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Why You Need Internal Motivation to Stay Persistent Long-Term

This morning at 6am, I was staring at the coffee pot, thinking about why I do the things I do every morning. I had already been up for an hour, done my yoga and journaling like I do every day. And I was thinking about why I continue with these habits.

Most healthy habits, we pick up because we have this sense that it is somehow what we should be doing. I started doing yoga because I was tired of being fat. But somehow along the way it became about something more than that. Not only did I get the visible, physical benefits, I also got mental and spiritual benefits from it as well.

Yoga creates space between your thoughts. It allows you to find patience, to find balance, and to find a deeper sense of connection within yourself.

Many of the practices we do on a daily basis can have this type of transformative effect. If you go to the gym every day, you hare creating a sense of determination within yourself. You become regimented. Disciplined. This is because you persist, day after day, when no one is telling you to do it.

Sure, maybe at first people comment on how you have lost weight, or how good you look. But those comments die away quickly. Even the people closest to you don't really care about the effort it takes for you to maintain a routine for months or even years. It's all about you.

When you do things for yourself, you are the one reaping all the benefits. And most of these benefits are internal.

Improving your inner world, your quality of life, these are quiet things. They aren't things that gain you recognition, wealth or success. Maintaining your health and wellbeing is quiet.

When things in your life are quiet, unspoken, then you need to motivate yourself.

No one else is going to provide the motivation you need to keep going day after day.

You have to learn to motivate yourself. To keep going on the days you don't feel like it. To take care of yourself in big and small ways to improve your quality of life.

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Being persistent and having self motivation like this is called Intrinsic Motivation.

According to Very Well Mind,

Intrinsic motivation is defined as the motivation to engage in a behavior because of the inherent satisfaction of the activity rather than the desire for a reward or specific outcome.

Yet, how often do we do things for intrinsic motivation alone? Many of us are driven by a desire to become likable, or wealthy, or successful in some external way. When you act to please others, the motivation is more likely to fade with time as we receive less and less validation. However, intrinsic motivation makes us stick with things longer.

This is like people who hit the gym on January 1st every year, and have burned out by February. Likely, this is because they expect to see external results right away, which is typically not the case.

When you do things because of intrinsic motivation, you are persistent with something purely because you enjoy it. With the increase of hustle culture, people are doing things less and less for enjoyment, and more and more for money or other external rewards like recognition.

Part of it is social media. We have gotten too used to doing things to get "likes." We want instant appreciation and instant gratification. A lot of activities don't provide that. A lot of things require time, dedication and focus to get results.

It could be starting your own online business (like me with my writing), getting fit, meditating, or doing inner healing work.

None of those things are going to get you quick accolades or quick success. They require the long game. And when you are relying soley on external motivation, you aren't going to get the results you want quickly, so you are more likely to give up.

Learning to do things because of intrinsic motivation teaches us to be self-disciplined and self-motivated. It allows us to keep going at things long term. This can lead to successful results, with time. Here, longevity is key. The long game is key. And you can only play the long game if you are really determined.

Too many online guru's these days preach instant success, and that just isn't realistic or reasonable. Anything worth having or doing takes time. There aren't shortcuts to life.

Sure, you may see some people that are succeeding right out of the gate, but that is the exception not the norm. Stop comparing yourself to those people.

Remember, everyone knows what they should be doing.

Everyone knows that exercise is good for your health, like regularly brushing your teeth, reducing caffeine and nicotine, and cleaning your house on a daily basis. Yet, how many people actually do all those things? Not that many.

Most people know that it is important to save money for retirement, start investing, have a good credit score, and budget their money. But how many people do?

According to Nasdaq,

The survey revealed that 36% of all Americans have absolutely no savings at all, and another 19% have less than $1,000 saved. Just 45% of all Americans have $1,000 or more in savings.

How many people start an online blog or business? Quite a lot. But most give up after 6 months or less if they don't see a profit right away.

Finding Intrinsic Motivation

If you want to have long-term success in life, you have to think long term, and you have to find internal motivation.

Partly, this means learning to have self discipline and thinking about the future. We get so caught up in the now, in our worries and our desires for a quick dopamine hit, that we don't think about the future. We see our future selves as separate people.

According to WebMD, here are some tips for developing Intrinsic Motivation:

  • Try to make your work fun so that you can be more engaged in it.

  • Challenge yourself by setting achievable goals. Do it for the chance to learn a new skill rather than for any external reward.

  • Find meaning in your work by focusing on the value it could give to others and the bigger purpose it serves.

  • Whenever you're feeling uninspired, try doing things you love or have always wanted to do.

  • Help people in need by supporting a friend or volunteering in an NGO.

When you are doing something for your own health and wellbeing, it helps to be grateful to have the opportunity to do so. Gratitude is a powerful tool that you can use to transform your mindset and think about things in a more positive way.

Having goals that are reasnable helps too. When we set goals, sometimes we make them too big, too vague, or take on too much at once. This can all stifle our progress. If you want to set new goals to work on, it helps to make sure that you start with small goals, so you can get a quick win. As you complete your goals, it will inspire you to do more, and turn goal setting itself into a habit.

Final Thoughts

Learning to find intrinsic motivation for the things that need to be done can be difficult at times, but it is well worth the effort in the end, because you will start to feel better day by day as you do things that matter the most to you. The more you can become self-motivated by doing the things that feed your soul, the more you can make your dreams into a reality.

Stop setting goals based on the expectations of others, to gain social acceptance, or simply for monetary gain. There external factors aren't going to keep you going when things get difficult, as is bound to happen.

In order to keep going with your goals in the face of difficulty, make sure that you are doing things because they are actually important to you, and that they align to your deepest beliefs and values. If something is important to you in the core of your being, you will be able to be much more resilient and stick with it longer.

What do you do to stay motivated? Let me know in the comments!


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