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Motivation & Volition

Every day when I watch different kinds of sports on the TV, I deliberate what is the real difference between these athletes and normal people. Is it the fact, that they eat healthily, training regularly intense, or have the talent for their specific sport?! I think it is more than that. The example of the difference between the two outstanding soccer players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, will explain it: Both are incredible soccer players and are for most of us the best soccer players we have ever seen. But, one of them is highly talented and has so never need to train as much as the other one. His name is Lionel Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo on the other side, which is perhaps not as talented as Lionel Messi, has to train intensely and more than Lionel Messi to become one of the best soccer players in the world. Therefore, Cristiano Ronaldo is always the first on the training pitch and the last one who leaves it. And for that reason, I need more than these above-described determinants. You need to be motivated and committed to yourself and your goals.

Because people often neglect the fact, that motivation and volition will be the first instance you need for achieving your goals, I will present you today the difference between motivation and volition in my article and also some strategies to achieve your goals.

At the beginning of every goal achievement, motivation is the first thing you need. Motivation is the general term of all processes involved in starting, directing, and maintaining physical and psychological activities; includes mechanisms involved in preferences for one activity over another and the vigor and persistence of responses (3). Often people also describe it as "The direction and intensity of one´s effort". I think the example of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is always the first and the last on the pitch describes it pretty well because the intensity of his effort to achieve his goal, to become one of the best soccer players in the world, is pretty high. But, our motivation depends also not only on personal factors but also on situational factors (Figure 1). What are my goals? How many people are there to watch me?

Figure 1 Interactional View of Motivation (Source: Weinberg & Gould, 2014)

In this context, it is also very important to differentiate between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: Intrinsic motivation can be described as "doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable" (3). In contrast, extrinsic motivation means that you "doing something because it leads to a separable outcome" (3). It doesn't help you if you need to be motivated by others to achieve a goal. You have to be intrinsically motivated to reach your goals. This is the only way to ensure that you will achieve your goals. Therefore, Deci and Ryan (1985) have created a model of basic psychological needs you need to have to become more self-determined and maintain intrinsic motivation (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Basic Psychological Needs (Source: Deci & Ryan, 1985)

There are more theories that explain you motivation and especially intrinsic motivation. But this is too much content to cover here in the article. The facts I have present you above are the most important ones you need to know when you speak with someone about motivation. If you are more interested in the topic of motivation, I recommend you the book from Weinberg & Gould.

Now, we also have to look at volition. Motivation, as you have read, is very important at the beginning of your action or goal. In the first place, you need to get motivated to start an action or to set goals. But if you want to achieve goals in the long-term, what you always should because otherwise, it is no goal, you need volition. Volition is can be also called will-power what it describes pretty good I think. So, the capacity for voluntary action is seen as essential to human nature, especially in the past (2). If the Neandertals had not volition and willpower in the past, they have never caught an animal. Today, volition concerns the translation of existing goals into action and, specifically, the regulation of these processes (1). That means, if you want to start your desired action and persists in this action, you need volition. Otherwise, you will fail!

After you now have heard a lot about motivation and volition and in which phase of your goal achievement it is important, I will show you some goal achievement strategies you need to consider, if you want to reach your goal.

Goal Achievement Strategies (3)

  • Goals of moderate difficulty

  • Both short - and long-term goals

  • The presence of feedback on progress

  • Specificity of goals

  • Public acknowledgment of goals

  • Commitment to goal attainment

  • Participants’ input in the goal-setting process

  • Combination of different goals

As I always said, this topic includes more than that what I present to you here. So, you get always only an overview of the topic with the most important facts and strategies you can use in your daily life. But motivation and volition are interindividual different. Don´t forget that. One does not need much to be motivated and the other one needs firstly external rewards to start a challenge.

On Friday you will get a motivational speech which you can read through and take maybe some massages to get motivated and committed to your current goals. So, check it out if you want to reach your goals!


(1) Achtziger, A., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2018). Motivation and volition in the course of action. In Motivation and action (pp. 485-527). Springer, Cham.

(2) Haggard, P. (2008). Human volition: towards a neuroscience of will. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(12), 934-946.

(3) Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2014). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Human Kinetics.

Additional Literature

Beckmann, J., & Kossak, T. (2018). Motivation and volition in sports. In Motivation and action (pp. 853-889). Springer, Cham.

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