted to sleep. I was also having a moment of mental weakness.

When this happens to me, I have to start thinking about what I want my life to look like. I want to be fit and more importantly – I want to work hard. I like being a hard worker – it's one of my values. I'm a better person if I'm a hard worker and I believe that I'm a better person if I take control of my fitness. For me, thinking about these concepts helps me to overcome my moments of weakness.

5. Ego – Ego is huge, at least it is for me. For that reason, when I committed to hit the treadmill every morning, I found a friend who had the same goals. We made a friendly wager a few weeks ago. We usually bet like $100 but neither one of us actually cares about the money. We care about the competition. We don't want to lose to the other person.

This morning when I didn't want to get on the treadmill, I thought about our bet. I don't want to lose that dang bet. I don't want to lose to my buddy. Competition for me is a huge motivator, one that I personally use well for growth.

6. Acceptance – Everyone wants to be accepted – we want the approval of others. I have to admit that part of the reason that I work so hard is so that others will respect me. I'm not sure if they do, but I want them to.

Social acceptance is something that can motivate you if other methods fail. When people find out how I make my money, they seem to like it. It's impressive to them. I like that. I also have to work really hard to make it work and it doesn't hurt to think about your social circle if your motivation is failing – if that's something that motivates you.

While acceptance does provide me with some motivation, I have learned that it isn't a good motivator for me. My parents liked to use approval and shame to motivate me growing up and ultimately, it didn't work. It's not a powerful enough motivator for me.

How To Use These Principles

This is the hard part. How do you use these principles to find motivation? First, you have to start thinking about them. Think about the rewards of working hard today and every other day. What will you gain? If you don't WANT what you can gain, it's not a good motivator. You need to find a different one.

We're all different. Self-actualization and ego provide me with plenty of motivation but they might do nothing for you. In my case, acceptance isn't a very strong motivator. When my parents showed disappointment in my actions (or lack of actions), it honestly did nothing for me. Actually, I produce a lot more when I'm left alone.

I grew up on a farm and I remember my dad telling me hundreds of times that he was teaching me how to work. It probably had a positive effect overall, but I despised it. Something that I figured out later was that working hard felt natural, if I felt like it made me better. Again, for me, self-actualization is a powerful principle.

Figure out where motivation comes from – for YOU. When you have a moment of weakness, think about the rewards. Thinks about what you want your life to look like. It will get you out of bed or onto a treadmill. It will help you to perform.



  1. I seem to be caught in a trap because I can’t really figure out what I’m motivated by… Sure when fear sets in because of one reason or another, the extra motivation kicks in or if I’m doing something that I really like. But like you said, when everything is fine and you’re not struggling in any way, it is very easy to get lazy.

    Having a healthy good ole competition is definitely one way to kick yourself into gear, and I’m thinking about using it myself to help ramp up my productivity.

    Thanks for sharing Court

  2. Awesome man…. time to turn off the feed reader for me and get my ass back to work….

  3. What an awesome and honest post. I identify a lot. Although my motivation is a little more different (and probably a little jaded). I am not so much motivated by competition, but a few other things-
    1) I just wont be told what to do by anyone else, which doesn’t make me employable – hehe. In fact I simply cant do a job I don’t believe in anymore, and there is a lot of jobs I don’t believe in. Even the kinds of jobs I do believe in are usually run in such a way that I can’t handle them, or they pay shit!

    2) I like to make a point (mostly to family) that there is other ways to do things, and that you can think outside the box. You don’t just have to go along with “the norm” without questioning it.

    3) Just like Court – if I don’t work hard one day, I will feel crappy about it. Also if I am not eating healthy or exercising – I also feel crappy about that. So then I am motivated by “not feeling bad”

  4. Thanks Court for this post its really helpful. I too have a motivation problem – and like you I don’t really care about money – I have enough – or social approval (never cared what people thought of me – and care less with age LOL). The ego and the self-actualization opitons – I’d never heard of those before – I am off to do some research thanks

  5. Thanks Court, this post will definitely come in handy. I have a major problem with getting myself motivated. I tend to do just enough to get by but my main goal this year is to get myself going and really get a lot more done than usual. I have plenty of time to get everything done that I plan to get done each day but finding the motivation is often an issue.

  6. I too have trouble getting motivated. Researching and writing just seems like work to me. But, I too don’t want to work for the MAN, and that is my notivation. I know that if I get lots of content created, I will make money. It’s just getting it done!
    I just decide I’m going to just write, and then try not to even check stats or any thing (I’m a stas junkie)and just spend my time writing.
    I think you hit the nail on the head, you just need to find out what motivates YOU the best, and then use that knowledge to get motivated, get the work done, and you’ll be successful!
    Thanks for the enlightening post, and the kick in the ass!

  7. Great post!

    There is a great saying of a famous Japanese martial artist that can stick to your article: “If you do not overcome your tendencies to give up easily, your life leads to nothing…”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts so often here at TKA.

  8. 15 hours/wk? What job was this and how much was your rent? It also helps if you have children. Providing for someone other than yourself will scare ya ta death.

  9. This is a really inspiring post. Thanks Court.

  10. Court, great post. I agree with Joe, family can be a big motivator. I pop out of bed pretty quick when when I think about mortgage, bills and college tuition. Oh, what happened to those lazy days when I was single!

  11. Andrew Stuart Gray

    Nice twist on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs there! It describes it beautifully and applies it well. Good one Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs if nothing else, this posts shows how you can find information about anything, reflect on it, and get writing.

  12. my mom bought a treadmill that is motor driven, i still prefer to jog and run the old fashioned way…;

  13. Great article as always. I relate to your comment about being interested in fitness but that doesn’t mean you want to hit the treadmill every day. I have a ton of interests, but I lack motivation to actually do anything. Doesn’t it boil down to lack of purpose? Don’t you need purpose first in order to get motivated? (once Maslow’s needs have been met of course)

  14. I think learning about motivation is extremely important. I’ve realised that maintaining motivation is something that has to happen every day or you just flounder and achieve nothing.

    I’ve recently been listening to Tony Robbins and find his programs great. NLP is a great framework for understanding, and I find it helps me understand why I do and don’t do various things.

    It’s funny, but something just playing the part (that is, acting motivated) can actually motivate you. For example, I never used to be an early morning riser, but I made it a game to pull the silliest grin and leap out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off. Strangely, it made the day better, and I’m now up at 6am every morning.

  15. Waoh!! this is all i can say. yeah this topic is not totally strange but, looking at the fresh perspective it brings makes it refreshing to read. Thank you.

  16. i use a mechanical treadmill at home and it seems adquate for basic exercise*”~

  17. i prefer to use mechanical treadmills over electric treadmills;,”

  18. Great Post Court!!! Creating a better Life for my son and my digit vision board helps me stay motivated.

  19. Excellent Post! I wandered onto this website from a search for “motivation and priorities.” I loved that it was so practical and applicable, the get-up-and-do-something kind of motivation.

    After reflecting on what you wrote and the responses, what motivates me: feelings about myself and who I want to be (this includes to some degree how I perceive signficant others’ views of me); family (people who love me and I love); helping people make a positive difference in their lives and relationships (I’m a counselor); loving and knowing God; exploring things that interest me.