Control Your Motivation

Treat Thompson



This is a republishing of The Steady Fella Newsletter. Every week readers use the timeless insights on passion, productivity, philosophy, and happiness from this newsletter to build towards the life they want.

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This week's newsletter is based on "The 3 Components of Motivation" from Ness Labs.

It's easy to see motivation as some magical thing you have no control over. You're either motivated to do something or you're not; we see it as something that just happens on its own.

This belief removes us from the equation when talking about a goal. Saying things like "I'm just not motivated to do this" leaves action up to chance.

But we have more control over motivation than one would think. There is a particular theory that can be used to understand why we may struggle to find the motivation to work towards a goal.

It's called the "3 components model of motivation", developed by Professor Hugo M. Kehr at the University of California Berkeley.

In psychological terminology, the three components are explicit motives, implicit motives, and perceived abilities.

For simplicity sake, Kehr uses the metaphor "Head, Heart, and Hand":

  • Head - "Is this task really important to me and relevant to my goal?"
  • Heart - "Do I enjoy this task?"
  • Hand - "Am I good at this task?"

Every time you decide to accomplish a goal or perform a task, head, heart, and hand come into play.

According to the theory, optimal motivation occurs when all three components are fulfilled. In contrast, if components are missing, we struggle to feel motivated.


When we are unmotivated, our solution is usually to use willpower. However, willpower is a poor long-term strategy.

The better approach is to use Kehr's model of motivation and identify which component is making you feel unmotivated. Then you can build your solution around fulfilling the component.

This chart from illustrates a strategy to fulfill each component.


This weeks quote

Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24 hour days. - Zig Ziglar

It's easy to say we don't have enough time to do something, and think that's why we aren't accomplishing a goal. However, everyone has the same amount of time in the day.

It's more likely that you aren't using your time well enough.

This weeks question

Is there time in your day that you can reasonably spare, and put towards accomplishing a goal?

The keyword is reasonably. It doesn't mean don't relax, but is there time being wasted that can be used?