September 2019
5 minutes

Self-motivation: becoming independent from motivation through others

Becoming independent from motivation through others. (Image: bizvector/shutterstock.com)

What gives us meaning? Where does performance come from? What drives people? There are countless suggestions for increasing motivation. At the same time, more and more people are talking about crises of meaning, burnout and loss of motivation. Could it be that a construction error lies in the classic motivational approaches? And what is the alternative? The answer is very simple: self-motivation.

Since antiquity, philosophers, psychologists and economists have repeatedly asked the question of how people are driven and perform. Explanation attempts are for example money, obligation, drive, punishment, praise, appreciation, ... The list can be continued at will and is also not wrong. Only: Never before has so much motivation been as today and never before have so many people suffered from a loss of motivation. It almost makes it seem that an ever greater effort at motivation causes an ever lesser motivational effect. Couldn't it therefore make sense to turn the whole thing around? So not "Give me motivation and I will become active", but "I do something and will be motivated by it". This is exactly the core of self-motivation. The skier legend Hermann Maier once put it this way: "If I had waited until I was motivated, I would never have achieved anything."

What is important?

Firstly – Self achieved results

Nothing motivates more than results – for example a won order, a successful party, the renovation of your own home, a demanding mountain hike or a successful project completion. A goal is being worked on; not because money, a company car or the praise of a boss are in the foreground, but because the present result itself generates motivation. This is at the core of Viktor Frankl's motivational approach: meaning comes from results and these results are the source of motivation. For high performers and all those in general who want to make a difference, results and every kind of sense of achievement are the source of meaning. The focus is not primarily on "joy in work", but on "joy in results".

Secondly – A positive attitude

This ensures motivational independence. A lot of people have negative poles, i.e. they first see what is bad: problems, stress, workload, tension ... Of course these phenomena exist and it would be naive to deny it. But the crucial point is how to deal with them. Self-motivation means consciously aligning oneself with the positive issues in life. Above all, it is the principle to first see an opportunity in everything. There are people for whom a positive basic attitude has been laid in the cradle, others have to force themselves to do so throughout their lives. In both cases, the decisive factor is the perspective of life. Do I want to lead a life of difficulties or problems – or a life of opportunities and possibilities?

Thirdly – An effective working methodology

This concerns the question of how I deal with my time and how I control my work processes – and ultimately myself. Effective people stand out because they are ahead of the issues, use their communication channels in a disciplined manner and have their deadlines under control. None of this is spectacular and yet these are prerequisites for effectiveness and thus for self-motivation. Do I control myself or am I externally controlled? Do I drive the topics forward or am I permanently driven? Many people leave their working methods to chance or are not aware of their importance. Self-motivation begins with leading one's own person.

Fourth – A balanced private life

The topic of motivation is often seen in the world of work. However, performance also depends on a stable and inspiring private environment. Even the most difficult professional situations can be endured if one can draw a lot of inner strength from one's private life; the opposite is also true, of course. Especially in a time of increasing isolation and digitalisation of relationships, partnership, family, real friends and appreciative acquaintances become more and more important. So what is meant is not society events or likes in the social media. All of this is a waste of time, does not last long and has nothing to do with a balanced private life.

Fifth – A demanding hobby and fitness

Even if these factors may sound a bit banal, they have an enormous influence on quality of life and the ability to self-motivate in the long run. A special sign of poverty is when life consists only of a job. This may be challenging and perhaps also financially very adequate, but sooner or later there will be a massive sense deficit. The solution is a challenging hobby or interest: Sports, culture, clubs, voluntary work and the like. It is important that this employment is challenging and fulfilling. Fitness is closely linked to this – especially when one's age is beyond thirty. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, rest periods and relaxation are not only prerequisites for long-term performance, but also a source of life and self-motivation.

The factors influencing self-motivation show that only one thing matters: myself. Is there such a thing as meaning in my life? Am I active and capable of feeling joy in what I have achieved? These questions have nothing to do with education, money or hierarchy, but with an attitude to life. Against this background, the frequently used term work-life balance is wrong because it constructs a contrast between work and life. The correct umbrella term is sense of life and includes all dimensions of life: private and professional, individual and social, body and mind, present and future.

Self-motivation does not require a deep psychological approach or esoteric circles of experience. The five factors presented are the key issues that matter. It is important to always determine one's position and to talk about it with exchange partners. Then it will be possible to be independent of the motivation of others and to become the source of one's own meaning of life.


Stöger, R. (2017): Strategieentwicklung für die Praxis (Strategy development for practice), Stuttgart.

Stöger, R. (2016): Die Toolbox für Manager (The Toolbox for Managers), Stuttgart.

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