Motivation: The 3 Components and How to Keep Your Flow Going

Do you rely on motivation to achieve your goals? Are you starting to feel hopeless and blame yourself for never having the motivation to do anything? It’s understandable, not doing something because you “don’t feel like it” is an easy excuse. Motivation is tricky because we have been conditioned to think we need to wake up with it and have it ready to move us through the day, but that is far from the truth.

The three components of motivation are activation, persistence, and intensity. Motivation relies on more than the urge or feeling to do something, it takes dedication and determination to overcome obstacles. When all three components are applied, anything is achievable.

If you’re looking for inspiration and to learn more about the components of motivation and how to find the sources of motivation within yourself to keep going, then keep on reading.

The 3 Components Of Motivation

Motivation always feels like the biggest contributor to our success. It starts the fire and urges you to finally tackle something you’ve been dreaming of, and then it disappears and lets you down. Again, motivation is more than just a feeling, let’s dive into its components to understand where the problem occurs.

  1. Activation – This is the first part of motivation that everyone experiences, this is where the excitement and the urge to decide for change, or decision to set a goal occurs. You have activated the decision and have taken the first action step.
    • Example: You want to lose weight. You write down your goal and attend your first fitness class.
  2. Persistence – Persistence means powering through and not giving up no matter what. This is the hardest part of motivation where you feel like its leaving you. What you decided to pursue is a challenge, you have to anticipate challenges and overcome them. You are going to want to give up again and again, and you’re going to be making excuses over and over, but you have to find the power within yourself to never give up.
    • Example: You come home from a long day at work but you find the strength to attend the fitness class anyway. You attend the fitness class whether it’s raining or snowing. You attend the fitness class whether you had a good day at work or a bad day at work. You go to that fitness class no matter what.
  3. Intensity – The concentration, vigor, time, attention, effort, and all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into achieving your goal will determine how quickly it can be done. Two of the same people can have the same activation and persistence, but the person with more intensity will achieve it first. This doesn’t mean to rush, because rushing causes mistakes, but it also doesn’t mean to take your sweet time either. You have to find the balance in between.
    • Example: Two people have the same goal to lose 15 pounds. One person only exercises 3 days a week, and the other person exercises 5 days a week and has a nutritional plan and a personal trainer. The second person will reach their goal faster than the first.

No matter what the level of your ability, you have more potential than you can ever develop in a lifetime

James T. McCay

If it’s not motivation but you still have troubles completing your goals, checkout out this article here about the common obstacles in achieving goals and how to overcome them.

What Are The Two Sources Of Motivation?

Motivation doesn’t rely on willpower alone, the word comes from Motive which according to the dictionary means “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious”. We are going to cover the reason behind motivation or the sources of it. There are two kinds, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

  1. Intrinsic Motivation – Motivation to achieve something that will result in personal gratification. In- think of inside, or within yourself. This kind of motivation is for personal pleasure and the “feel good” feeling for yourself. You’re not looking for any kind of outside validation or recognition, it’s simply to make yourself proud.
  2. Extrinsic Motivation – Motivation to achieve something that will result in external rewards. You are motivated because you are looking for status, praise, money, material things, etc.

So what drives you? What is the reasoning behind your goal? Do you want internal pleasure for self-validation or would you rather have external rewards to show for?

How Do You Keep The Motivation Going?

Have you ever felt like you’re “on a roll”, you are riding high in the motivation momentum and feel like you can do anything, and you are locked in and focused? In this study, it is referred to as the “flow experience”.

“Flow is a state in which people are completely immersed in an activity without reflective self-consciousness but with a deep sense of control.”

The study essentially states that to attain flow, your implicit motives must be in line with your explicit motives, and your ability to do the task must be sufficient. Implicit motives are the non-conscious reasons we behave in a certain way, explicit motives are conscious evaluations of ourselves, and perceived abilities are how well we can do the task.

In simpler terms, the study confirmed the compensatory model by Kehr below. The model has three categories: hand, heart, and head. The head is our explicit motives, the heart is the implicit motives, the emotional need, the underlying emotions, and the hand is the perceived abilities, our skills, and what we’re capable of.

The three must all be aligned to experience the flow, when you are not in the flow and feeling unmotivated, ask yourself the questions below.

  1. Heart: Does it bring me joy? Is the task fun? Is it causing fear or anxiety?
  2. Head: Is the task important? Does the task align with my goals? What is the goal behind the goal?
  3. Hand: Can I do it? Am I good at it? Do I have experience with this?

Here is another source you can check out when you feel like Motivation is Running Out.


Motivation comes from taking the first action step, powering through challenges, never giving up, and applying yourself consistently. The sources of motivation are the true reasons that drive us and it can either be internal gratification or external rewards. Finally, to keep the motivation going, the goal must make us feel good, be of importance to us, and be a skill we can master.

Think you have motivation locked in now? Next up, read this article about why the secret to success is setting the right goal.

Hong Singer

I'm the creator of Ambition Forward. I keep things simple by focusing on the goal and being consistent in my actions to get the results I want, and I'm here to help you do the same. I encourage you to look for the things that bring you joy and go for it!

Recent Posts