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How to stay motivated? – By Col. MM Nehru

Understanding Importance of Motivation in Life

This blog is written in two parts. Part 1 is devoted to understanding importance of motivation in life and Part 2 explains practical utilization of motivation in our routine lives.

Some very commonly encountered problems:

  1. “I started a weight loss program. It was okay for the first week, but now I find it difficult to continue.”
  2. “I find Math classes very boring & wait for them to get over”
  3. “I am preparing for the IAS exam, but I find it difficult & uninteresting to study ancient Indian & World History”
  4. “When I go to office/class on Monday, I am already looking forward to the weekend!”
  5. “I just don’t find the energy to go through the same old routine of life”.

All these problems, apparently different, have a common thread binding them- “weak motivation”

Let us examine the concept of “motivation”

Understanding Importance of Motivation in Life

For a hungry & thirsty man food & water are very strong motives to work. It is the lowest order need (physiological).This is often not the case for most of us in middle class. As per Maslow’s theory there are other motivational needs as we progress up in the need hierarchy- namely- “Safety”, “Social”, “Esteem” & “Self Actualization” What experience shows is that SELFISH MOTIVES are weaker than ALTRUISTIC MOTIVES– Any mother will tell you that her motivation to teach her children is much stronger than pursuing her own higher studies. Similarly a committed teacher will find motivation to teach his students stronger than pursuing his higher studies. In my own case, I could keep awake and work for long hours at night when I knew that the lives of my troops & civilian population were endangered. I could not have done so for self study.

Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation

When I do a job, solve Math problems, read History, play a game, which I like, irrespective of any external reward I am ‘Intrinsically Motivated’. When I do the same activities but the ‘Motivation’ is the reward, like salary, marks in exams, earning from game, the Motivation is Extrinsic. INTRINSIC MOTIVATION IS MUCH STRONGER THAN EXTRINSIC. Like the protagonist in “3 IDIOTS” movie said that he is studying mechanical engineering because he loves machines- INTRINSIC MOTIVATION. INTRINSIC MOTIVATION also links up with Maslow’s theory-(SELF ACTUALIZATION). A combination of INTRINSIC & ALTRUISTIC MOTIVES is a very strong force. E.g Tendulkar, or Leander Paes playing for India. They both find the game INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATING & combined with the MOTIVATION TO PERFORM FOR THE COUNTRY (ALTRUISTIC MOTIVE), THE FORCE IS VERY STRONG.

Motivating ourselves to accomplish Goals

We understood the concept of motivation in Part 1. In Part 2 we will learn about motivating ourselves to accomplish goals. This will help us to energize our daily lives.

Staying Fit

We all want to be fit, but rarely are we able to define what it means in specific terms. Usually it would be advice from Doctor, or self image, often without a clear target. Let us see how we can make our motivation stronger in this case. It is important to have a well defined, measurable clear goal.

  1. I could lay down a goal like running 10 km in 40/50/60 minutes in 3 months. If I achieve this then my weight loss goal would get automatically achieved, without having taken recourse to any popular (mostly unhealthy diet plans). I would be healthier and stronger.
  2. I could have a goal of “NOT FALLING ILL”, because I have to look after my family & set an example for them. To attain this goal I have to exercise regularly & control my food intake: (ALTRUISTIC MOTIVE).
  3. I could develop a love for exercising (INTRINSIC MOTIVATION) & combine it with a need to not fall ill and set an example (ALTRUISTIC MOTIVE). This will be a very strong motivating force.

Learn Math

Often students link studies only with passing exams, with no relationship with future life, which is a very weak motive. I should realize the value of knowing the subject in future life.

  1. Realize that in the career which I intend to pursue to look after my family, knowing Math is essential: (ALTRUISTIC MOTIVE).
  2. I study Math because I like Math, passing exams is incidental: (INTRINSIC MOTIVATION).
  3. I can tell myself that I like challenges. If I find Math difficult, then it is a challenge to be overcome!
  4. I should strive to get a combination of the above two motivational forces to succeed in knowing the subject.

Learn History

Realize that to work effectively as an IAS officer it would be essential for me to have this background knowledge to take day to day decisions in my chosen future career. It is not useless information to be acquired just to clear an exam: (ALTRUISTIC MOTIVE). I could love History for its sake (INTRINSIC MOTIVATION). Best would of course be to develop a combination of above motivating forces

Daily Work

Even in this case, like other issues we can get our motivation to energize us.


So, whenever you face problems of motivation like the ones discussed, or unique to your case, you should examine your motives deeply & get them aligned correctly. I assure you will feel energized to accomplish your goals.

Get our book, “The Practical Guide to Become an Officer” to read more about personality development.

Picture of Col. MM Nehru

Col. MM Nehru

While in the Army as a Colonel, Judged Reality Show, “Mission Army-Desh ke Rakshak” of National Geographic in 2011.
Selector for Defence Services at 17 SSB, Bangalore.

SPORTS & FITNESS RELATED EXPERIENCE: Trained Services/ national/international level boxers. Trained Services athletes.
Top level Tennis player in India (above 55 years age category).

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