Internal Motivation

How to Find and Develop Your Own Internal Motivation

Image courtesy of Sir Mervs

The only reason people ever really do anything is due to motivation.  It may be our work, our hobbies, our relationships or even our chores, but one way or another, there is motivation that drives us to do the things we do.  This article is about finding out where this motivation comes from and how to develop it internally.

Two types of Motivation

There are only two types of motivation. You can label them whatever you like, but one type is positive and one type is negative.  I’ve learned to consider them to be even more basic than that: pain and pleasure.   EVERYTHING we do, think and believe has some kind of foundation in pain and pleasure. 

Each person has, of course, a completely different view of what pain and pleasure is. But the same factors exist to steer and motivate us based on what we think we can get out of it.  Most of these associations with pain and pleasure are buried in our subconscious minds and, unfortunately, most people never realize this. Instead, they go through life on autopilot.

Despite this, you can easily learn to shift the associated pains and pleasures in your favor and put more attention to the ones you want to change.  So, how you do that is important to explore…

All Motivation is Internal

Because of these associated pains and pleasures being unique to each person and based on an individual’s perspective, these factors all come from within ourselves.  Of course there are outside stimulants and things we each react to, but ultimately, the motivation that drives us to do anything comes from within us.

You always have a choice.  A choice in how you react emotionally as well as physically.  You can shy away from new things or embrace them and get excited about learning something new.  That choice is where most people’s motivation stems from.  It is not outside factors, prizes, rewards or punishment that gives us motivation.  Rather, it’s the decision we each make in response to these factors that determines whether or not we are motivated to proceed.

In general, if you believe there to be much more pleasure to be gained than pain in doing something, it is easy to be motivated to do it!  Conversely, if there is more pain associated with it than pleasure then you will likely not be motivated to do it and avoid it.

Re-frame Your Associations

To change your motivation and steer it in your favor, you will have to learn to re-frame your associations.

For example: if you currently cannot get motivated to exercise, here are some likely associations you have developed that are holding you back.

  • Exercise has never worked for me before.
  • Workouts at the gym make me feel worse seeing myself compared to others.
  • I don’t have enough time to exercise, so it won’t make a difference anyway.
  • I have more fun relaxing and doing what I like, instead of having to exercise.

Step 1 : Replace the pain with pleasure.

The first three are pain associations and the last one is pleasure, but unfortunately it’s associated with NOT exercising.  As you can tell, there is FAR MORE pain associated with exercising than pleasure for someone who thinks like this so there is no possible way for them to be motivated.  They need to reframe it so they actually value exercise and see more pleasure in it.  Here are some samples:

  • If exercise works for so many others, it will also work for me.
  • Being at the gym, I see others who’ve succeeded in making exercise a routine, it’s inspiring and know I can do it to.
  • Every time I exercise I feel better and it helps to keep me healthier, no matter how little it is!
  • There are some fun activities and exercises that not only help my health, but also make me feel great too.

Step 2 : Add back in some pain.

Now, you can see that the associated pain points have been turned around to pleasure points. And for some people that might be enough to motivate them but not always.  You can improve on that by adding back in some pain but this time, in your favor.  Think of all the pain you will experience if you DON’T exercise.  Consider some examples like these:

  • I’ll get fat and I’ll hate my body if I don’t exercise.
  • I won’t live as long or be as active in the future if I don’t make a habit of exercising now.
  • I’ll be a poor example and role model if I can’t stay fit by exercising.

You can take this as far as you like (or need to) in order to get yourself motivated.  The stronger the pain you want to avoid and the pleasure you would love to have is in your mind, the easier it is to be motivated and take action.  Remind yourself of these associations constantly and add new ones as you experience more!

Getting Past Our Comfort Zone is Necessary

The most common problem with motivating ourselves to do new things is the fear of change.  We tend to get comfortable with how things are and stop looking for ways to challenge ourselves. And we become complacent with our lives and the things that seem to impact it.

You really do have a choice to change this and take control of your life. However, this requires self motivation.  I truly hope that you can use these techniques to shift your life by becoming much more strongly motivated and in control of that motivation.

Take that one step further and use motivation to get past your comfort zones in life.  It’s necessary to have rich experiences, do great things, and to easily steer your life in any direction that you dare!


This guest post was written for Pick The Brain by Mike King. Mike is the author of Learn This , a productivity blog for self learning career, leadership and life improvement tips. He’s written many articles about finding your passion in life, goal setting and many other ideas around learning to have a better and more positive life. Please subscribe to his RSS feed here to read more of his articles.

29 Responses to How to Find and Develop Your Own Internal Motivation

  1. Avani-Mehta says:

    Pain and pleasure also shed light on why we do things we do, why we sometimes go against our own logic and reasoning. Read about this concept in Anthony Robbins ‘Awaken The Giant Within’.

  2. Jim says:

    My jiu-jistu teacher mentioned that there are two kinds of pain in life – the pain from the effort it took to accomplish something meaningful, or the pain of regretting not doing something meaningful.

  3. Kiri says:

    Really good advice there, there is simply no growth without a little pain, I like the little anticdote from you too Jim it’s so true. Since I gained the motivation I lacked for such a long time one of my greatest fears it losing it.

  4. axel g says:

    Hey Mike!

    I like the way your post kicks off…

    Motivation is a beautiful thing.

    Whenever you’re feeling low, I suggest accepting it for what it is. Our emotions and health fluctuate from moment to moment and that is ok. Resisting, only leads to unhappiness…

    Nice post +_+

  5. Mike King says:

    Thanks for the comments on this article everyone, I’m happy to here it has some impact and especially love to see the extra comments and additions!

  6. Thanks for the article Mike. I was introduced to this pain/ pleasure principle earlier this year when reading Anthony Robbins’ ‘Awaken The Giant Within’. I’ve had some good successes with it, so I would definitely recommend others give it a try.

  7. Vincent says:

    By reframing the painful situation we have in our mind into something pleasurable will definitely make us feel better whenever we are facing the painful situation again. Anthony Robbins is great at this.

    Personal Development Blogger

  8. Juliet says:


    Interesting method – thank you.

    To phrase it differently I suppose, is to see it as a matter of changing or adapting ones beliefs around the task.


  9. This is an interesting concept that I have not heard of using this terminology before.

    Motivation is the key to achieving things, and sometimes it is hard to force ourselves in to doing the ‘pain’ tasks. I think in these situations we need to look at the bigger picture of what we want to achieve. If the end game (i.e. being healthy in your example) is worth doing and we truly want it, then we need to be prepared to take the necessary tasks to achieve the goal.

  10. Chris Edgar says:

    Thanks for this post. Another inquiry I’ve found useful in overcoming the fear of trying something new, whether it’s a new relationship, going to the gym, or something else, is asking what’s really at the root of the fears that are holding us back. If we’re having trouble going to the gym because we think other people there look better than us, for instance, we might ask ourselves “what would really happen if other people did actually look better than us?” If we take a close look at the reasons we’re afraid, they often turn out to be a lot less convincing than we thought they’d be.

  11. Lance says:

    Nice said Mike! Part of it is figuring out what it is that motivates us – is it the pain or is it the pleasure. Your methods of how to utilize these techniques look to be helpful in progressing forward.

  12. Candace says:

    Thanks, great post.

  13. Matthew says:

    Great article. I personally believe in having a big enough “why” as a motivator. If the ultimate goal – the “why” – is important enough to you, then you can achieve anything.


  14. Naveen says:

    Great Post

    I especially like the part on getting out of your comfort zone.

    Your comfort zone is an incredibly alluring but limiting habit.

    Personally I get my daily dose of motivation by reading powerful literature.

    Some of the most inspiring books are :

    – Think & Grow Rich
    – Iron Will
    – ..and more

    It does not even cost anything to read them. The internet is home to great treasures that need to be mined.

    I share my hobby for powerful and inspiring literature at my website

    Naveen Thalanki

  15. Pingback: Guest Post: How to Find and Develop Your Own Internal Motivation | Learn This

  16. Pingback: Sunday Browsing: Internal Motivation, High Performance, and the Meaning of Money | The Success Professor

  17. Jennifer says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I use the technique of reframing (although I don’t always call it that) all the time, but I have never thought of applying it to motivation. This give me something to think about – and then apply.

  18. Pingback: Maximum Productivity: Attitude | Learn This

  19. Pingback: Turn off the TV for 1 month

  20. raj says:

    Nice post. The last paragraph is really inspiring.There was a desperate need of getting past of comfort zone in my life.Thanks for such a nice post.

  21. Katherine says:

    This is very interesting! It is the exact thing I am being taught at my university.
    I can say that it’s nice to read this article as I can relate to it. Definitely worth learning!

  22. Katherine says:

    Hey Naveen,
    I checked your website, but it does not work. Is it still correct or in use? Please, let me know. I’m interested in it.

  23. Sopenca says:

    I am the greatest procrastinator, lazy, unmotivated, self-disrespectful, fearful lonely person, sometimes I hate myself so much. I have spent so many hours laying on the couch not doing shit but watching tv and enjoying it. I have done good things in my life but could have done so much more. I have tried to have friends but it just doesn’t work. They either take advantage of me or I shy away from them. It takes me forever to call them, again no motivation. 
    So to all the things I don’t  have the motivation to do I should ask: pain or pleasure? pain or pleasure now or later? Example: I am a teacher and need to put together a portfolio for 2 kids. Pain? lots of work, lots of thinking, lots of writing, lots of taping pictures and staple work samples. If I don’t do it I will disappoint the child and family, I’ll betray the kid by dismiss his efforts and who he is, I’ll fell like a real piece of shit. I know that. Pleasure? kids are awesome and their progress amazes me always, I created the lesson plans that were used to promote the kids’ progress and I can document it in the portfolio. I’ll feel the pleasure of a job well done. 
    Get it,  I need to really convince myself and think to death on the pain and pleasure consequences, until there is no other choice. okay thank you.

  24. Sopenca says:

    Hello again, 5 min later I am still on the couch I feel sooooo lazy and unmotivated. Now I am thinking about eating or something that gives me more pleasure than the important task on the table. Ooohhh my God. I need a hot pepper up my ass!!! hate myself again.  Awful. Well I think I am going to eat, pee, clear the table, turn off the tv (actually tape the movie Yes Man) and start working. I’ll do it for 3 hours non stop, then a short break oh-oh  danger danger 

  25. Pingback: Internally motivated | Greatstatescho

  26. Sathish says:

    I would like to say in my life i feel its the best time to enlighten my life .

    Thanks for this wonderful post  

  27. Pingback: Indre motivert av fagforbundsarbeid? |

  28. Pingback: Searching the INTERNAL DRIVE | Tri-fitness

  29. Pingback: The Internal Drive | Tri-fitness

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *