This Is The Unexpected And Lasting Solution To Your Motivation Problems

Two young women stare angrily out a reflective window
Gonzalo Arnaiz / Unsplash

Remind Yourself Of This Frequently

Life’s greatest motivation is physical survival. If our life is in danger, any other motivation goes out the window.


Now, what do you think comes next?

I was surprised by the answer, but it really makes sense in retrospect:

“Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival — to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated” — Stephen R. Covey

Just think about that for a moment:

Do you feel like you’re understood?

Does someone — anyone — appreciate you?

Why do you do what you do?

For people pleasers, I found that to be magnified. My wife is very much motivated by making sure she does anything in our power to please as many people as possible. If they are not pleased, she’s got even more motivation to please them.

My Motivation For Writing

I like to think I don’t crave people’s validation. But I’m wrong.

I think deep down that’s why I’ve picked up writing.

Initially, it was just meant to be a skill I wanted to practice and improve for a month. When people started appreciating the things I wrote, I realized that I craved it.

I was, and still am, very much motivated by the thought that I can provide value for my audience.

I thought about quitting writing many times when my stats were not how I expected them to be. But then either one of two things would happen: 1. I would receive a touching, heartfelt comment from a reader, or 2. I would look back at my achievements notebook to remind myself why I’m doing that in the first place.

I can’t stop writing.

For one, I like it, and most importantly, I need it to satisfy psychological survival. I am more motivated and happier since I started writing.

Motivation For Money

The same is not true for everything I’m doing, and that’s why sometimes I prioritize writing, even though it’s not the most logical thing for me to do, especially money-wise.

See that?

I have every reason to want money. I’ve been out of my 9–5 job for a year now, and I’m very far from making the same amount of money I used to make. In some ways, that’s a reason I’m not living in my home country — it’s not as affordable as Cambodia, Spain or India, the three places I’ve lived in for the past year.

Yet I fail to be strongly motivated by productive activities that generate me money. Because deep down, it doesn’t help fill my psychological survival. No one affirms or appreciates me for wanting to make money. At least not directly.

The Solution To Your Motivation Problems

I bet you already figure it out, right?

As much as we like to convince ourselves that we’re motivated by x, y, and z, the truth is: our (second) deepest root for motivation is about feeling understood by someone, anyone.

I once touched on the subject in: We All Need Someone Who Understands Us.

When I wrote that piece, I didn’t realize how powerful a motivator it is to do things that are appreciated by peers.

Think about a goal you set for yourself.

Why did you set that goal?

Are you motivated to it?

Does that motivation last?

Why? Why not?

Does it answer your psychological survival?

How? How not?

How can you change that goal to make it answer your psychological survival?

There’s a “rule” I really like to use:

Ask yourself “why” three times and you’ll know the answer

This applies here so much. If within your three layers of “why” you don’t satisfy your — or someone you truly care about— psychological survival, then you won’t be that motivated.


The solution to your motivation problems was hidden in plain sight all along. It’s not a quick and dirty hack, it’s deeply rooted in our brains:

We need to satisfy our psychological survival to be highly motivated.

When we lack motivation, it’s because we don’t feel understood in what we’re doing. We don’t feel appreciated for it. And that means different things to everybody, but it doesn’t change the fact that, when asking yourself “why” three times, you have to fill that need to be affirmed.

So, the next time you set yourself a new goal, think about how you’re addressing your psychological survival. Don’t go too deep in your reasoning. It doesn’t address survival if you need to think too much about it. Think about all this, and you’ll realize that now have the tools for consistently motivating yourself to do things.

You can do this! TC mark

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