Unleashing the power of motivation – Ability and Motivation


Motivation is a strange thing, sometimes it’s there and other times we’d like it to be present but it stays stubbornly absent. So what’s the real reason for that? Are there things that can trigger and likewise kill our motivation? Indeed yes, there are many. Let’s look at some of those a bit closer and see how we can learn to influence them.

Everybody has been in the situation when you have a pile of books in front of you, which you need to study for your next exam, but you can’t get yourself around doing it. Now, obviously there can be many reasons why you don’t get yourself started but let’s look at it from the “ability” perspective to start with.

Ability is the skill set which allows us to master a particular task. If we don’t have the skill for whatever we are trying to do, our motivation can be huge to start with but will fall through the floor after some failed attempts. In our example, this means that you need at least three main skills to get started and completed on our exam preparation.

Learn to Learn

Before you can tackle the learning’s from your books, you need to know how to learn. Funnily, although most of us have been through schooling for many years hardly anyone has taught us how to learn the material we are expected to know. Learning how to learn is a skill we teach at IYLC that gives insights into mind maps, memory curves and tips on how to pass exams.

Getting Results

You also need to be able to concentrate, adsorb and progress. Many people fail to learn efficiently because their phones, messages, e-mails or other people constantly distract them from concentrating. Do you know what helps you concentrate? Equally do you know what distracts you? Mindfulness is a skill which helps people get results. It’s not about how much time you spent on something but it’s about how mindful and concentrated you are to actually absorb the relevant content and get the result you’re aiming at.

Support, Progress and Challenge

In this blog entry we are particularly interested in ‘ability’ and how it affects motivation. In the initial stages of any new learning we are usually pretty bad at the subject and built into the human psyche we are more passionate about the things we are good at. The first hours of learning will be hard, and maybe even painful (imagine learning to ice-skate). Structure your time and pace yourself, you won’t be able to do it all at once. If you don’t know anything on a subject, then do take some initial expert tuition and then set out on your learning curve. Take it slow and be persistent. You may also need to change the format, learning yoga from a book is a bit dry and un-inspiring, it will take a good practical class and encouraging teacher to help bring you through the first stages.

Am I into it?

We all know how difficult it is to work your way through material that you are just not interested in and may consequently not be good at. It’s a fairly natural cause and effect; we are good or better at things we really enjoy because we naturally get up to do them without “forcing” ourselves into them. When it comes to studying, you will likely be motivated to pick up your book if you are both interested and have already made the first steps to master the subject. Ideally most of your learning should happen under such positive circumstances. If, after some time, you are still not in this zone then try to see if you can change the subject of your study. Get some orientation around what other subjects you might be good at and find out which skills you need for that and start acquiring those.

I’m just not into it!

Other times you just need to get through an exam because it’s part of your compulsory education. Here, the clue is to make the undesirable desirable. If you hate it, how can you start liking it? Join study groups where people are interested and capable in this area. Find blogs where people publish interesting article about that subject area to make it more fun and interesting. Or simply see if you can bring it into a context that you really enjoy. If you need to study accounting to understand balance sheets and income statements, then put it into the context of a fashion boutique if you are into fashion. If you are into cars, then the context of a show room will facilitate and help you see some logic. In general, images and putting anything we are trying to learn a context or giving it meaning will help you remember the information and store it much longer. There is a great TED talk on memory you can watch on a lazy day.

So, expecting motivation if there is no mastery or ability is like trying to ski without skis; you are not going to get far on your legs, maybe if you roll down the hill which I wouldn’t recommend; might be a painfully dangerous game. What ever you are trying to do, if you are having difficulties motivating yourself, explore how capable you are in this area; your ability will strongly determine if you will get started and follow through to the end. To gain the ability, make sure you choose something that you like in the first place, find out which skills it takes, and acquire them bit by bit maybe with some support. Progress is important so make sure you are getting results and equally challenge yourself regularly to do it just a little bit better the next time.

Tell us about your experience where you were either bursting from motivation because you so much enjoyed it and were good at it; or where you couldn’t move on and get motivated because you simply didn’t really master the task! We’d love to hear from you!