Over the last couple of weeks I have had several conversations explaining the difference between motivation and determination.
The text version of the audio is below.
Motivation versus determination.
Over the last few weeks the topic of motivation and determination has come up a few times. I thought it would be helpful to explain how these are different, why that difference is important, and how they can be used to complement each other.
Consider an activity we want to do compared with an activity that we want to avoid. When we want to do an activity it feels like our desire is a force pulling us toward the activity. When we want to avoid an activity our aversion to the activity is like a force that pushes us away from the activity.
Imagine that you standing on a slope. An activity that you want to do is downhill from you. You are pulled toward it. An activity you want to avoid is uphill from you. You are pulled away from it. The more you would like to avoid the activity the steeper the uphill slope toward it.
When we are faced with an activity that we need to do but that we want to avoid, then it is like we are standing on a slope looking at a destination uphill from us.
Motivation and determination work as follows.
We use motivation to make us want to do the activity. That is like changing the topography, the slope of the hill, so that instead of going uphill the slope to the destination is downhill.
We use determination to do the activity even if we don’t want to. Determination enables us to move uphill.
Motivation changes the slope of the hill. Determination enables us to move up the hill.
Motivation is when we tell ourselves “I want to do that.”
Determination is when we tell ourselves “I don’t need to want to do that. I’m doing that.”
It’s great if we can use motivation so that we want to do an activity we don’t like. Unfortunately, for many activities that are helpful, we can’t motivate ourselves enough to really want to do the activity. We end up spending so much energy trying unsuccessfully to motivate ourselves that we end up not having enough energy to simply do the activity. We need to stop using motivation and use determination.
However, if the hill is quite steep then we may not have enough strength or stamina to make it to the top. Determination alone will not be sufficient for us to do the activity..
In those cases we can combine motivation and determination in the following way. We can spend some of our energy motivating ourselves so that our aversion to the activity is less. This makes the the slope to the destination less steep. We will now have enough determination to do the activity even though we still don’t want to do it.
Some activities require more motivation and some require more determination. With experience we will learn to combiner both effectively.