What Can We Learn About Motivation From a Child?

The question we all face at junctures in life is – how do we keep the fires of motivation burning?

Everything we ever do requires motivation. To break it down even further we can have multiple sources of motivation for every action throughout our day and lifetime.

How can we tap into the well of motivation that fuels us best and lasts the longest?

Research points us to a rather interesting source – deep inside ourselves. Doing something for the pure enjoyment alone is like hooking up to a steady stream of motivational steroids that keep that budding interest and curiosity growing. Strong intrinsic motivation can lead us along the path of accomplishment as if an invisible cord is tugging us upward, right to our goals and destiny.

The more intensely we want something, the more we shift our priorities to make that thing happen. The tough part is doing things you need to do but don’t want to do. We all understand that dilemma.

For example, I absolutely love my job. But I admit I don’t care for extensive paperwork that doesn’t seem to help anyone. YET I recognize I don’t get to choose what I am paid to do. Kids can show us the best examples of how we learn these connections.

When children live in a safe, nurturing environment with stimulating opportunities to explore, they tend to try a variety of things. They expect they can do the things they try. At a young age, kids rush right up to help you make that cake, paint a portrait, or build a playhouse. They have a desire to do a task because they believe in themselves.

Kids also have a basic understanding that they can control the outcome of many situations through their actions. They see how their efforts result in a completed task.

What happens as we mature and experience failure or notice the success of others? That is where our thinking narrows, and we let doubt and fear have a say in what we do and try. One of the theories of motivation relies on a very simple equation: Expectancy X Value = Motivation

If you expect you are capable of achieving your goal and you value that goal, you are highly likely to have the motivation to succeed. It’s easy to see how we can give up on goals we once had as we rationalize over time how silly that desire was or how other things get in the way of that dream. Another problem pops up when we let ourselves believe we aren’t as good as others who are successful. Comparing ourselves to others is natural and useful in many ways but too much focus on others will erode our expectation that we have what it takes.


I encourage you to evaluate your own motivation. What goals have you let fall to the wayside in favor of a path that looks safer? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do that lingers in the back of your mind?

Why not find out what you need to do to make it happen? There may be things you need to learn and practice to gain skills. Engaging in those opportunities will provide confidence that you can achieve it. If that desire is important to you, begin sacrificing time and energy to obtain it. The more you fuel each side of that equation, the more you will set out with a childlike attitude and go for it!

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