I remember when I was younger, and the possibility of sitting for an hour and diving into a favorite book was nearly the most enjoyable thing I could imagine. Just to carve out a bit of time for reading was all I wanted. In fact, there was a time in my early thirties when I decided to set my alarm for 6 AM, well before my family awoke, so that I would have an uninterrupted hour of reading time before I started my day. (While the alarm rings a bit later these days, this practice is still in my life almost two decades later.)
I will confess, though, that my sheer love of reading waned for a number of years, and it became a struggle for me to begin a new book, let alone to finish one. My life had become much more chaotic as I was building businesses, writing books, traveling to new cities each week, and trying to be a good father and husband, and the focused concentration necessary to dive into a good tome felt too scarce. I simply wasn’t motivated to read.
Over the past several years, my colleagues and I have delved into decades of research on motivation, and what truly moves people to action. Why will I stay up until 2 AM multiple nights in a row to tackle a project of marginal importance to anyone else, but I’ll procrastinate filing a few folders for days, or put off a critical email to a colleague until the very last minute? Why am I naturally motivated to engage in some tasks, but not others?
What we discovered was surprising: every person has a unique combination of top motivational themes—what we call your Motivation Code™—that drive engagement, fulfillment, and life satisfaction. What we learned is that it’s not the task itself that motivates you, it’s about how your core motivation responds to the task. Two different people can encounter the same task and be motivated to tackle it for very different reasons. Once you discover your top motivations, you can train yourself to bring those motivations to your activities rather than waiting for activities to motivate you.
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Back to reading. Once I discovered my top motivational themes—Make an Impact, Meet The Challenge, and Influence Behavior—it changed how I approach my reading times. Here’s how:
Make an Impact: Because I know that I am most deeply motivated when I can see the impact of my work on the world around me, I need to spend time at the end of my reading session reflecting on how I plan to use what I learned to impact others around me. That means considering what I might share with others, how I might apply it in my work, or how it might influence my own writing.
Meet The Challenge: I am most motivated when I am tackling some discreet, imminent challenge or tackling something that feels a bit difficult to me. So, I’ve set up my reading times as short “sprints”, or mini-challenges for me to tackle. For example, “I’m going to read 25 pages before 7:30 AM.” Doing this keeps me focused and engaged, and motivates me to keep going when I’m tempted to stop.
Influence Behavior: I’m also motivated to change the minds and behavior of those around me. Because of this, I’ve learned to study the effects of the book I’m reading on my own emotions, thoughts, and attitudes, and to consider how I might apply those same frameworks in my own writing. Even a work of fiction can teach me a lot about how to shape the thinking of others.
These are just three of the twenty-seven motivational themes that exist within the Motivation Code framework. Those motivated in other ways might want to employ different strategies. For someone who is motivated to Collaborate, it might be important to join a book club or to read a book with a peer and compare notes along the way. For someone who is driven to Gain Ownership, it might be important to own the books they read or to only read special first-edition copies so that they are more deeply attached to the physical book itself. For someone who’s motivated by Comprehend and Express, their primary driver might be learning new things through their reading, then sharing their insights with someone else that same day.
We can’t think of motivation as a “one size fits all” thing. How you are motivated is very different than how I am motivated. (There are 17,550 possible Motivation Codes!) Understanding that unique motivation is the first step toward approaching your everyday tasks with intent, purpose, and deep satisfaction.
If you are struggling to find the motivation to read, I encourage you to consider that it’s not the task of reading that’s the real struggle, it’s that you haven’t discovered the hidden code to unlock your motivation to dive into the book. Once you do, it will change not only your reading life, it will change the very way that you approach your relationships, your work, and nearly every other aspect of your life.
If you’d like to learn more about Motivation Code, or even discover your own, you can pick up a copy of my latest book, The Motivation Code, or visit MotivationCode.com.
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