Three Ways to Generate Self-Motivation

Whether you’re the boss or working for one, the ability to generate self-motivation and be highly productive is increasingly important. In today’s competitive job market, you can’t expect to collect a paycheck for just showing up on time.

In the 1980s, at least 90% of people worked for someone else. That’s changed; about one-third of people in U.S. work for themselves, either fully self-employed or as part-time freelancers.

  • In 2006 the Government Accountability Office produced a report that found that 31% of American workers were employed on some kind of contingent basis, including as freelancers, part-time, or temporary workers.
  • According to a 2014 survey by the Freelancers Union together with freelance platform Elance-oDesk, 53 million Americans, or 34% of the population, qualify as freelancers.
  • By 2020, more than 40 percent of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be freelancers, contractors, and temp workers according to a study conducted by software company Intuit.

Regardless of employment status, successful people take the initiative, do whatever it takes, and go beyond minimal work requirements. They are self-motivated and able to find unique sources of energy that drive them to high performance.

I hear this question from people I coach: “How can you generate self-motivation and energy on those days when you feel tired, overwhelmed, or perhaps even bored?” How can you tap into your determination and drive?

Isn’t All Motivation Self-motivation?

Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior, the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation is what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior — as when we form habits.

There are many perspectives on motivation theories, and working adults are familiar with rewards programs, bonuses, and organizational incentives designed to encourage performance. But external motivation works only for a limited time and not in all situations.

Many people are familiar with Maslow’s Pyramid or Hierarchy of Needs. According to American psychologist Abraham H. Maslow, people are motivated by unsatisfied needs. The needs, listed from basic (lowest/earliest) to most complex (highest/latest) are as follows:

  • Physiology (hunger, thirst, sleep)
  • Safety/Security/Shelter/Health
  • Social/Love/Friendship
  • Self-esteem/Recognition/Achievement
  • Self-actualization/Achievement of full potential (can never be fully accomplished)

Here is a graphic of Maslow’s Pyramid, from Wikipedia.


While this list of needs explains why people become motivated, it doesn’t provide applicable tips as to how to use this information to boost your own self-motivation. It is helpful, however, for linking meaningful values to goals, as I’ll discuss in my next post.

What motivates you? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.

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