What Is Motivation? The Motivation Synonym That You Can Understand

By Stephanie Kirby|Updated August 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Heather Cashell, LCSW

Making Moves For Self-Betterment Can Be Hard

One word is what has brought our society to the level it is now: motivation. It drives us to build skyscrapers, make new inventions, and survive for as long as possible. However, if you don't have motivation, it can make accomplishing your goals much more difficult. It becomes a bit of a paradox. You want find the motivation to be motivated, if that makes sense; after all, how can you improve your life without the motivation to do so? In this article, we will talk about the concept of motivation and tell you ways you can stay motivated. From the science of motivation to the self-help techniques, we will cover it all.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is simply the reason behind why we do what we do. It's the reason why we desire something. When we go to sleep, our motivation is to have enough energy for the day ahead of us. When we go to work, we are motivated by making money to pay the bills and have enough to have fun. These are simple motivations.

Usually, someone cannot motivate you. You can listen to motivational tapes all you want to, but in the end, you're the one who has to develop your own motivation.

There are many synonyms for motivation that can help you grasp the concept better, and they help to describe the spectrum that is motivation more effectively. These include:

  • Enthusiasm is when you're interested in or approve of something—intensely. It can affect how motivated you are for something, as well. For example, you may be motivated to work to live, but if you dislike your job, your enthusiasm for working won't be as high as it could be. Therefore, you may be less motivated to do well at your job, thus precluding the possibility of making more money.
  • In psychology, this is the instinct that makes people act. Sometimes, your motivation may be based on instinct rather than an intentional, willful desire.
  • Ambition is about achievement. You may be motivated to do something, but if you don't have strong ambition, you may not be able to achieve it. Ambition requires hard work, and those who are ambitious will be able to succeed more often than people who do not exhibit a great deal of ambition.
  • This is when you make the first move. You can be motivated and ambitious all the livelong day, but if you procrastinate and don't make the first move, the vision in front of you may be lost. For example, if you are motivated to find love, but you never make any moves towards someone you're interested in, you may not be able to find love.
  • Determination is another way to describe the drive to move you towards your goals. Determination is the feeling of positivity and purposefulness you have, despite the obstacles. When running a business, for instance, you may go through some low points, but your determination keeps you going. You realize that all of your hard work is just another step on the road toward success, and you'll move past it.
  • An enterprise is a project, goal, or object that is usually lofty, difficult, or in some way extensive. Some goals may be easy, but the goal that is the most difficult is your enterprise, and by having all of the above, you will have a better chance of succeeding as you go after your enterprise.

As you can see, motivation has many branches, and they are all needed to make the metaphorical tree as fruitful as possible. Some people may have the motivation to do something, but may not have the determination. Once they see negative results, they may not continue and instead drop the project. There may have been a success beyond the struggle, or complete failure, but that person will never know because of their lack of determination.

Someone may have all of the above except for a sense of initiative. They may be ambitious, but they're a procrastinator. They put off doing the project until it's too late, and because of this, they will never achieve their goals to the best of their abilities. In some cases, they may not accomplish their goals at all.

How To Be More Motivated

It's easier said than done to be motivated. As mentioned before, you have to be the one who ultimately makes the decision. Motivational speakers, books on the subject, and articles dissecting motivation may push you to the starting line, but it is your responsibility to start running; if you don’t, you’ve already lost the race, which will likely further deter the onset of motivation. Finding the motivation you need will vary from person to person, but here is a short guide that will help you possibly get the motivation you need to succeed:

Start Small

Perhaps the best way to stay motivated is to take baby steps. Some people can plunge into the pool, but others will need to dip their toes in the water first. Small goals are easy to achieve, and the happiness you feel by reaching the goals may be all the drive you need for you to carry on.

Say you're trying to get into shape, but working out seems intimidating. Instead of going to the gym and giving it your all, start with a few easy workouts. Do a few sit-ups, maybe take a short walk outside, and see if you can accomplish that. Once you do, you can increase the intensity of your goals until you feel comfortable and competent enough to join the gym and enlist the help of a trainer. When starting small, the best way to achieve that goal is to set just one at a time. Having a bunch of small goals may be just as difficult as accomplishing one big goal. This can lead to you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.

Plan Your Goals

Making Moves For Self-Betterment Can Be Hard

One of the best ways to succeed at your goals is to do a little bit of planning. Some goals may require an entire diagram to achieve, while others may need little more than an outline. Look at your goal and see how much planning it needs. Don't overplan a goal and overthink it, but also don't underplay a big goal and then get overwhelmed once you try to reach the markers you’ve set.

Don't Procrastinate

Ah, procrastination. When we think of procrastination, we imagine working on an essay only a short time before the deadline. Deadlines are what motivates us to finish our assignments. If your goal does not have a deadline, you may put it off until the next day, and then when that day arrives, you are likely to push it back even further.

When having a goal, you don't want to procrastinate. This is a slippery slope. Try setting a deadline. Set alarms, 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 or before the date.

Make Sure You're Enjoying Your Goal

You may struggle to try reaching your goal some days, but if your overall experience is not positive, it may cause you to lose motivation. As mentioned before, enthusiasm is a synonym of motivation, and it's hard to achieve your goals if you don't feel positive about them. If you set a goal because someone else is pressuring you to achieve it, or because you feel like you should want to achieve it, you are unlikely to pursue it with any real passion or purpose.

Press On Despite The Challenges

Your determination is what will make or break your goal. Say you're working out, and you injure yourself. Some people will take that as a sign to stop working out. If you have determination, you may realize that working out is an overall positive goal and you just overdid it. Take some time to heal, plan out your workouts better, and then work out harder, but smarter as well, so you don't have any setbacks. Striving to achieve your goals in the face of setbacks does not mean forcing yourself to work toward it every day; words matter a great deal in structuring your goals. Rather than forcing yourself to do something or feeling defeated by challenges, simply ask yourself if you sincerely still want to achieve the goal, and what you can do to make the process more enjoyable.

Be Inspired

Inspiration can be a way to push you into achieving your ambitions. If you want to be an artist, it's hard to be a successful one if you don't consume art. Not only does it show you the many techniques people use, but looking at someone's art may inspire you. You want to make a piece that's similar to theirs but is unique enough to call your own. Many sources inspire good artists, and goal achievers in general, so get out there and look for your sources of inspiration. You can also write them down and figure out what the most inspirational one is. If you are, for instance, writing, writing down your favorite quotes or reading your favorite authors can help spur your own ideas. 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 usually means opening up yourself to making new friends, entering unknown territory, and exposing yourself to new experiences.

Find Some Good Friends

Sometimes, it takes more than yourself to accomplish a goal. If you have friends, family, and other peers who are cheering you on, it makes it much easier to reach your goals and make it to the finish line. On the other hand, if your circle of friends is not motivational, it may be harder to find motivation in their encouragement and accomplishments. Find friends who will motivate, but also give criticism when needed. Sometimes, you may need extra pairs of eyes to look at your plan and give some objective feedback that you may have missed.

Seek Help!

If you want to stay motivated, but don't know where to begin in your search for motivation, you may want to consider reaching out to a counselor. There is no shame in asking for someone to help you stay motivated; after all, motivation can be clouded by numerous mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Counselors know how the human mind works, and they can create problem-solving strategies to keep you motivated. If your lack of motivation is because of past trauma, they can help you to cope with it and move on from the trauma. Although there are plenty of acronyms, pop culture references, and motivational retreats designed to keep people motivated, few of these actually get to the heart of most people’s struggles with motivation and mental health. Instead of putting off learning how you, personally, stay motivated, reach out today to a mental health professional and get your motivation journey started.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What is the synonym of motivate?

There are numerous synonyms of motivate, among them excite, spur, spark, inspire, and provoke. Although each of these provides a similarity to the word “motivate,” perhaps none of them are quite as good as the word of the year: motivate. When typing “motivate” into a word finder, plenty of synonyms and acronyms pop up, each of them eager to inspire the same sense of accomplishment and forward-moving nature of the word. Few, however, carry the same connotations, instead bringing their own ideas into the mix.

Inspire, for instance, is often taken to mean motivation via a specific avenue: rather than simply motivating to do a good job, or motivating to accomplish something, inspire seems to suggest something almost ethereal. You are not, after all, inspired to finish menial work in order to get through the day; you are inspired to write the novel you’ve been putting off, inspired to fill your body with healthy, whole foods, or inspired to begin treating your body like a friend. Motivation, however, might involve the motivation to “eat clean,” get yourself to the gym, or finish that project before your deadline. As you can see, although plenty of words come close to the same meaning as motivation, there is something unique to the word that cannot quite be contained by other terms.

What is a good word for motivation?

Although the word “motivation” is a perfectly acceptable word for its definition, there may be instances in which another word or phrase is preferred, to deliver a slightly different take on the same basic idea. “Drive” is one such word, as it suggests an innate determination that cannot be squelched or sequestered, instead forging on without pause. Inspiration is a similar word, but with a bit of an otherworldly twist, as inspiration is often associated with a sense of divine motivation or having some type of muse. Impetus can also be used to convey a sense of motivation, though impetus usually implies an external source of motivation, while standard motivation can be intrinsic. Incentive is another suitable word for motivation, as an incentive is something that encourages someone to complete an action—much like motivation describes something that encourages someone to do something or engage in a certain type of behavior.

What is another word for highly motivated?

The context of the phrase “highly motivated” is extremely important. If, for instance, the phrase is being used to describe a job candidate, the words “energetic,” “assertive,” and “go-getter” can all be used in place of highly motivated. If the phrase is being used to describe someone being evaluated in a long-held position, the words “determined,” “focused,” and “results-driven” could be used. The words best used in place of highly motivated may also differ when the intended medium is writing. Writing typically requires more detail and flair, and may be better off with words such as “ecstatic,” “insatiable,” “driven,” and “relentless.”

What are motivations in life?

There are countless motivations in life, most of them relying on cultural context, family values, and personal values. Despite the plethora of motivational items to select from, there are several motivating factors that seem to be universal, among them love, money, passion, anger, and safety. Each of these offers its own set of behaviors and rewards.

If love is a person’s motivation, their day-to-day life is likely to involve a great deal of caring for others, or seeking care, themselves; love as a source of motivation could mean that you are motivated to love others, or that you are motivated to find love, yourself. Love as a motivation can compel compassion, working with the needy and less fortunate, and giving your all in your friendships and romantic relationships, and it can also facilitate codependence, working in jobs with a significant degree of praise, and giving your all in your relationships.

Money as a source of motivation has often been seen as being among the worst types of motivation. Indeed, using a word finder to locate words similar to “money” often brings up the words “greed,” “corruption,” and “evil.” This can even be seen in all types of writing. Writing involving money typically extols the virtues of living without, while pointing the finger at wealthy or outrageously rich people to describe all that is wrong with the world. While this is not necessarily the case for everyone motivated by money—after all, money as a source of motivation often comes on the heels of growing up with very little, and not wanting to experience the same in your own life and family—there are certainly some negative associations between money and motivation. Money is also frequently viewed derisively in pop culture.

Anger is often identified as a motivator in crimes. Typically misidentified as “crimes of passion,” anger can be a motivator for revenge, murder, and other violent crimes. Despite its standard association in pop culture and legal issues both as a negative source of motivation, anger can also motivate social movements and press for change. Anger can motivate entire movements, political campaigns, and government restructuring. It can also be a motivator for improving mental health and fighting against abuse.

What is the importance of motivation?

Motivation is important because it essentially drives everything that human beings do intentionally (though it could also be argued that inadvertent and intrinsic actions are also driven by some form of motivation). For this reason, motivation is essentially the word of the year, popping up everywhere, from fitness magazines to self-help seminars to psychological studies. Motivation, it seems, rules the day: word choices are extremely important, and using “motivation” in the title of an article, book, or video is sure to garner plenty of interest. Why is this?

In part, the interest in motivation may be so many people’s perceived lack of motivation; pop culture identifies success, fame, and beauty as the sole identifiers of worth, and finding the motivation to put in the hours, the work, and the dedication required to achieve even a modicum of success can feel overwhelming, if not downright impossible. Although the importance placed on motivation might be overhyped, there is no denying that everyone deals with motivation at some point or another, and identifying successful motivators can be an important part of staying grounded and present in work, relationships, and life in general.

As you can imagine, motivation is important because it can underlie everything you do in a given day. You get up in the morning because you are motivated to get to work on time, in order to have spending money or to pay the bills. You brush your teeth because you are motivated to smell nice and maintain your health. You eat a healthy breakfast because you are motivated to prioritize your health. Motivation plays a very important role in day-to-day living and therein lies its importance.

What's a word for self motivated?

Driven, assertive, and determined all work well to suggest that an individual is self-motivated. These are single-word descriptors, best for placing within the “skills” section of a resume, should your resume include one. Outside of this, though, “self motivated” can be described in phrases, such as “go-getter,” “committed to achieving goals,” and “enthusiastic about the position.”

What are the 4 types of motivation?

The 4 types of motivation, first identified in the early 1970s, include intrinsic, extrinsic,  identified, and introjected motivation. The most common acronyms pop culture has offered for these types of motivation are “the three Is and E of motivation” or “3IE” of motivation. Catchy though this may be, detailing exactly what these Is and E stand for is more complex.

The first “I” of motivation is “Intrinsic,” or internal sources of motivation that have been acted upon. For instance, someone who has a deep and abiding moral center might feel intrinsic motivation to pick up a twenty-dollar bill lying in the parking lot and turn it into the store clerk. This is an example of intrinsic motivation because it is driven by internal motivation (a sense of morality), and is acted upon.

The second “I” of motivation is “Identified.” An identified source of motivation is one that is recognized, named, and acknowledged, but not necessarily acted upon. Using the same example of the money in the parking lot, an identified source of motivation might go something like this: “I should turn this bill into the store clerk. It’s the right thing to do. I know I should,” while not yet having turned in the bill. This motivation often segues into the next “I” of motivation: “Introjection.”

“Introjection” is the final “I” of motivation, and essentially describes the consequences of not acting on identified motivation. 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 will likely experience the fruits of introjection—colloquially, guilt. Guilt is a powerful motivator and the most notable result of introjection; someone who feels guilt may wind up going back and acting upon the identified motivation.

The final puzzle piece in the 3 Is and E of motivation is the “E,” or Extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is propelled by external motivation or reward, such as being told to do something by someone in a position of authority, or being offered some type of reward in exchange for accomplishing a goal (i.e. a bonus at work, greater esteem from someone else, or a title, such as “Employee of the Month.”

What is the biggest motivation in life?

There is not one universal source of motivation. Primary sources of motivation differ from culture to culture and person to person; acronyms, pop culture, and motivational speeches all offer windows into a given society’s primary sources of motivation and inspiration, but all can be tweaked to suit a specific person, people group, or even age group. Children, for instance, are most often motivated by the desire for love, affection, and acceptance. Adult might be motivated by love, anger, passion, or fear.

Each morning marks the start of a new day: word for word, that phrase means that each day affords an opportunity to utilize a new source of motivation and start fresh. This is another source of motivation for carrying out one’s responsibilities every day: word by word, moment by moment, action by action, you identify and create a life that matters to you. Every day, word by word, you build your own narrative, even if that narrative does not fit the confines of standard societal motivation.

What are the 3 types of motivation?

Although Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivation are consistently identified as two types of motivation, there is some argument as to what the third type of motivation is. Some sources identify family as the definitive third source of motivation, while others identify it as addiction. The differences in opinion suggest that, while extrinsic and intrinsic motivations are consistent in humans, the third source of motivation can shift and change, depending on an individual’s values, upbringing, and personality. Family could be one person’s third source of motivation, but it could just as easily be money or fear.

Although the third type of motivation is personal and diverse, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are defined in this way: intrinsic motivation is identified as internal motivation. A sense of right and wrong, a value system, and a personal sense of morality are all considered parts of intrinsic motivation; rather than receiving a tangible reward for adhering to this type of motivation, people experience self-satisfaction and self-contentment. Conversely, extrinsic motivation is marked by external reward. The approval of an authority figure, a reward, or a monetary incentive are all examples of extrinsic motivation. Both are important parts of the overall motivational puzzle, and both can shift with changing circumstances.

What it means to be motivated?

Being motivated means having the drive to carry on, complete tasks, and accomplish something, be that becoming CEO of a major company, or making it to your therapy appointment each week. Although motivation is often associated with outward success and enormous markers of one’s accomplishments, being motivated is not quite as grandiose and elusive as it might initially seem: everyone is motivated in some way or another, every single day. Words like “motivation” seem to grace virtually every self-help book cover, and are always consumed like candy at seminars designed to improve mental health and spur productivity. What is less frequently noted, however, is the continual presence of motivation in all human beings. You are motivated to eat, for instance, by hunger. You are motivated to get up every morning by the desire to live. You are motivated to go to work every day to pay for your living expenses. To exist, one must have some amount of motivation, as motivation is literally the driving force behind willful, intentional existence.

Motivation is unintentionally (and even inadvertently) exercised every day: words like motivation are frequently assigned some sort of mystical power, and treated as far-away concepts, but being motivated simply means having a reason to do something. If you stay in bed all day, for instance, you are not lacking motivation; you’re simply more motivated to stay in bed (whether due to depression, the desire to remain warm, or the desire to get in a few more minutes of sleep) than you are to get out of bed. It is not motivation that is lacking, but is instead motivation being misplaced or misdirected.

Directing motivation, then, is a more realistic goal than creating motivation. After all, if motivation is already present, it does not need to be conjured out of thin air. Being motivated means identifying what matters most to you, and what rewards most effectively drive your actions and behaviors. If you want to find the motivation to lose weight, as is so often the focus of people’s attention, you do not need to find the motivation to get to the gym; you need to identify what motivates your choices that encourage weight gain, and redirect that motivation. If your motivation to complete your coursework suffers, but your motivation to binge-watch your favorite TV show has no issues whatsoever, identify what it is that so thoroughly motivates your television habits (boredom, loneliness, fear of failure, etc.), and try to find a solution that applies a similar motivation to your coursework.

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.