Definition of Motivation

Below are some definitions that were collected from a variety of psychology textbooks and reflect the general consensus that motivation is an internal state or condition that serves to activate or energize behavior and give it direction (see Kleinginna and Kleinginna, 1981a).

  • internal state or condition that activates behavior and gives it direction;
  • desire or want that energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior;
  • influence of needs and desires on the intensity and direction of behavior.

Franken (2006) provides an additional component in his definition:

  •  the arousal, direction, and persistence of behavior.
Think about that for a second…

Motivation–”activates behavior”…. “energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior”….motivation is the fuel that lights our fire!!

So why is it so hard to keep that fuel flowing sometimes? Why do we have moments where we just can’t seem to get out of that funk?

Based on a combination of research there are several theories we can look at that might help us better understand the reasons why we become unmotivated. I think that if we can gain a better understanding of why we ARE motivated then we can better understand why we become unmotivated. Then, maybe we can likely stop it before we get stuck in that funk we all know about.

types of motivators

Motivations can be categorized by either being extrinsic (outside of the person) or intrinsic (internal to the person). 

It appears likely that initiation of behavior may be more related to emotions (optimism vs. pessimism; self- esteem; etc.) while persistence may be more related to conation (volition: ability to choose) or goal-orientation.

There are several theories that come to various conclusions about the reason why humans are motivated or lose motivation.

I wrote about Maslow’s Learning cycle and why we stop trying & give up here.

So, since it’s the New Year, I’ve had many athletes feeling extra motivated. It’s like the New Year is a great opportunity for a new start. My warning is to those of you that find yourselves restarting every New Year and not following through with your goals. I want to challenge you to ask yourself why this is the case. I think that if you can better pin-point WHY you stop trying, why you give up, why you resort back to your old habits that you’re not pleased with then you can hopefully put some plans in place to prevent this from happening this year. This could be YOUR year!!

Below is a chart. It is for me. It’s for the coaches or the teachers out there that desire to help those of you making an effort toward change. I recognize that I have a role to play and I take my responsibility seriously.


It’s been proven time and time again that the extrinsic suggestions will work, but that they only work as long as the student [athlete] is under the influence of the external factors. When outside of that influence, unless the desired goals and behaviors have been internalized, the learner [athlete] will cease the desired behavior and operate according to his or her internal standards or to other external factors.

At the end of the day, internalizing your goals is of the utmost of importance!! In physique sports, for example, you can only work toward “looking good” for so long before that motivation just fades away. Till food prepping becomes too time consuming, going to the gym takes too much effort, Instagram and Facebook likes aren’t encouraging enough….

Take a look at the sources provided and do your best to pinpoint some areas that influence you. Let me know what you find out about yourself!! I’d love to help where I can.

You can contact me here.

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-Coach K