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  1. According to three Polish scientific researchers, the values that we all come to realise in life are drawn from our personal strivings and our own motivations. As a result, people are able to attain a greater level of meaning in their lives, their work suggests, so long as they remain motivated. For some, this might seem an obvious proposition: being motivated by your values means that you will achieve a greater sense of meaning in life. However, the hypothesis had not been fully tested until Zuzanna Siwek and her co-authors, Anna Oleszkowicz and Aleksandra Słowińska, first published their research paper into the subject in 2016. Building on Established Psychological Theories According to Siwek at al., their work – which was carried out on a sample of Polish university students - started out from the point of view of two commonly accepted theoretical ideas in psychology. The first was developed by Deci and Ryan which is often referred to as self-determination theory (SDT). Their idea is that motivation in individuals addresses issues of competence, relatedness and autonomy. For psychologists, competence the term used for our desire to control outcomes. Relatedness is best described as our innate desire to connect and care with others. Finally, autonomy is our desire to be the agents of control in our own lives. You can think of it with the ability to make decisions for ourselves. Both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is dealt with under SDT. For most psychologists, motivation is not a single concept but something that changes depending on the situation. What might motivate you at work might not be the same as at home, for example. Since the 1970s, psychological studies have referred to intrinsic motivation as our natural desire to face new challenges and engage in play with things we are curious about. Conversely, extrinsic motivations are not innate. These are motivations that come from outside of our inner selves, such as rewards for performance or mere praise. To break it down greatly, SDT claims that people will grow and function optimally when competence, relatedness and autonomy are working in harmony. Competence is when we try to control the outcome of something and relatedness is how connected to others we are in our actions. Finally, autonomy describes the degree of agency we have over ourselves. Siwek's other theoretical inspiration came from the so-called logotherapy that was first developed by the esteemed psychologist Victor Frankl. His theory is based on the reasonable assumption that human beings are motivated by their search for a sense of purpose. According to Frankl, logotherapy is merely a word that represents the search for a purposeful meaning in life. By building on these theoretical ideas, the researchers were able to build a study that utilised Personal Striving Assessments (PSAs), a system developed by Robert Emmons, a Professor of Psychology based in the US. Her teams' findings used these theories to demonstrate that meaning in life is indeed closely related to motivation. It is also related, they found, to a number of other personal values that participants responded to in their assessments which were often manifested in their personal strivings in life. The Research Programme The Polish psychologists had a good sample size for their study. No less than 353 students took part in the programme, 159 women and 194 men. Interestingly, the study's authors claimed that the meaning in life that men and women reported was important to them was different in their own assessments. Men, for example, were more likely to ascribe financial success as being important in life, an extrinsic motivation, whereas women were more likely to value relationships, both intimate ones and friendships, intrinsic motivations. All of the respondents in the study were under the age of 25 and enrolled in full-time education which, the authors freely admit, means that their research is not a reflection of society as a whole. How Do Motivation and Personal Values Lead to Greater Meaning in Life? The research paper reported that behaviour and strivings of intrinsically motivated individuals are, more often than not, directed toward their own interests, a significant new finding. As a result, it was found that people are more willing to engage in personal development as a result of their autonomous motivation. Indeed, Siwek et al. claim that such people are characterised by a greater vitality, improved creativity and better levels of happiness. Moreover, Siwek's team found that different values in personal strivings facilitated differing scores for meaning in life, according to their respondents' own assessments. Although personal motivations varied between men and women in the study, the relationship between them and meaning in life was consistent regardless of gender. Another extrinsic value, that of physical appearance, appeared to make no difference to meaning in life or to happiness whichever group was being looked at. As such, it seems that happiness cannot be wrought from a sense of self-worth that is based on looks alone. Summing up, Siwek claimed that meaning in life is most directly associated with the intrinsic motivation of intimacy and friendship although extrinsic factors, such as reward motivation and financial success, also form direct correlations with a sense of life meaning. She went on to add that although these gender differences were notable, no explanation could yet be offered as to why they exist and that further research would be needed to offer one. Written by Guest Author We are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  2. 5 Strategies To Help You Develop A Regular Meditation Practice This post discusses strategies to help you overcome common roadblocks to meditation so you can become more consistent in your meditation practice. Do you find it hard to stick to your meditation goals, despite knowing about the benefits involved setting up a meditation practice? That disconnection between knowing and doing is common, so if something is stopping you from sticking to the plan, this article can help you identify and tackle the root of the problem. Confront Your Fears A clash between thinking and doing sometimes hides a layer of fear. Common fears include self-doubt, fear of finding that meditation practice uncovers a negative self, and fearing that stillness of the mind will lead to stillness of action. All these fears are small acts of self-sabotage, which usually kick in whenever we are trying to go outside our comfort zone. To tackle this, you first need to accept that it’s all in your hands. It’s up to you to rewrite your own narrative, from a self-defeating one to an empowering one. Identify the stories you are telling yourself about your apparent inability to meditate, and create a different story by actually putting it in writing. Set aside 10-15 minutes every day to do this, and don’t underestimate the power of “self-editing” your life narrative. Studies have shown how effective this is in reversing negative or pessimistic thoughts and inspiring positive actions, so don’t let fears take over. Habit Replacement If avoiding meditation has become a habit, you should take steps to replace it with a positive one. To do this, think about how the habit you want to change became ingrained. You probably took a series of small decisions that reinforced each other and that stuck with you because they provided some sort of benefit. For example, you may procrastinate meditation because you want to have more free time. The key is to build a new habit that offers the same benefits and motivates you to stick with it. What if meditation was your free time? What if meditation helped you manage your time better? Next, find what triggers the bad habit. Do you postpone meditation when you get distracted by your phone, the TV, or other activities that are associated with free time? Write down each trigger and find a positive action to replace each one of them with. Habit replacement takes time and multiple tries, so be prepared to learn from failure. Parts Integration If you know the benefits of meditation but can’t get around to practice it consistently, there may a conflict of interest between your motivation and parts of your conscious or sub-conscious mind. This type of conflict takes time to uncover, but you can make the process easier by using a neuro-linguistic programming technique known as Parts Integration, whose objective is to help you find greater coherence between thoughts, values, and actions. Determine the conflicting parts in the behaviour you want to change (e.g. knowing it would be good to meditate is “the good part” and not doing it is “the bad part”) With your palms facing up, picture each part resting on each palm Ask each part what their final intention is, and keep asking the question until you come across a positive intention. For example, “the bad part” may want you to be productive and achieve lots of things during the day As you bring your hands together, imagine the parts’ intentions helping each other achieve your ultimate goal. Make sure you have a clear image of what this would look like Picture this new image of a successful you taking over other parts of your body Establish steps that will help you support the good intentions of the integrated parts The principles of Parts Integration are similar to those used in therapies that aim to bring unity between different parts of the self, such as Gestalt, client-centered therapy, psychosynthesis, and analytical psychology. All these strategies can help resolve internal conflict by making us pay close attention to different parts of our conscious and sub-conscious selves. As conflict subsides, focus and motivation get stronger and you’ll be able to achieve your meditation goals. Moving Meditation Another common thing that gets in the way of regular meditation is feeling that this isn’t really for you. This is particularly common if you are a very energetic person who has trouble sitting still for more than a few minutes at the time, or if you get bored easily. When thinking about a meditation session, the first thing that comes to mind is someone sitting in the lotus position. But you don’t have to feel confined to this position, as you can experiment with alternatives like walking, standing, or other forms of moving meditation. For example, you may want to try Qigong, a type of moving meditation that can help still your mind without sitting. There are dozens of Qigong movements, but you can get started with the exercise known as “Separating Heaven and Earth”. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the arms to the sides Take a deep breath while you cross your arms over your chest Exhale slowly and at the same time lift one arm while you lower the other (keep your arms slightly bent as you do this) Repeat while you alternate which arms goes up and down, for as long as you want your meditation session to last If you are concerned that moving meditation may not be as effective as sitting meditation, you needn’t worry. In several studies, Qigong practitioners reported feeling lower anxiety and stress levels, just as you would expect from other forms of meditation. Moreover, some researchers suggest that the physical exercise involved in Qigong can reduce bone loss rate and could lead to lower blood pressure. Share Accountability There’s strength in numbers and you’re not alone in your struggle, since nobody becomes an expert meditator without confronting fears and bad habits. If you don’t feel strong enough to address these issues, finding someone who is in a similar situation can help if you both agree to hold each other accountable and keep unrealistic expectations in check. Accountability partnerships work by adding an extra layer of responsibility, motivation, mutual support, and creative brainstorming, which all work together to improve goal achievement. With time and practice, you can become your own accountability partner, or help others overcome obstacles to meditation. One last thought to take away with you is: “whatever problem you face setting up a regular meditation practice, you can learn from it and thrive.” Modelphoto by Colourbox.com Written by Dee Marques A social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in Nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
  3. Living our lives to the fullest begins with what is already here. Staying engaged and curious can transform even routine activities. Learn how now.Have you ever felt that sometimes we go through our lives instead of living them to the fullest? Today it is common to live surrounded by distractions that make staying engaged hard, forcing us instead to continually move on to the next thing and overlook present experiences. Staying mindful and finding pleasure and fulfilment in everyday things can make a considerable contribution to your overall happiness, so below we have listed seven ways of turning routine tasks into enriching daily activities. Read on if you’re ready to increase your awareness, boost your connection with own emotions, and improve your chances of staying engaged throughout the day.  1. Start-of-the-day Ritual Cultivating enriching daily activities as soon as you start your day is crucial to your levels of engagement and well-being. Instead of waking up and getting on with your day on auto-pilot, why not create a ritual that increases your chances of staying engaged?  As you wake up, do some gentle stretching and notice your body getting ready for a new day. Acknowledge your gratefulness for a good night's rest that allows you to tackle whatever lies ahead. As you wait for your tea and coffee to be ready, take a minute or two to check in with yourself. Pay attention to physical sensations: is your body tense or relaxed? How are your energy levels? Are you hungry or thirsty? Mornings are the perfect time to incorporate other mindful practices such as mindful eating or showering, which are described further down in this article.  2. Mindful Showering Showering is a peaceful way of starting or ending the day, as it allows you to gain an appreciation for your body and to be grateful for having the opportunity to look after yourself. As you stand under the water, do a “body scan” from head to toes and take note of your feelings. The warm water, the aroma of your favourite shower gel, and a gentle massage are treats to the senses that would be a pity to overlook. Taking note of these micro-moments can help you stay anchored in the present and counter the go-go-go mindset. In the shower, it is easier to realise when your mind wanders into the past or future. Realize when you are not in the shower while taking a shower and gently bring the mind back.  Even doing the dishes is another opportunity for being mindful and curious.  3. Gratitude Walks and Walking Meditation Having a busy life doesn't mean you cannot enjoy the benefits of meditation. Simply walking and noticing all those things you have reasons to be grateful for is a way of staying engaged with the most meaningful aspects of your life. For example, you can notice your legs and feet taking you forward, a ray of sunshine helping support life all around you, the different colours of objects or plants bringing variety and making life more interesting.  To practice walking meditation, find a space where you can walk undisturbed and start walking while focusing on each movement. Lifting a foot, putting it in front of the other, placing your feet on the ground, noticing how your body weight shifts as you walk, listening to your breathing, etc. This can help slow down your mind and sharpen your self-awareness.  As if that wasn't enough, walking itself is a beneficial physical activity that can help maintain a healthy weight and decrease stress. Moreover, some scientific studies have found that walking can strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. And as you probably know, a healthy body feeds a healthy mind, and vice versa!  4. Mindful Driving The daily commute can be a source of frustration and other negative emotions, but using mindful techniques can turn this routine into one of those enriching daily activities that increase your awareness.  Before you start the engine, take a few moments to breathe deeply and state your intention to drive mindfully. You should also ensure your car is a distraction-free environment and something like a “cocoon” that protects you from the noise outside, so put your phone on silent and don’t switch the radio on. While driving, there will be situations that cause anger or anxiety, but all you need to do is acknowledge your feelings - remember that you have a choice not to let those negative emotions take over. Drive paying attention to your surroundings, try to see the streets as if it was the first time you were driving along them, and take every interruption (traffic lights, traffic jams, etc.) as a chance to check in with your sensory perceptions.  5. Mindful Eating We all have to eat, but our busy schedules often make us rush through our meals leading to all sorts of ailments, from poor digestion to weight gain.  To avoid this, practice mindful eating by engaging all your senses in a conscious exercise of appreciation.  Try the raisin mindful eating exercise Grab a raisin and hold it in your hands, imagining you’ve never seen one before. Use all your 5 senses to examine it. Look at its every detail: colors, structure, shiny or dull, can you see through? Touch it with closed eyes. Try to hear if it makes a sound if you squeeze it. Smell it. See if it smells differently depending on which nostril you use. Chew it slowly noticing its texture and flavour. Take note of the feelings and thoughts it generates. This technique is a mindfulness-based stress reduction MBSR exercise aimed at improving your ability to focus on present experiences, increase attention levels, and boost enjoyment.  6. Mindful Appreciation Staying engaged in the present and savouring everything life has to offer is hard when our appreciation is weak. To fix this, find four or five things (or people) that make your life easier or better. These could be small details like having drinking water flow as you open the tap or having a blanket to keep you warm and cosy when it gets cold. Make a mental note of those things, or even better, write them down while you ask yourself: What benefits does this bring to my life? What is special or unique about this thing / person? How would life be without them? How did they come to be? Stopping to think about this will improve your appreciation for simple (and not-so-simple) everyday things and give you more reasons to feel blessed. 7. Staying Engaged With (Or Despite) Technology Technology can be a constant source of distractions and interfere with mindful practices, so it’s important to set boundaries and know when and how to use it. Mindfulness-, meditation- and well-being-apps and podcasts with uplifting content show that technology and gadgets can be beneficial, but making mindful use of technology is also a matter of changing your habits.  For example, instead of reaching for your smartphone to take a picture of your food as soon as a plate is put in front of you, take some time to look at the food. Observe how it is presented, think about how it satisfies you, and about how much work has been put into making it reach your table. Likewise, instead of rushing to check your inbox every time a mail notification pops up on your screen, take a deep breath, pause, check in with yourself, and decide if it's worth responding now or later.  Like all other positive emotions, everyday engagement has to be cultivated. Trying to incorporate mindfulness into daily tasks will bring you a collection of memorable thoughts and moments that enrich your life and make it more pleasurable. And ultimately, these enriching daily activities will allow you to live your life and not just go through it.     Modelphotos: colourbox.com  Written by Dee MarquesA social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in Nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
  4. Goal setting and achieving goals is an integral part of personal development and self-growth. But have you ever wondered why some people seem to accomplish virtually everything they set out to do, while others struggle? Some research studies have found that only 8 percent of goal setters succeed, so is there any secret to being part of that 8 percent?  While there is no magic recipe to ensure you achieve your goals easily, being systematic and aligning all your resources are some of the most important things you can do. In this blog post, you can learn how to optimise the goal setting process using SMART criteria and NLP techniques side by side.  The Basics Of SMART Goals The idea behind SMART goal setting was first developed in the 1980s and was inspired by the writings of management consultant Peter Drucker, a well-known authority in the field of strategic management. SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific: One of the main reasons why many people fail to accomplish their goals is because they are too vague. Goals are usually formulated in general terms, such as “I want to be better at my job” (but at which aspects of your job exactly?), or “I want to be more patient” (specifically in which situations?). SMART goals are broken down into small and defined “chunks” that are specific and concrete. Measurable: SMART goals aren't abstract ideas; they come with objective ways of determining both the final aim and the intermediate steps needed to achieve it. Achievable: Goals must be realistic. This does not mean you have to settle for mediocrity, but rather to start small and progressively increase the scope of your goals. Relevant: SMART goals are in harmony with your circumstances and are compatible with the bigger picture in your life. Time-Bound: This means goals must be set against a reasonable time frame (as opposed to “someday”) and must be timely. There is a right time for everything, and SMART goals are set in the right circumstances to avoid frustration and disappointment. SMART Goals, The NLP Way Neuro-Linguistic Programming principles and techniques can be easily used alongside SMART goal criteria. Using them together can supercharge your ability to move forward with your objectives in a way that is sustainable, encouraging, and contributes to your overall happiness. Here are some questions to think about when defining SMART goals:  Specific NLP relies on visualisation as a self-growth aid. Can you visualise your goal? Can you picture it involving all your senses and channels of perception? If not, your goals may be too vague or imprecise. Measurable How will you know you have reached your goal? How will it look and feel? What will you hear and see? Achievable Neuro-Linguistic Programming highlights the integration of parts. For goals to be doable, they must be aligned with your conscious and sub-conscious mind. Otherwise, you may end up sabotaging your goals without realising. Ask yourself: Are all parts in agreement? Are there any parts saying “you can't-do it”? What is the intention of each part involved and can these intentions be reconciled? Relevant To ensure full compatibility between goals and circumstances, pay attention to how your mind handles information. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, cognitive biases are classified into deletions, distortions, and generalisations. Ask yourself whether you're ignoring important information, trying to make it fit with assumptions or preconceived ideas, or rushing into inaccurate generalisations. Time-Bound Neuro-Linguistic Programming favours an outcome-oriented mindset where goals are set together with tangible ways of measuring and recording progress. Bringing SMART Goals Into Action Using NLP Time to be practical. Let's say you have decided to be physically active and improve your mind-body balance. Here's how a typical SMART NLP goal-setting model would look like:   The first thing you would do is ensure your goal is specific. Your initial goal will probably look like “I want to do more exercise”, but this is not specific enough. What exactly is “more” exercise? Does it entail exercising more often, with more intensity, or for longer periods of time? Let's say you want to exercise more frequently. How often, exactly? Once a day, twice a week, four times a week? As you can see, you need to dig deeper to make your goals specific.   Next, it's time to define measurable goals, which ties into goals being specific. Saying you want to improve your fitness level is not specific and can hardly be measured. What aspect of fitness do you want to improve? Do you want to be able to lift weights, and if so, how much weight? Or do you want to be able to run a 5k race? Do you want to perfect some yoga positions, and if so which ones? You will know your goal is specific and measurable enough when you can visualise yourself exercising. Where will you be? How will you feel? Can you hear music in the background as you work out? Do you smell the freshly cut grass as you go for your jog? How do these sensations come together to motivate you?   There are two parts to ensuring your goals are achievable. First, they need to be realistic. You cannot expect to run 5 miles the first time you go for a jog, and you cannot expect to gracefully perform advanced yoga positions if you are new to this discipline. Secondly, you should anticipate roadblocks that may come up while you work towards your goal. What will you do when parts come up with objections? How will you handle “parts” of your consciousness saying “I'm too tired to exercise today”? NLP sub-modalities can help resolve internal conflict by modifying the meaning of specific experiences. To re-interpret the feeling of tiredness, ask yourself where exactly do you feel it? Is it loud or muffled? Can you play with the “volume”? Is it near or far? Can you increase the distance between the feeling and your body, pushing it away so you can see it getting smaller and fuzzier? The idea is that by changing your perception, you can alter the meaning of an experience and change your response so that you get closer to your goals.   Neuro-Linguistic Programming shows you how to access your most resourceful state to keep goals relevant. Identify how you want to feel when you exercise (e.g. determined, positive, unstoppable), then think about a time when you experienced that feeling and step into that memory with all your senses. Recreate what you saw, felt, and heard, and mentally connect this sensory experience to a specific trigger (e.g. anytime you want to give up exercising, at the start of a session, when you feel too tired to exercise, etc.). Do this a few times until you automatically go into the resourceful state right when you need it.   To ensure your goal is time-bound, draw a timeline and visualise yourself above it, going from past to future, overcoming obstacles and seeing how they are left behind, giving way to feelings of empowerment and motivation that take you right to the finish line: your ultimate goal. Goal Setting Techniques: How To Make Them Stick? The SMART model is not meant to be a one-off. In fact, there's a variation of this goal setting model known as SMARTER, where E stands for Evaluate and R for Readjust. The idea is that the goal setting is an ongoing process that needs a constant assessment from a critical perspective. This is in line with the principle of excellence in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, through which you align your physical and emotional resources to stay focused on your goals.  NLP also comes into play by helping you become more attuned to internal feedback, so you are always in touch with your most resourceful mental state. Next time you set a goal, make sure you familiarise yourself with the most powerful NLP techniques for happiness. This will go a long way helping you program your mind to be goal-oriented and to use a specific goal-setting model every time you need to achieve something.     Photos and Modelphoto: colourbox.com  Written by Dee MarquesA social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in Nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.