How understanding the psychology of human motivation can help you get your mojo back.

Losing your mojo

There have been periods in my life when I have been super motivated. Times when things seem to happen easily. Much of my 20’s flew by like this. Then I hit my early 30’s and for want of a better word I lost my mojo. I liked work but couldn’t get motivated by it. I liked running but couldn’t get into training.

During this time, I spent years trying to find things to motivate me. I signed up for courses and development at work. Went on yoga retreats. Took up meditation. Watched inspiring Ted Talks. I even thought about changing careers and running a coffee shop. Some of it worked for a while, but 2 years later I still felt the same.

I then took a course on the psychology of Peak Performance.

The psychology of human motivation

In this class I was introduced to Self-determination theory (SDT). A macro theory of human motivation and personality that relates to our innate psychological needs. All of a sudden, I realised where I was going wrong. I was looking for ways to be more motivated, or rather looking to other people to motivate and inspire me. When what I needed was to better understand my psychological needs that were not currently being met. Gaining a better understanding of these helped me feel better and become more motivated in life and in work.

What is Self Determination Theory?

Self Determination Theory is the brainchild of researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. Their work has focused on differentiating between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. They proposed three main intrinsic needs determine the extent to which an individual’s behaviour is self-motivated and self-determined. And that these three psychological needs are essential for our psychological health and well-being. These needs are said to be universal, innate and psychological. They are:

Competence: the demonstrable characteristics and skills that enable, and improve the efficiency of performance of a job. It’s about how competent you feel you are at doing your job. It’s a combination of practical and theoretical knowledge, cognitive skills and behaviours as well as how hard the task is. For example, if you do the same job for years, it no longer presents a challenge to improve competence. This is the reason we become demotivated.

Autonomy: the capacity to make an informed, un-coerced decision. As humans we have an innate need to make our own free choices or rather feel we have some control of making our own free choices. At work it’s important to have a level of discretion granted to an employee in his or her work. Autonomy is known to generally increase job and life satisfaction. When our choices are taken away from us, we can become demotivated and depressed.

Relatedness: Relates to our quality of interpersonal relationships with others. Humans are social beings and even the most unsocial of beings still needs a degree of relatedness to others. The quality of relationships with others can deeply affect our motivation. Relationships at home can affect work and vice versa. Relatedness can relate to any human relationships the need for more support at work, improved friendship relationships or joining a club to achieve a health goal. Understanding relatedness is a key reason why slimming groups as so successful in helping people to lose weight. It is also a key factor overlooked by many organisations.

Understanding what motivation is rather and which of these three innate needs are not currently being met, is the key to working out how you can become more motivated. Working with an executive coach can be a good place to start to explore how you get your mojo back.

It worked for me. Hopefully it will for you.

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Read more about Self Determination Theory.