2-18-21: The difference between passion and motivation

Sent 2/18/2021

Special Note: My latest Go Be More Podcast episode discussed self-reference goal-setting, and my co-host Jon Rankin made an obvious point that I didn't call out in last week's newsletter: the main benefit of self-referenced goal-setting is that you are more likely to achieve your norm-referenced goals! (We discuss this near the 35-minute mark.)

Today's Think Better Newsletter looks at the difference between passion and motivation.

The Idea

Coaches will often talk about knowing your "why"? Knowing why you are doing something is what unlocks your ability to truly engage in it. It improves both your ability to work hard for it and your ability to do that work with high quality.

Your "why" may be unique to you, but it can be categorized into two general categories: passion or motivation.

Passion is an intense interest in something. It's about the thing itself. If you are passionate about running then you want to run for running's sake. 

Motivation is about achieving a goal or end result. It's not about what you're doing, but where you're going. If you are motivated about running then your running is serving a particular end, and those can be norm-referenced or self-referenced.

Ideally, you'll have an abundance of each. But most of us are a little more heavily weighted to one or the other. And depending on the activity we may feel neither passion nor motivation. (This is swimming for me.)

Engagement is what happens when passion meets motivation

I explain in Make the Leap that the combination of passion and motivation leads to engagement. Your level of engagement is a good predictor of your long-term success, because it will drive you to learn more, make better decisions, and identify areas for improvement.

Excellent performers are more engaged in what they are doing. The best literally live it, from the moment they wake up to the moment they are go to sleep.

When we boost our engagement, we boost our chances for success. 

The System

We can improve our engagement by doing passion-driven activities or motivation-driven activities. We need to consistently do both, but depending on our "why" one may have a stronger effect than the other.

If passion is what drives you, you should be filling your life with activities that feed that passion. Interacting with other passionate people, reading and learning, sharing what you know, and filling your physical environment with symbols of that passion. 

If motivation is what drives you, you should be identifying purpose-driven activities that directly improve your progress to your goal. Find ways to make slight improvements. To test new strategies. To learn a little more. Or to better track your progress.

Each time you do these activities, your spark will burn a little brighter, and your commitment to what you are doing will be a little stronger. 

The Question

Think about what makes you tick. What is one small change that can increase your engagement? 


Go Be More,

Bryan Green
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast

“He who has a 'why' can bear almost any 'how.'”
- Friedrich Nietzsche


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