Keeping yourself creatively motivated

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What does it take to consistently be creatively motivated or inspired?

Sometimes you can’t keep yourself motivated, no matter how you might try. Though sometimes you can.

To cover the first point: I think you can’t always force yourself to be inspired or creatively motivated, even if you consciously want to. There are times where you simply have to step back and relax. Sometimes stepping back for a moment is the best way to move forward.

So get rest when you’re feeling burnt out. But in the moments where you are getting ample rest and still feeling stuck or unmotivated, let’s look at how motivation plays a part in our ability to think creatively.

What is motivation?

Motivation is a theoretical impulse that drives us toward one behavior or another.

In other words: “motivation” simply means “that which prompts us to act or think in a certain way.” And because creativity is a way of thinking, it is fair to assume creativity requires motivation of some type and at varying degrees. We cannot think creatively whenever we simply would like to. All creative thought is driven by some motivation, whether we are consciously aware of that motivation or not.

Understanding how motivation works from a psychological perspective can give us a glimpse into how we might find ourselves creatively motivated.

The theory of motivation states that motivation works in four stages:

First comes needs. Here we can look to the Hierarchy of Needs, as defined by Abraham Maslow. Physiological needs always come first, followed by the need to be safe, then the need to be loved and feel like you belong, lastly comes the need for esteem.

After needs comes behavior. The desire of fulfilling a need causes us to act; sometimes in rational and sane ways, other times in irrational or erratic ways.

Then comes reward. A result of our actions (which have been fueled by a need) should be a reward. Without reward, the behavior of our motivation changes: we might take more drastic actions or simply give into our circumstances. In some cases our motivation dwindles if we do not encounter a reward.

Lastly, after reward, comes satisfaction. The reward of behavior, sparked by a need, is fulfilled and therefore satisfactory. Once the motivational flow is complete with satisfaction, the motivation will be re-enforced and the behavior will be repeated the next time the need arises.

Any single area of motivation theory can influence our ability to think creatively.

How to keep yourself motivated

If you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, like new ideas aren’t sparking, take a minute to write down each stage of motivation and identify where you’re stuck.

1 ‒ Do you have a clear need for thinking creatively? What is it? Are there any needs trumping your need to think or express yourself creatively?

2 ‒ What have your actions been as a result of that need thus-far? Have you taken enough action or not? (It’s worth mentioning here that rumination can absolutely be considered an action of motivation). I’m reminded of a quote from the great Zig Ziglar on the subject of action:

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.”

3 ‒ Have you felt rewarded by your actions? If not: why? How can you adjust your actions to yield different rewards?

4 ‒ Lastly: are you satisfied with the rewards you have encountered?

If any of these areas immediately stick-out for you, your next course of action is to address them in the order they appear above. Focus on your needs and that you have fulfilled your basic needs before moving onto creative ones. Identify the actions you have taken or could be taking. What about rewards, if there are none in place: make some up for yourself. Lastly: is the work and rewards satisfying to the needs you originally set out to fulfill?

To stay creatively motivated we must ensure that each piece of motivation theory is complete for us.

In the end: we are the source of our own inspiration. If you’re feeling unmotivated or uninspired lately, it’s likely that one of the critical components of motivation theory is off for you. Identifying where the problem is will lead you to solutions for overcoming it.

Read this next: Creativity requires that you keep coming back for more

Photo by Amy on Flickr.