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To some extent, we all have goals. On New Years Day, many people declare their big goals for the coming year, while each morning, smaller goals such as eating healthy for the day may be top of mind. In most cases, we share a common challenge; there is no straight line to accomplishing our goals. In this article, we will discuss why it is normal for our motivation to fluctuate and how a motivation coach can help you stay motivated to accomplish your goals

What Is Motivation?

In general, motivation refers to the start, the direction, the intensity, and the persistence of behavior.

Motivation means having the passion and the will to undertake some action. Motivation may be internal (i.e., intrinsic motivation) or external (i.e., extrinsic motivation).

Motivation Can be External or Internal

The study of motivation is a deep and vast area of research in psychology. Many articles are available about external motivation and how employers can help to motivate employees.

External motivation is when someone behaves in a particular way for reasons outside of, themselves such as money or coercion. External motivation may come from parents, a boss, coworkers, friends, or siblings. It may relate to salary (i.e., money), promotions, grades, praise or punishment, etc.

An example of external motivation might be when a person wakes up in the morning; they think they better get out of bed and to work or get fired.

In this article, we will primarily focus on internal or what might be called self-motivation.  An example of Internal motivation might be when a person wakes up in the morning; they may exercise first as it helps them feel good and healthy.

Fluctuations in Motivation Level

If we want to understand why our motivation fluctuates, it might help to know that it is normal and tied to our need for comfort.

If you took an introductory psychology class, you learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It postulates that there is a reason most humans want to stay in an area of relative comfort and safety—it keeps us alive.

Beginning with our physical safety and comfort, it then moves to our emotional comfort and safety. When we push ourselves to accomplish new goals, they can run into conflict with our emotional comfort zones.

Understanding our Comfort Zones

We all have a comfort zone—a place that feels safe and familiar. A comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person. They are at ease and (perceive they are) in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.


BF Skinner is regarded as the father of Operant Conditioning. According to this principle, behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and action followed by unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated.

Unfortunately, when we attempt something, and it does not work, it often leads to an unpleasant feeling. We may feel angry, frustrated, disappointed, or any number of other emotions we interpret to be unpleasant.

Success is celebrated in most societies, while little attention is given that we must have failures to have success.

When we apply Skinner’s theory to the question of why our motivation fluctuates, it makes sense.


A Motivation Coaches Approach to Challenges with Motivation

To be human is to have fluctuations in our motivation. It is as if our emotions want to challenge our resolve to get from where we are today to where we want to go. The excellent news is that we can build other habits in the same way; we can make better motivation habits to have a higher motivation level.

A Certified Professional Coach is very familiar with motivation challenges. It doesn’t matter if the coach focuses on business, health, finances, or life’s challenges; motivation is at the heart of all change.

To illustrate how a professional coach essentially acts as a motivation coach, I will take Lock’s Goal Setting Theory and apply it as a coach.

Lock’s recipe for practical goal setting includes:

• Set challenging but attainable goals. Too easy or too difficult or unrealistic goals don’t motivate us.

When I was 15 years old, I got up one morning at 6 am and went to the school’s soccer field behind my house and ran around the outside of the soccer field.

The first day I went around twice, was breathing a little heavy, stopped, and went home. I decided that I would run each Monday through Friday and add one more lap per day to my run. After I got up to 24 laps, I moved to run a few miles a day on the street.

If my goal were to add five laps per day, it would have been unrealistic. I would not have felt good with failing to meet my daily goal and might have stopped.

• Setting goals that are specific and measurable. These can focus us on what we want and can help us measure the progress toward the goal.

The fact that I chose to run one extra lap per day was specific and measurable. If I said I would just run each day and run whatever amount feels right, my motivation would have dropped, and I might have stopped.

• Goal commitment. If we don’t commit to the goals, we will not put adequate effort toward reaching them, regardless of how specific or challenging they are.

I was committed to my running goals as I knew I wanted to get in better condition. When establishing the goal, it was every Monday through Friday. I could not skip a day if it were raining; it was too hot or too cold.

As we discussed above, everyone experiences fluctuations in their motivation and willpower. Sometimes you might feel fired up and highly driven to reach your goals, while at other times, you might feel listless or unsure of what you want or how to achieve it.

The best approach to accomplishing your goals appreciates the challenge and sees it as a process. Being hard on yourself will not work as it will only lead to a temporary gain in your performance. The best approach is based on improving your motivation by building better habits.