Do you know what motivates you, or how even how you make decisions in your life? Many of us think that we understand our internal drivers, but often we go through life not taking the time to see how our choices are shaped, or what our real passion is in life.
This article reviews some of the common ways to explore and discover your internal motivation or inner fire, and determine what drives you.
The four steps to finding your inner drivers that we will discuss include:
- Psychological Tools
- Exploring Spirit
- Expressing Your Creativity
- Finding Yourself in Community
You can use one or all of these methods of finding your inner motivation. Combining all of these approaches together is most helpful way to look at what drives you and can propel into the next step on your life’s journey.
Psychological approaches to finding your motivation
In this day of self-help books, reality television and readily available therapists, it’s not difficult to find a myriad of approaches to finding your inner drives. In this section, we’ll look at some of the psychological approaches and tools that can help you to learn more about yourself.
Most of us are familiar with the terms conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind. The beginning of the movement to understand our inner motivations began with the work of Sigmund Freud at the turn of the last century. We’re all familiar with the classic Freudian slips, when we “accidentally” say something our conscious mind wouldn’t normally say. Freud’s protégé, Carl Jung created a somewhat spiritualized approach to psychology with his work. He was the first to coin the word synchronicity, which talks about the surprising coincidences that seem connected, but have no real causal connection, at least that we can see.
Since that time, psychology branched off into social, behavioral, clinical, developmental and others. If we look at the most influential psychologist, B. F. Skinner, a behavioralist, topped the list. Major thinkers in developmental psychology include Erik Erickson and Jean Piaget. In the 1960,s the work of Albert Bandura spurred on cognitive psychology. Others like Carl Rogers created a humanist approach to this work. In a sense all of the different types of psychological approaches are geared towards finding what motivates us all to do what we do in our lives.
To read a high level overview of the ten most important pyschologists, visit VeryWell. So, how does all this theoretical psychology relate to pop psychology and helping you find your inner motivation today? It could be laborious to read the works of the psychologist above, and you may find that their theories don’t necessarily apply to you in a way that really makes a difference in your life.
On this site, we’re here to give you some places to start finding your inner motivation now. One way that many people find useful and enjoy doing is using personality tests to see yourself and to also see how you compare to others. There are many personality tests that you might find useful. We’ll discuss two that are popular helpful.
- Authentic Happiness Testing
Many businesses and individuals find the Meyers-Briggs test to be helpful. It’s based on the work of Carl Jung, and divides the population into 16 different categories based on their mixture of introversion/extroversion, intuitive/sensate, thinking/feeling, and judging/perception. This test is often used to chart career interests and see how your internal way of being might interact with a different personality type. For a small fee, you can take the test online.
Another very popular personality test is the Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire developed by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylania. Seligman created the Positive Psychology movement, which is a newer branch of psychology that uses empirical studies to explore positive emotions, strength-based character and healthy organizations. His work has helped him to identify individual’s strengths and build upon those. Over 700,000 people around the world are involved in this project. You can take the test, find your strengths and participate in his group at the Authentic Happiness site.
While it’s great to read, and explore your personality, let’s explore some of the other ways in which you can discover what gives you passion and the drive to live your life’s purpose.
You don’t have to believe in a deity that is an old man in the sky, to find value in connecting with your own spirit. One of the ways that we can find our inner motivation is to find a connection with spirit or soul or what can be called something greater than ourselves. In this step of finding your inner motivation we will focus on three topics:
- Defining what spirit means to you
- Aligning with Spirit
- Essence versus Ego
In many ways this step of exploring spirit is the life long process that we are all taking to uncover our best self and highest motivations.
Defining What Spirit Means to You
What does spirit mean to you? In many ways your response to this question is a reflection of your inner motivation. You can have a spirit of invention, of curiosity, of seriousness or of humor. And you can participate in one of the many spiritual traditions in the world.
In his book, Four Spiritualities, Peter Tufts Richardson described four types of spiritual journeys – unity, devotion, works, and harmony based on the Meyers-Briggs personality test discussed above. Depending on your upbringing, personality, and influences in life you may find that it is time to define or re-define your relationship to a power greater than yourself.
So how does connect to spirit help find your inner motivation?
Spirituality is a mirror of the way in which we our lives and our relationship to each other, and our environment. If you’re not comfortable with religious ideas such as having a soul or spirit, you may simply prefer to refer to your conscience or deeper process. By seeking out spirit, you begin the process of discovering your inner motivation.
Aligning with Spirit
One of the challenges of finding our inner motivations and aligning with spirit is that so often we want to deny our humanity in the quest to align with spirit. All major religions talk about this theme of removing the masks that we wear and exposing our humility. Yet, we tend to think this means that we have to deny some of our inner drives and motivations.
We need to acknowledge both the highest and the lowest in life. As we seek to align with or live our life with spirit, this is where we have the opportunity to see some of our desires are to haveg the newest dress or fastest car, and some of them are ones we wouldn’t even consider such as the desire to let go of arrogance or greed.
When we look at commonalities along the spiritual path of discovery we find a couple common themes. Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute talks about aligning with the spiritual path by understanding that we all share two common challenges that we all suffer and that change is a reality in life.
It’s often when we confront suffering or the need to change, whether expected or not, that we have the opportunity to see our deepest motivations.
Aligning with our spirit allows us to use our unique gifts and talents to find our motivation and embrace change. Another way of looking at the process of connecting to spirit is to see that it is both an inward and outward journey of change that helps us to relate to everything that we create or happens to us in our lives.
Essence versus ego
Many philosophers, poets and mystics talk about finding our essence. This is another aspect of looking at our inner motivation and drive. How does working with spirit differ from that approach? In almost every spiritual approach there is there is the path of being a seeker. Some spiritual traditions consider our inner essence to be impure or sinful, while others talk about our essence as being pure, compassionate and kind. In either approach the goal is to become more god-like in our actions and the way in which we present ourselves.
You may have heard many spiritual discussions about having an ego as though it is something to get rid of. Having an ego is another way of saying that we are human, and that we are individuals. When we look deeply at all spiritual paths, all traditions point out how ego-driven, human beings make mistakes, and need to both purify and forgive ourselves and others.
Spiritual ideas can get confusing when we are trying to determine what really drives us to make both wise and unwise choices. If you’re reading this article, it’s because you want to make wiser choices, and align with your highest purpose in life. However, you may think that you don’t have time for spirituality or that it’s too rigid. The task for you may be to find the spiritual path or inspirational people, texts, and ways of living that appeal to you. The path you choose is a reflection of that part of your inner drive that strives to be the best person you can be.
In many ways, the drive to find inner motivation requires an embracing of both your humanity and your highest potentials. So, look at what you think is the most ideal way of being in the world, and assume that is already part of who you are. Also, look at what you don’t like about yourself, and look underneath those habits and ways of viewing situations. If you keep digging underneath the areas you don’t like to see, you may find that as Pema Chodron, says you’re not ok, and that’s ok. Click here to watch a Bill Moyers video discussing her views.
If you have any inclination towards spirit, it can be very helpful to align with your highest conception of what is possible for yourself every day whether through meditation, prayer, yoga, or even exercises such as running or walking. This can be a way of finding your motivation over time. Each day ask yourself what is my motivation in this moment and for what I want to be or accomplish today.
Expressing Your Creativity
In this section, we will review two ways of finding your inner motivation through creativity:
- Artistic Expression
- Finding Flow in Your Life
We’ll look at the more traditional idea of artistic expression from a high level, and then the work of Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi on finding what makes your life flow.
We don’t always think of creativity as way of finding our motivation. We tend to think the opposite, that we need motivation to be creative. Yet, if you think about it, you are creating your life every day with the choices that you make.
So, another approach that has helped me and many others is the practice of writing or journaling every day and writing stream of consciousness. Over the years, this practice can lead you to find your own voice. Your voice is basically your motivation expressed in the world.
This concept was introduced to me a long time ago, through the work of Julia Cameron, and her book The Artist’s Way, which can help you get started discovering and recovering your creative self.
Yet, you don’t necessarily need to read a book to find your creativity. You can also simply start following your own inclinations on what might be of interest to you. You can take art, music, photography and other types of classes.
For some people, the artist’s way is not necessarily their type of creativity. Creativity is also expressed through the work we do. Often, business talks about creativity as innovation.
So, consider where do you feel a need to create something different in the world? Answering this one question can be a doorway to finding your inner motivation. Looking at what you dislike about the world is often the place to find where your creativity might be best used.
Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi developed groundbreaking work called on what brings us happiness, fulfillment and puts us in a state of flow. Joseph Campbell refers to a very similar concept of finding your bliss. Czikszentmihalyi’s book, Flow the Psychology of Optimal Experience began his discussion of flow. He later wrote a book, Creativity : Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention that links these ideas even more closely. The Flow Psychology blog shares some videos and postings based on his ideas.
Essentially flow and creativity are linked. Find the things that you can spend hours doing and completely lose track of time, and that probably is where you are both creative and flowing. This can be anything from gardening to renovating homes to creating new computer programs to scientific discoveries.
At first, it may be difficult to see flow in your life, and thus your motivation, if you’re blocking yourself from seeing what you truly care about. You may never have allowed yourself to find what brings you flow. In that case, start experimenting and trying different experiences. Give yourself permission to explore interests and hobbies that you have never tried. For some people, looking at flow can the very best way to find your motivations and desires. When you find those, then you can start shifting into more and more of that activity in your life.
Czikszentmihalyi’s theory is that money doesn’t make life worth living. Only being in a state of flow can give us happiness and fulfillment.
If you would like to hear more about flow from Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, listen to this video of him speaking at TED.
Finding Your Motivation in Community
One of the best ways to learn more about yourself is finding the right community to help you grow. We often can see parts of ourselves best, by seeing a mirror in others. This is the motivation for our site.
If you’re looking to find your inner drive, ask yourself what kind of communities attract you and repel you. Do you feel like you don’t have a tribe or community that suits you? It may be that you have been growing, and the communities that suited you in the past no longer fit.
Fortunately, the Internet provides an amazing opportunity to create new communities and find people that can help you find and express yourself. The mission of our site is to provide an ongoing support in helping to find out who you really are and finding answers to the big questions in life, such as:
- Why am I here?
- Am I alone?
- What creates happiness?
- Can I connect to spirit?
- Am I safe?
We are here to help you connect to yourself and others by providing you with the ideas of many of the world’s leading thinkers on how to create and live your own life goals. We would love to hear your feedback and questions.
Finding Your Inner Motivation Questions
The following list of questions is a type of summary checklist to help you pull of these ideas together.
- Can you learn more about your personality and personal strengths?
- What are your personal strengths?
- How has your personality shifted over the years? How?
- Have you determined what spirituality means for you?
- Can you create or expand upon a spiritual practice to learn more about your inner motivation?
- Have you been creative today?
- Could you create an Artist’s date with yourself as Julia Cameron suggests?
- What attracts you or repels you?
- Are you in a state of flow anywhere in your life?
- What do you need to do or be to stay in a state of flow more often?
- If you had all the resources you needed, how could you make a difference in the world?
- What communities are you a part of?
- What ways can you create community in your life, so that you live more in line with the person that you want to be?
- Could you join a community that would support the next steps of your life journey?
Take the next few weeks to seriously answer these questions and listen to some of the resources in this section of the site, and this will help to prepare you for moving to some of the next steps in determining the next steps on your life’s journey. Be patient with yourself because our inner motivations change.
You may find that what was important to you five years ago may be very different than what matters to you today. Give yourself the freedom to see what motivates you now. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that we will always want the same thing in life, no matter what circumstances change in our life. It’s a good idea to look at these questions again whenever your life changes in the ways you expect, and the ways you don’t.
Suggested Reading and Links
The following resources combine many of the principles, discussed in this article to help you think of different ways to look at your inner motivation:
- Quest, A Guide for Creating Your Own Vision Quest, Denise Linn
- To learn more about actual vision quests at Natural Pathfinder
- Zen and the Art of Making a Living, Laurence G. Boldt
- The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
- Handbook of Creativity, Motivation and Creativity, Chapter 15
- Getting Down to the Business of Creativity, Harvard Business School
- Creativity : Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi
Self and Community
- Tribes, Seth Godin, 2008
- Primalbranding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future, Patrick Hanlon, 2011
- The Intention Experiment, Lynne McTaggert