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Bahram Akradi, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Life Time — Healthy Way of Life.

Do you ever wonder what makes you tick? Or why you do — or don’t do — certain things? What does it mean to be motivated?

Motivation is a concept that influences nearly every aspect of our lives, including academics, business, and fitness. It is fundamental for success.

But why is it seemingly abundant for some people and evasive for others? What’s the secret? How do you get it? How do you lose it?

To find it and keep it, it’s helpful to understand the concept itself.

Motivation originates from the Latin word movere, or “to move”; it’s defined in part as something that impels or induces action. It’s a guiding force for our behavior, one that can help us meet our most basic needs or propel us forward, inspiring us to find deeper meaning in life.

Motivation is the force that pushed the earliest beings to the pursuit of something (if positive) or avoidance of it (if negative). It is integral to Aristotle’s definition of happiness, well-being, and the “good life,” which was based on the pleasure of using one’s skills and exercising one’s vital powers with excellence as opposed to doing something just for a reward.

Present-day scientists associate motivation with dopamine, the neurotransmitter that controls our sense of pleasure and reward. Accomplishing things generally feels good and tends to encourage us to do more.

Psychologists categorize motivation into two types: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from external forces — think money, status, trophies, and other physical rewards and recognitions. It can feel affirming, but it’s usually fleeting. It tends to be driven by the desire to impress other people and gain prestige.

Intrinsic motivation originates from the inside, and it’s influenced by our values and deep desires. It’s integrated into our identity and correlates with our purpose. We derive pleasure from the task itself. Think running because you love to run or solving business problems because you love both the questions and the answers.

Intrinsic motivation can be a powerful, long-lasting, and meaningful force because it stems from who we are. It’s what drives us to follow our passion.

So, how do we do that? Let’s go back to ancient Greece.

Inscribed at the entrance to Apollo’s temple at Delphi in Greece is the phrase “Know thyself.” Centuries old, it describes one of the essential tenets of humanity. Understanding who we are and what matters to us is what our existence is all about.

What are your weaknesses and strengths? Your values? Your feelings? Your goals? What do you want to get from your life? What do you want to give? What are you the only of?

Self-knowledge is key to how you move through the world — and therein lies the secret.

Motivation. Movere. To move. It begins when you start.

Motivation guides nearly every choice you make, and when you take the slightest, smallest action, your molecules shift. The air around you changes.

It’s what Newton understood when he announced that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. It’s why Nike encourages us to “Just Do It.” Once you start, it becomes easier to continue and creates momentum.

You’ll find it in the smallest decisions: the moment you decide to walk around the block instead of continuing to doomscroll on the couch. The moment you set a timer for five minutes and write, even when you’ve got writer’s block.

Here are a few other actions that can help you tap into your motivation:

  • Just start. Get up and move. Do something to change your energy.
  • Spend time with yourself. Dig deep and get to your intrinsic why. (See my recent Perspective on solitude.)
  • Be specific. What is it you want to achieve? Set some concrete, attainable, measurable goals.
  • Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Take tiny steps that connect with your bigger picture.
  • Make it fun. What Aristotle was on to was the idea of what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD, later described as “flow” — the state of finding your happy place when you’re doing something that makes your heart sing.

There is powerful energy that accompanies focusing on what matters. You’ll find yourself in a state of growth, which, for humans, is natural; you aren’t supposed to be stuck, stopped, or stagnant. You are endowed with curiosity and knowledge, as well as the skills to consciously focus on expanding yourself.

It starts by knowing who you are, and connecting with what is inside and what moves you. And the most beautiful thing? Through this chain reaction, you can realize what it’s like to flourish and reach the ultimate goal in life: fulfillment.

Bahram Akradi
Bahram Akradi

Bahram Akradi is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Life Time. Hear more from him at

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