What Is Motivation? Motivation Synonyms To Deepen Your Understanding

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

One ten-letter word may be behind many of the successes in society. Motivation could drive humans to build skyscrapers, develop inventions, and survive. Without motivation, accomplishing goals might feel challenging. Certain mental health conditions or symptoms could cause motivation to decrease. There are several strategies you may utilize to increase achievement motivation in your lifestyle, career, school life, and relationships.

Making moves for self-betterment can be hard

What is motivation?

Motivation is a word that is often defined as the driving energy behind an urge or goal. When you feel motivated, you might feel the energy and desire required to complete an action or take a step toward a goal in your life. When you eat a healthy breakfast, you may feel motivated to care for your body. You might feel motivated to gain money or grow your career when you go to work. 

Although external forces may inspire you to feel motivated, motivation often comes from within. You can make a conscious decision based on your motivation to follow your goals or take no action. 

Synonyms for motivation 

There are many synonyms for motivation to help you further understand the concept and how it applies to your life. 


Enthusiasm is a noun that is often defined as an intense interest or approval of a task or goal. It might impact how much motivation you feel. For example, you might feel the motivation to have an influential career. However, if you hate your job, you might not feel enthusiastic enough to pursue career fulfillment. 


In psychology, instinct is defined as an inborn or natural motivation that is not often a choice. Whether you act on an instinct may be up to choice. For example, you might have the instinct to leave a job that is causing you emotional harm. If you choose to leave the job, your instinct may have motivated you to seek a healthier position. 


Ambition is often focused on achievement. You may feel motivated to complete a goal. However, if you lack ambition, you might not feel confident in your ability to attain that goal or struggle to take the necessary steps. For example, you may desire a high-profile career. However, without ambition, you could believethat the steps to obtain it require too much effort. 


Determination is another way to describe the drive to move you toward your goals. The determination may be the feeling of positivity and purposefulness that occurs despite obstacles. For example, you might run a business and experience a challenging financial year. Instead of giving up, your determination may serve as motivation and remind you to keep going and try harder, which could warrant success in future years. 


Enterprise may be understood as an industrious, or systematic activity; especially when that activity is intentionally directed toward profit. So, you can likely see the connection between motivation and the enterprising activity it may produce. 

The branches of motivation 

Motivation can have many names and branches. Some individuals experience all of the above branches, while others might struggle with some. Gaining motivation may include focusing on the synonyms of motivation and finding ways to increase it in your life. 

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What are the four types of motivation?

Aside from synonyms, there are also four types of motivation, first identified in the early 1970s, which include intrinsic, extrinsic, identified, and introjected motivation. These motivations may be referred to as the three I's and an E of motivation. 


The first "I" stands for "intrinsic" or internal sources of motivation that have been acted upon. For instance, someone with a deep and abiding moral code might have the intrinsic motivation to pick up a twenty-dollar bill lying in the parking lot and turn it in to the store clerk. Their action may be driven by internal motivation which, in this case, would be that person’s internal sense of morality. 


The second "I" of motivation stands for "identified." An identified source of inspiration may be recognized, named, and acknowledged but not necessarily acted upon. Using the same example of the money in the parking lot, someone using identified motivation might think about giving the money to the store clerk but does not do so. 


"Introjection" is the final "I" of motivation and may describe the consequences of not acting on identified motivation. In the example, if the person in question acknowledges that they should turn in the money but leaves with the money left on the ground or tucked firmly in their pocket, they may experience introjection through guilt or shame. Someone experiencing guilt might return and turn in the money, leave it back on the street, or not pick it up at all. 


The "E" of motivation stands for "extrinsic motivation." Extrinsic motivation is propelled by external by the possibility, likelihood, or threat, of external punishment/consequence or reward, such as being told to do something by someone in a position of authority or being offered a reward. For example, someone might return a lost item if they notice they will receive a financial reward for doing so, or out of the fear of the potential consequence of failing to ‘do the right thing.’ 

How to find and act on motivation

Motivation can be a personal decision. Motivational speakers, authors, and creators dissecting motivation may inspire you. However, it is up to you how to act on that inspiration. Consider the following steps. 

Start with minor goals 

Consider taking "baby steps" when starting. Small goals may feel easier to achieve. As you achieve your minor goals, your happiness or success could inspire you to aim higher and create a sense of ambition or determination. 

If you feel motivated to gain muscle mass, consider starting small. Do a few sit-ups, take a short walk outside, or go to the gym once a month. Over time, you may feel ready to increase your exercise or go to the gym more frequently. Set one minor goal at a time until you feel ready to take on more. 

Brainstorm your goals 

Brainstorm and outline all of your goals before working through them. Create a map or chart for each goal and add the steps you think you may need to take to meet them. Then, organize each goal by difficulty, cost, or urgency. 

Try not to procrastinate 

Procrastination is delaying a project or goal until a deadline or until it is no longer needed. If a goal does not have a deadline, you might not feel motivated to complete it. You might procrastinate by pushing it off until the next day, week, month, or year. Try setting a deadline. Set alarms and a calendar date, or grab a pen and start writing. Writing goals down in a planner or calendar can make them seem more concrete. Make sure you achieve your goals on time or before the date.

Make the experience positive 

If your overall experience is not favorable, it may cause you to lose motivation. If you do not feel enthusiastic about your goals, achieving them could be more difficult. If you set a goal because someone else is pressuring you to achieve it or because you feel like you should want to, you might not pursue it with passion. Ask yourself how you can combine passion and utility in your life. 

Press on despite challenges

Your determination may help you reach your goal. For example, perhaps you are planning to run a marathon. A month before the event, you injure your leg. Some individuals might take the injury as a sign not to run in the marathon. However, with determination, you may speak to your doctor, go to physical therapy, and feel healed and ready by the time the marathon comes around. 

The determination may not mean forcing yourself to complete a task or going against your better judgment. However, it can mean being optimistic and confident about your goal. If you want to make something happen, a determination may remind you that it is possible. 

Feel inspired

Inspiration can be a way to push you into achieving your ambitions. For example, artists may look at other art to develop their techniques or feel inspired. They might take a message from a painting and create their own painting with a similar message but with different techniques and colors. Many sources inspire artists and goal achievers. Look for inspiration in your own life wherever you can find it. 

If you are trying to build a successful real estate business, meet with other realtors to glean inspiration from their marketing process, schedule, and communication approach. Being inspired could mean opening yourself up to making new friends, entering unknown territory, and exposing yourself to new experiences.

Connect with your social network 

If you have friends, family, and peers cheering you on, you may feel a greater motive to reach your goals. Connect with individuals who offer optimism and support. You may seek an extra pair of eyes to look at your plan and give some objective feedback that you could have missed.

Getty/Luis Alvarez
Making moves for self-betterment can be hard

Seek professional guidance 

If you want to stay motivated but don't know where to begin in your search for motivation, you may consider reaching out to a counselor. A lack of motivation can be a symptom of common mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Counselors may be able to offer motivation techniques and worksheets for you, depending on your goals. 

If you struggle to feel motivated to leave home, schedule sessions, or commute to therapy, consider online counseling. With online counseling, you can meet over the phone, via video chat, or through a live chat with a licensed therapist, which may take some pressure off of meeting with a professional. Additionally, it can be more cost-effective than traditional in-person therapy. Studies show that telehealth therapy can be highly effective in treating many conditions and symptoms. 

Consider reaching out to a platform like BetterHelp if you're interested in getting started with internet-based treatment. BetterHelp offers a match-based system with thousands of therapists specializing in many topics and concerns. 


Finding motivation can feel challenging in some cases. However, there are synonyms for motivation to support you in your journey. If you're interested in deepening your own motivation or gaining professional and research-based advice, consider reaching out to a counselor for further insight and inspiration. 
Struggling to find motivation in your life?
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