Piers Steel is a leading research scientist. After analyzing hundreds of studies on motivation, he came up with a little equation to capture the essence of motivation. It’s a little abstract on first blush but worth internalizing and using as one of our tools. I recommend keeping this ready at hand and using it often to see where your motivation may be waning and how to keep it strong.
The equation: M = E x V / I x D
Motivation = Expectancy times Value divided by Impulsivity times Delay.
First thing to notice for non-math majors: If you want a big Motivation, you better have a really big numerator and a really small denominator. In other words, we need to jack up our Expectancy and Value while driving down our Impulsivity and Delay.
Expectancy. That’s an awkward word for Confidence. You have to expect that you can bring your goal to life. You have to KNOW (!!!) that you can do it.
Now, you may or may not actually achieve your goal, but you have to know in your soul that it’s not only possible but that you think you can do it. If you don’t feel that, then you either need to simplify your goal until you can or build up your confidence so you can.
Value. If I were writing this equation, I’d start here. Before we ask ourselves whether or not we really think we can have it, we need to ask ourselves whether we really (!) want it.
Our DESIRE needs to be extremely high. Napoleon Hill called this a “burning desire” back in the day.
So, quick pause.
What do you want to achieve in your life? Like really really want?
Is your motivation high?
If it isn’t, check in. Are you going after something you REALLY want? And, if so, do you REALLY believe you can have it? If not, science and my experience says (test it!!) that your motivation will be weak.
Tweak those two variables so they are through the roof and you have a shot at a very high level of sustainable motivation.
Now for the things that erode motivation.
Impulsivity. Can you focus your attention on what’s most important? Or, do you find yourself constantly distracted by the latest push notification or email alert or other shiny object?
The higher your level of impulsivity, the lower your level of motivation. We need to get really good at reducing/eliminating all distractions and doing the Deep Work that will move us forward. Period.
Delay. Another great way to erode motivation is to make the goal super far down the road. That delay doesn’t help.
Solution? Create micro goals (today!) that give you the chance to create a constant stream of micro wins. PERFECT way to fuel the fire as you crush it day in and day out.
Again, that formula might sound too abstract to be useful but, in my experience, it’s incredibly powerful. When my motivation wanes, I love to bust out a piece of paper and write down the equation—looking for little ways to optimize each variable to jack up my motivation. It works.