Now, when I looked up the definition of motivation it read something like this, “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.” That seems pretty obvious doesn’t it – we act because look for a result in something –  a person, task or thing. The reason I got thinking about motivation is not some complex, deep-rooted philosophical question that requires all of our combined cerebral white matter. Instead, I was walking back from the gym this morning, having watched people, to varying degrees exhaust themselves on machines and with free weights, some looking happy, some looking sad, and some well, looking like I would definitely cross the road in the street if I saw them and their face all distorted with grimace and grunting. It them continued as I left the gym, having just about motivated myself to complete my workout (but feeling the effects of a processed, synthetic take-away pizza the night before that was not quite in harmony with my gut as of yet), to find the rain pouring down thanks to Hurricane Bertha, and a huge stream of cyclists racing along the Chelsea Embankment as I walked home. They looked wet, tired and showing off far too much in all that lycra.

So the question is not what is motivation but why do some of us feel more motivated than others? Why do I, for example, currently spend a good few hours of my weekend reading up on medical issues encountered in General Practice now that I am on my four month rotation as a GP? Is it fear, low confidence, or more positively a drive to be better, enjoy what I do more if I am armed with knowledge – or perhaps I just have nothing else to do?! Personally it is a combination of all these things I am sure. I could also put my feet up and watch some TV (I am sure I will later) but instead I am sat here typing this blog. Why? What motivates me? Again, I expect it is a multitude of factors but one of the most pressing being that I find it deeply rewarding and enjoy it – two of the best motivators.


Health and how we look after ourselves is also driven by motivation. Some feel motivated to look after the one body they have – they choose to eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and to not abuse their body too much with all the vices that flow through modern living. Others on the other hand either fail to be motivated to do this or are motivated to other aspects of life such as sitting and playing video games, alcohol, late nights with friends, and so on. Now I realise that the majority of people do fall somewhere in the middle, and as I have said before, there are such a huge multitude of factors that effect motivation that we could be sat here all day. This blog entry is merely a ‘pause for thought’ on the topic, I suppose.

Now in general practice, my motivation has changed. This is largely thanks to more sleep, less stress, and the pressured feeling that I was having in my last rotation now being off – at least for now. Now, as a result, I feel much more motivated and driven, my mind clearer on my goals such as working hard on this rotation, revising for the next exam in January (because I forgot to submit my request to sit the exam in September and the deadline has now passed! Dropped the ball there, Nick), get into writing more for the Independent (which I am still on cloud-nine about), and see what other adventures and opportunities open up. It is also interesting in General Practice to see what motivates patients to come into the practice – often it is the result of something they have seen on TV, the start of a new relationship and they want that bit of acne magically removed, or they just want to chat. I suppose my point is, it is not necessarily driven by a desire to improve their health but to make them feel better. That’s fine as we can sort them both out at the same time hopefully.

So going back to motivation, yes, it is a complex beast. It may have its roots in physical, psychological, social or culture factors, or be driven my a general desire to optimise wellbeing and total health. Perhaps, on the other hand, it is driven by a specific desire or goal such as to get that better job or better image you crave. Now the theories of motivation are in the dozens, and I am sure you don’t want to hear about every one of them. But let me just tell you about the simplest way to thing about motivation:

Intrinsic Motivation:

This is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within you rather than relying on external pressures or the search for reward.

Extrinsic Motivation:

This is driven by the attainment of an outcome, and not whether or not there is intrinsic motivation. Positive extrinsic motivation includes rewards or showing the desired behaviour, whereas negative extrinsic motivation is the threat of punishment if the task is not met.

Sadly nowadays there is a lot of negative extrinsic motivation – especially within the workplace with nearly every market becoming so competitive and peoples jobs resting on a hair-pin. I know personally that my intrinsic motivation is a double-edged sword for in drives me immensely in some aspects such as the pleasure of practical medical procedures or treating an acutely unwell patient; in other aspects however I am negatively intrinsically driven by my own internal barometer of how well I should be doing – and if it isn’t met, then I blame myself. As for extrinsic motivation – for me, I tend to do what I do because I enjoy it – I don’t feel a need to please the powers that be just so they can pat me on the head…

So there we go, something to think about for a while. Motivate yourself and more importantly (as it will come full circle to you) motivate others. Let’s keep it positive as well, no good really comes from motivation through fear – it certainly has no longevity to it.

Oh, and last time I’ll do this, as if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen this re-tweeted to death but I am over the moon the have my first ever media article published in the Independent online – it even made the front page! I have put the link below in case you have an interest to read it. Now, that is a great external motivator to compliment my internally motivated love of writing them!

Have a great week all.

Dr Nick


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