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How To Stay Motivated In Life

Dr. Mykim Tran is an expert in humanistic psychology. She is a keynote speaker, educator, life coach, author, and scientist. She is on a mission to help individuals create a powerful legacy that will carry on for eternity. In the process, individuals will transform into the best version of themselves and reach their full potential.

Executive Contributor Dr. Mykim Tran

Life success depends on your motivation level. The right motivation will push you to do whatever is necessary to succeed, such as overcoming challenges. You will also enjoy your tasks and life more with the right motivation. There are two common types of motivation: internal and external. You want to focus more on your internal than external motivation because it will increase your persistence and consistency in moving forward until you succeed.

Successful businesswomen united as a team high fiving in an office while sitting at the table

Internal motivation

Internal motivation refers to positive emotions such as joy, happiness, meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. It can also be self-confidence, self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect, kindness, compassion, appreciation, and inner peace. Knowledge, skills, and personal growth are also considered internal motivation. Internal motivation is also about focusing on the journey to achieving your goals.

External motivation

External motivation is anything from the outside, such as money, nice cars, houses, and clothes. Impressing others, outcomes, and destinations are also considered external motivation. Eating good food or wanting to go on vacation are external motivations.

According to psychology, external motivation can also be called gratification. This means that whenever you feel good because of something from the outside, you are experiencing gratification, not happiness. I'm not saying it isn't good to get those external things, but you must understand that those things bring you gratification, not happiness.

Internal vs. external motivation

Writing a book

External motivation is the book, the physical outcome. In contrast, internal motivation is when you focus on the process benefits of getting your book published. For instance, you enjoy writing and formatting your book because of the increased knowledge and creativity you will gain. The more you focus on the internal benefits, the more motivation you will have to put in your best effort to succeed. The book is just the by-product of your learning and effort.

A promotion

If you focus on getting the promotion by taking shortcuts and not taking the time to learn successfully, then you are relying on external motivation to achieve your goal. You want to receive the outcome as fast as possible. Getting a better job, title, and more money are things outside of you. However, if you are more invested in learning to earn your promotion successfully, your focus is more on internal motivation.


If you rush through school to get a diploma and not learn successfully, your focus is more on external motivation. A diploma is just a piece of paper that is outside of you. The good feeling that you experience when you receive your degree is gratification. There are many people who feel that their degree(s) are useless because they did not learn how to apply their knowledge successfully. If you feel like your degree is useless, perhaps you have focused more on external than internal motivation to achieve your degree.

Furthermore, you tend to have a higher chance of creating doubts when focusing on the result. You might be afraid that you might not get the result you want. No matter what you want to achieve, there is a chance that you could fail because there is no guarantee in life. The more you focus on that failure, the lower your motivation level.

However, if you go to school because you genuinely want to learn new knowledge to improve yourself and others, that aligns more with internal motivation. You will spend more time learning and not taking shortcuts. You also try to keep your stress level low to learn and absorb information successfully. Otherwise, stress will make it difficult for you to learn and retain information.

Focus on the journey

Focusing on the journey is another form of internal motivation. It will help you be on a lifelong journey of learning, growing, and moving forward, which is critical to life success. Since you are not perfect, so there will always be something you can learn to improve. Also, as a human being, you are a living thing. Living things do not stay the same. They either grow or die. For example, a tree is a living thing. It does not remain the same. It either grows or dies. Therefore, being a lifelong learner helps you grow.

Life success is a journey because there is no destination to your full potential. You will never be able to reach your full potential. The only thing you can do is to learn and grow to get closer to your potential. Your full potential is just a target to guide you on what you need to do to become a better person and create meaning and purpose. You do not need to reach the top to experience positive emotions because they are experienced in your actions. The more action steps you take to grow yourself and create meaning and purpose, the closer you are to your full potential, the more positive emotions you will experience.

Your positive emotions are also living things. This means you must constantly take action to experience positive emotions daily. For example, if you take action today to get closer to your goals, you will experience happiness today. If you want to experience happiness tomorrow and in the future, you must continue to take action tomorrow and in the future. Once you achieved a goal, you should create a new goal to continue taking action to keep experiencing happiness. It is the same with all other positive emotions, such as meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. It is a lifelong process of taking action.

Or, if you already have high self-esteem, you must take daily action to maintain it. It will die slowly if you do not continue to learn and grow your self-esteem. Remember, high self-esteem is the destination, which is not internal motivation. It is daily learning and taking action where internal motivation lies.

Even if you reach a certain point or gain something, it does not end there either. For example, let’s say you got promoted to a better position in your company. To maintain that position, you must do a great job and continue to learn and grow so that no one can take that position from you. However, if you stop learning, someone on the bottom can learn and grow and have more knowledge and skill than you, and they will get promoted. As a result, you could be moved down to a lower position, laid off, or fired because someone else is better for the position. Your journey of learning and growing does not end once you get the promotion if you want to maintain it.

It is the same with your health, relationship, or other life areas. Even if you reach your health goal, you must continue to develop and stay healthy to maintain that healthy state. However, your health will gradually decline if you start eating unhealthily or stop exercising. Soon, you will have poor health.

Achieving goals will never stop either. When you achieve a goal, another goal will manifest. Your future goals will often not manifest until you have successfully achieved your current goal. Many people have the false belief that once they achieve their current goal, they will not want to achieve any more goals. However, there will always be another goal that you will want to achieve. As a human being, you will always crave something else or more.

When you have the false mindset that you will not want to achieve any more goals once you reach your current goal, your daily actions become stressful. A good example is stressful college students. They believe they must stress themselves daily to finish college and get a diploma to experience happiness. However, once they get their diploma, they are likely to develop another thought, such as they need to work extra hard with long hours to have money to go on vacation or buy a nice house, and then they will be happy. Once they have the money for their vacation, something else will manifest, pushing them to become stressed again. As a result, they have a stressful lifestyle without realizing it. Their stressful lifestyle becomes a habit, a way of living for them. It becomes normal to them. They believe that is how they are supposed to live and feel daily.

You are also living in the future when you rush through your activities and not enjoying them because the destination is in the future. When you believe that you must suffer now to experience happiness in the future, then you are putting your happiness on hold, and that is not living in the present moment. However, you live in the present moment when you focus on the process and enjoy your daily actions. Everything you do becomes a present to you. For example, whenever you open a present, it gives you a good feeling. When your daily activities give you a good feeling of joy and happiness, they become your present. Every day you are receiving presents. Isn’t that an astonishing thing?

Life success and experiencing positive emotions depend on how you engage with your daily activities to achieve your goals and potential. You want to take your time to learn, grow, and enjoy your daily activities. Remember, your goals are only targets to show you what you need to do to achieve them, but your daily action steps are the things that will allow you to experience positive emotions, not the destinations.

Guarantee your success and happiness in life

If you rely on external factors for motivation, what happens if they are no longer there? External things and people can be taken away from you at any moment. For example, people can take your money, house, or car away, which means they are not guaranteed. Or, anyone can leave you at any moment. Or when you go on vacation to a destination. If the destination no longer exists, how can you guarantee it will be there for you? It is the same with getting a promotion. If your boss decides not to give you the promotion anymore, you are not guaranteed to feel good about yourself.

However, when you rely on internal motivation, no matter what happens from the outside, you will be more persistent to move forward and become successful. For example, if you focus on your personal growth as your motivation, then it does not matter what happens, you can always find different ways to learn and move forward to succeed. No matter how long your goals and dreams might take you, internal motivation allows you to persist until you succeed. Therefore, no one can take your motivation away when it is internal. You are more guaranteed of your success and happiness.


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Dr. Mykim Tran, Humanistic Psychologist

Dr. Mykim Tran is an expert in humanistic psychology. She is a keynote speaker, educator, life coach, author, and scientist. She is on a mission to help individuals create a powerful legacy that will carry on for eternity. In the process, individuals will transform into the best version of themselves and reach their full potential. Dr. Tran is the founder and CEO of Wake-Up Foundation, a non-profit agency, transforming individuals into social change agents to promote stronger communities. She received her bachelor's degree in Media Communications from the California State University of Sacramento, her master's degree in Psychology at Walden University, and her PhD in Humanistic Psychology at Saybrook University



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