How Does Motivation Affect Performance?

When it comes to performance and productivity, we’re all wondering how we can become better, more focused, driven, and prolific individuals. No one likes to feel like they’re not at the top of their game, and motivation, of course, helps us get there. But how much does motivation really affect performance? And how much should we depend on motivation to get there? That’s exactly what we’re looking at today, so read on to find out how much stock you should be putting into motivation, and what else you can be doing to start hitting those goals and challenges that really matter to you.

How Does Motivation Affect Performance?

You might have some clear thoughts on this topic, what could be clearer? Of course, when you’re motivated your performance is way better, you get more done, and everything is easier. However, productivity isn’t necessarily great performance. Coming to depend on motivation to get stuff done is limiting, and just because you found it easy to get a task sorted doesn’t necessarily mean you did a great job at said task.

Performance is a complex thing and being able to truly settle into doing a task well is often a case of more than motivation, it’s about being able to really be absorbed by the task and get on with it in a proper way. So, we’ll say again, how exactly does motivation affect performance? How important is it to performing well? Is it always a good thing to have endless motivation? How should you be visualising your own motivation and what can you do to change things?

Does Being Motivated Really Produce the Best Work?

How do you define the best work? The highest state of performance? Is it being super productive and prolific? Constantly working and getting loads done? Or does that begin to fall into the trap of busywork, running the risk of spinning your wheels. More often the more common definition of high performance is getting into a flow state. A flow state is where you’re completely absorbed by the task at hand. You are completely mentally and physically involved with the task at hand, and as such you can do a great job and get it done effectively.

The risk you run with this level of absorption is perfectionism, and a general failure to prioritise different aspects of your work. If you’re continually burying yourself in your hobby, say, you run the risk of falling short at work. Too much flow state style work can be confused with obsessiveness, and when balance is the name of the game, being obsessed is not a good thing.

True motivation for anything needs to be countered with introspection and self-awareness. If you know where you should be spending your time, you’ll be able to use the motivation you have for one task to do better in general. Learning to spread your motivation around, to become generally better, while still enjoying that flow state for the right tasks and the busywork state for others, you can expect to thrive. As with all things, however, it comes down to balance.

How Much Work Can You Expect from Yourself Daily?

Another major question we all need to be asking. What is reasonable to ask of ourselves on a daily basis? How much work should we really be doing? We’ve all got that workaholic friend who just continually plugs away, regularly working seventy-plus hour weeks, much to the detriment of his family and social lives, but rarely, or so it seems, to the detriment of him.

While it’s true that people like this seem to thrive, doing extremely well in corporate and career settings, it comes at a very real personal cost. Very few of us can maintain this level of neglect to our romantic and personal lives. Without family, partners and friends, things can become much more wearing than they should be, and longevity begins to come into question. Being able to work seventy-hour weeks for ten years is not as useful as being able to work fifty-hour weeks for twenty. The fact is, the longer you spend working at something that matters to you, the more you’ll achieve and build, and not all this success can be built in half the time by working extra hard.

Learning to find the amount of work that’ll make you happy and functional, helping you to provide, grow and develop is essential, and that’s what you need to do if you want to achieve real balance.

That’s how you become one of those amazing people who fully has their social lives, romantic lives, career success and hobbies all thriving. You don’t need to be outstanding in any of these fields, just consistently adequate will give you the foundations to thrive. To achieve this, however, you need to figure out how much work you can demand from yourself on a weekly or daily basis. This is highly individual, and it’s going to take some real self-awareness to figure out. You need to learn to step away from obsessiveness and passion, and just look at your needs and interests dispassionately.

What Kind of Motivation?

Also, worth bearing in mind, there are multiple kinds of motivation. This probably won’t surprise you. You can summarise these kinds of motivation in the phrase “carrot and stick”. Or more accurately, positive, and negative. Are you getting yourself to work by fretting about the dire circumstances that’ll befall you if you don’t? Or are you thinking about the possible promotion and acumen that’ll come with a job well done?

It becomes easy to think about negative motivation as stress, worry and anxiety, but the fact is, we need a little stress in our lives to perform optimally, but too much and you start breaking down, becoming overwhelmed and burying your head. Too little, and you start to feel far too contented in your life, losing motivation to get much done. Positive motivation on the other hand, has its own limitations. For instance, it depends on you being truly hungry for the reward promised, and if you’re feeling truly unmotivated, that can be a hard hunger to find in yourself.

As with all things, the answer lies in a dichotomy, or balance, between the two. You need to be afraid of what’s going to happen if you don’t do the work, but you also need to be excited for the reward of having done the work. By utilising the two aspects in tandem, you can expect to thrive.

Should Mood Have That Much Bearing on Your Productivity?

This is a hard question we all need to ask ourselves. Are we children? Do we only do things that are fun and rewarding? We are not. We are adult humans, with responsibilities and pride. Without this self-reliance, pride, and agency, you become a simple hedonist, pursuing only simple fun things, and missing out on all the deeper, harder parts of life. The parts that are really rewarding.

Motivation, or mood, should never be the be-all and end-all of your productivity or performance. You shouldn’t find yourself completely dependent on motivation to get you moving, because it’s inevitable that you will find yourself in a time and place in life where you are feeling awful. Spent, tired, hurt, sad, whatever, and there will be important work to do. These are the times that make you or break you and propel you into a future with fewer of these dire times. This is where the time for self-discipline comes. You need to simply get on with the work, and once you get started, surprise, surprise, nine times out of ten, the motivation will appear, taking care of itself.

Don’t worry about motivation, worry about doing what you need to do and enjoy the motivation when it appears. Click To Tweet

The Power of Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is always going to be much more important for performance than motivation, because fundamentally, self-discipline is something you get to control. You’re not sat around waiting for motivation or inspiration to strike, you’re just forcing yourself to that desk, picking up that pen and settling into the task, tolerating those agonising early moments of getting started and finding real success later.

One tip worth thinking about that can help when it comes to fostering real self-discipline is watching how you’re spending your time generally. Low effort “entertainment” like social media, etc. can provide a steady drip of addictive, low level dopamine, leaving you finding it more difficult to settle into hard work. Look into dopamine fasting if you’re interested in becoming a harder working, more interested individual.

Self-discipline is always going to be a useful part of yourself to invest in. Learning to callous and develop that part of your mind will allow you to always be able to depend on yourself to do what’s needed. Focus on developing self-discipline to work hard and perform optimally, and motivation will simply become the extra fuel to drive you even further.