Musings on Motivation

Throughout the summer I am motivated to swim. What motivates me? Being outdoors, the sensation of gliding through the usually clear pool water, the exercise benefits, the way the muscles in my arms and calves get defined, the calming and energizing impact of swimming, the satisfaction of accomplishment, the nod to feeling strong and healthy.

What, exactly, is motivation? I think of it as the mental drive and desire to accomplish something in particular. Of course, if that’s the case, motivation alone will not cause the something in particular to be accomplished. Motivation has to be accompanied by action.

Where does the motivation come from? Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors, such as a reward for doing something. This type of motivation does not interest me because it does not originate with the person who will take the action. I am interested in intrinsic motivation, which comes from within and is defined by the person for themselves.

I was hugely motivated to write blog posts about the brain and how its various parts function. Why? I wanted to better understand the brain and I wanted to compile that information in one place that was easily accessible.

I have been marginally motivated to continue my blog posts since returning from vacation. To be sure, I wanted to continue writing, but missing from the equation was the determination to restart and the inspiration for how to broach the topics of interest.

Then it came to me while swimming a mile this afternoon. I have no difficulty motivating myself when I set my mind to it, when I make the goal my own, when the effort expended is satisfying and enjoyable even while it may be challenging or difficult. And it is all the more satisfying when there is some challenge, because then I have to apply effort and get my brain and body in gear.

So what was keeping me from writing? I couldn’t figure out how to begin. That is usually the culprit – the initial step(s) in getting started. Kind of like a day of mediocre weather where I could just as easily not swim, but then I acclimate to the water temp one step at a time, and before long I’m waist high and ready to push off and be immersed in the wet.

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