Internal motivation vs. external motivation: the need for balance

external motivation, personal growth, self improvement, self care
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Internal motivation happens when you do something because it pleases you inside. External motivation means seeking a reward outside of yourself, like money or recognition.

The college admissions scandal of 2019 showed how wrong things can go when you base your values on external rather than internal motivation.

The college admissions scandal of 2019 showed how wrong things can go when you base your values on external motivation rather than internal satisfaction. Click To Tweet

The parents in the admissions scandal wanted the prestige of a higher education for their children even if it meant committing a crime.

When you’re driven by external motivators, it’s easy to cross over into deception. When your values misalign with who you are inside, it’s easy for your moral compass to become skewed.

When you're driven by external motivators, it's easy to cross over into deception. Click To Tweet

Internal motivation, on the other hand, means doing something for the pure pleasure of it, or because it fulfills you in some way. You tune out what people might think and tune into what you desire.

While external motivation is not always bad, we need to make sure to keep it in check. Here are three ways to know when your external motivation is out of balance and what to do about it.

1. You’ve lost the joy

In our culture, money is a huge motivator. If you love something and are good at it, people assume you should seek to be paid for it.

For example, I first started blogging for the sheer pleasure of writing, researching, and learning how to develop a new platform.

Soon enough, companies started dropping into my email with requests for me to write sponsored posts. It seemed like a dream to write blog posts for money.

However, I could no longer write about what I wanted. I had to gear the content toward the advertiser.

Writing my blog for money took away the pleasure and made it into a chore. It no longer fulfilled me or gave me a creative outlet.

The external motivation removed the joy for me, so I released the sponsors and went back to blogging for myself and my reader.

The answer: when you do something for the joy and love of it, that isn’t necessarily a sign you have to make a living from it.

Internal motivation says creative fulfillment can be payment enough.

2. You’re focused on recognition

Are you setting goals based on what others will think of you? Instead of checking in with your heart’s desire, you think about how much others will admire you.

Are you setting goals based on what others will think of you? Click To Tweet

The status and recognition of achieving the goal attract you more than the personal fulfillment. If you were the only person on earth, there’s no way you’d pursue this goal.

When you’re over focused on external validation, the process of achieving a goal will soon lose its luster.

If you’re more interested in the external reward that only comes once you’ve achieved the goal, you’re more likely to give up before you arrive there.

It will be hard to maintain the stamina needed to push through all the tedious tasks that precede success.

If you’re more interested in fame than the creatve process, for example, performing in obscurity will be painful.

The answer: when you derive pleasure from the art itself, you’ll enjoy the process whether or not you become famous as a result.

3. You refuse to take risks

If you refuse to take risks due to fear of failure or how others will perceive you, that’s external motivation, too.

It’s impossible to grow when we stay inside our comfort zones. When you avoid trying something new because of how others might react, you lose the opportunity to know yourself better.

It's impossible to grow when we stay inside our comfort zones. Click To Tweet

Or you refuse to pursue something that sets your heart on fire because you’re afraid to sacrifice income for the short term. Is financial security so important you’d compromise the call of your soul?

The answer: take the risk to do what you were created to do. The short term discomfort will pay off in long-term life satisfaction and fulfillment.

Surround yourself with like-minded people who understand that a life of integrity requires a certain amount of risk.

Final thoughts

Honoring your internal motivations helps you align with your values. Rather than pursuing goals for external rewards and punishments, you’re going after what truly lights you up.

Letting go of what people think and following instead what fulfills you will improve your quality of life immeasurably. You move away from the world’s definition of success and closer to your own.

Simple living: 5 ways eating the same lunch every day will change your life

simple living meal planning
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Eleven years ago, I started my personal journey toward minimalism and simple living. Since then, my life has changed in many ways, including how I eat.

My need for constant variety has faded since learning it’s not important for a happy and fulfilling life. Now, I prepare and cook the same meals over and over and feel healthier and less stressed.

That’s why an Atlantic article about people who eat the same meal every day intrigued me. The author interviewed employees who ate the identical lunch each day at work, sometimes for decades.

Here are five ways they found simple living through a routine diet improves well-being:

1. Streamlines decision-making

In the Atlantic article, employees gave simpler decision-making as a primary reason for their repetitive meal-planning.

Eating the same thing every day brought consistency to a chaotic work day and gave them one less thing to worry about.

Who ever decided eating had to be exciting or varied? Sure, it’s fun to go to a restaurant now and then.

But wouldn’t you love to give up the daily struggle and stress of “what will I make for lunch today?”

2. Provides comfort and security

If you have children, they tend not to get bored with the same meal as long as they like the food.

In fact, kids enjoy consistency in their meals, ie., Taco Tuesday. It gives them comfort knowing what to expect.

3. Saves time and money

The employees in the Atlantic article saw variety and excitement in meals as expensive and time-consuming.

Trying to emulate Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen makes grocery trips complicated and exhausting. Stick to simple meals with fewer ingredients.

4. Keeps you healthy

The desire for an exciting meal every day leads to unhealthy weight gain. Those interesting meals are often high in fat and calories.

Opting for a healthy, balanced diet keeps you fit, helps control your weight, and reduces stress by limiting decisions.

And making lunch rather than eating out lets you know exactly what you’re taking into your body.

5. Reveals deeper issues

Simple living through a more basic diet can uncover a general lack of fulfillment in your life.

Rather than accepting or addressing boredom at work, for instance, some employees look forward to lunch in a way that borders on obsessive.

You know, the ones who start thinking out loud about what they’ll eat at noon starting at 10:30 am. Not you, of course 🙂

Final thoughts

Simple living has a beneficial impact in all areas of life, including your diet, which enhances your personal growth and peace of mind.

When you stop looking to food to fill you up, you begin to address areas of life that need improvement. Click To Tweet

When you stop looking to food to fill you up, you begin to address areas of life that need improvement.

When you embrace a more predictable diet and meal plan, you make more time to deal with those things.

You have increased energy, more money, easier grocery store visits, better weight control, and a clearer mind.

Downsizing: 3 questions that will help you stay on track for a better life


You might not think about values when you first decide to declutter. Downsizing, after all, is a physical activity, not a mental one.

The road to minimalism started that way for me. Downsizing came as a financial decision rather than a values-based one.

I soon learned, however, that deciding what to keep and give away helped me get clear on what mattered to me.

Owning fewer things creates literal space for you to figure out who you are and what you want.

A more streamlined environment translates into better focus. And that helps you determine your values and create a life built around them.

A more streamlined environment translates into better focus. And that helps you determine your values and create a life built around them. Click To Tweet

In this way, downsizing is a lifestyle choice, not something you do once to your home and never address again.

Here are three questions to ask yourself when downsizing. These will help you align with your values and keep you intentional about living with less.

1. Does my living space reflect who I am?

When you look around do you think, “yes, this is who I am and I’m proud to call this my space”?

Or, are you like my friend whose home is scattered with ceramic pigs she never wanted or asked for?

When you’re sitting in your living area, do you look around and breathe easy? Do your things serve a purpose or do you wonder why you bought them?

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

One mind trick we play on ourselves is the sunk cost fallacy. You think since you paid for something you’re obligated to keep it.

But the mental cost of holding on to things that misalign with your values is greater than any financial one.

And, you’re not getting that money back whether the thing goes or stays. So, why not get rid of it?

2. Am I doing more of what I want or don’t want?

We know by now that downsizing is about more than physical clutter. It impacts all areas of our lives including how we fill our schedules and the people we spend time with.

Are you spending more time doing what you want or what you don’t want?

Maybe your calendar is filled with obligations that leave you feeling unfulfilled. Activities that bring you no joy.

Or you’re spending too much time with people who drain you. Pruning toxic people from your life will have a huge positive impact on your physical and mental health.

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3. Do I value things or people?

You love your friends and your family. That’s why you have so much stuff in the first place.

You bought it for your kids or someone gave it to you (and you don’t want to hurt them by throwing it out).

When you set boundaries with people around gift giving, you’re helping them understand your expectations.

Though they may not like it, you’re demonstrating that you care more about them than what they give you.

Instead of exchanging material gifts, you might suggest spending time together. Sharing conversation over a meal provides a bonding experience no material thing ever can.

And if someone digs in their heels and refuses to adapt, that gives you needed information.

Now you get to decide how much space this person will take up in your life. That’s when clearing the internal clutter begins.

How to declutter your closet (and keep it that way) in 5 simple steps

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When you declutter your closet you create a calmer start to your day. By simplifying decisions around what to wear you’ve got one less thing to worry about.

When you declutter your closet you create a calmer start to your day. Click To Tweet

Besides the reduced stress over deciding what to wear, there’s increased joy over loving every item in your closet. Improved confidence because everything fits.

No more longing for a former size to fit into a garment that’s hanging there unused.

Once you declutter your closet, you’ll wonder why you ever settled for an overstuffed, disorganized wardrobe. Here are 5 steps to declutter your closet for good.

When Less Is More | thebellissimofiles

1. Try everything on

The first step is to try on everything you own. Make sure you set aside time for this task which is the foundation for the other steps.

It sounds tiresome, but won’t take as long as you think. As you try on each item, place them in one of three piles. See step 2 below.

2. Make three piles: Keep, Donate, and Alter

If something fits and looks good on you, keep it.

If it needs alteration in order to fit today, send it to the seamstress. Alterations are an investment, so decide if the item is worth it to you.

(In case you’ve never used a seamstress, try your local dry cleaner, or there’s one in most shopping malls.)

If something neither fits, looks good, nor can be altered, place it in the donation pile.

If it hasn’t been worn in a year or more, it probably won’t be, so donate it, too. There are exceptions to this rule (such as a special occasion dress) so use your judgment.

You can make money selling rather than donating good quality items online or on consignment. Another fantastic bonus when you declutter your closet.

This step is simple, but not easy. It challenges you to let go of some things you’ve been holding on to for a long time. And we’re not only talking about clothes.

It requires you to accept yourself as you are today. Not as you were before you had two kids. Or as you imagine you might be in three months. Today.

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3. Organize the clothes that made the cut

After you’ve tried on all your clothes and determined which ones will stay, you may be amazed to see your closet reduced by half or more.

Organize the remaining items in a way that pleases your eye. I like to sort by shade, from light to dark. Choose a system that works for you.

Replace your wire and plastic hangers with good quality ones that match. The uniformity will inspire peace and pleasure when you look at your closet. And the quality is better for your clothes and makes you feel better about them.

Your edited closet should replace chaos with calm, so you’ll feel happy when you look at it rather than stressed. And rewarded for all your hard work.

declutter your closet

4. Practice one in/one out

The key to retaining a low clutter closet is to keep no extra hangers. So when something new comes in, something old must go out.

You’ll become more mindful about your clothes buying practices. No more fast fashion.

You’ll no longer indulge in shopping as a mindless activity or, heaven forbid, as therapy. If you buy something new to wear, you must decide what will go out to make room for the new item.

You'll no longer indulge in shopping as a mindless activity or, heaven forbid, as therapy. Click To Tweet

This helps keep clutter from reappearing and has the added benefit of saving you tons of money.

5. Enjoy extra money and peace of mind

Now that you are the proud owner of an expertly decluttered closet, you’ll feel calmer as you face fewer decisions in the morning about what to wear.

Your self image increases when everything you own fits well and flatters you.

In addition, you’ll see a difference in your bank balance when you stop buying clothes so often. What will you do with all that extra money now that you’ve stopped shopping incessantly?

Start a retirement fund? Do something fun with your family? Save up to buy a house?

It might sound extravagant now. But wait and see how much you save when you stop clothes shopping and enjoy what you already own.

If you’d like a printable pdf of this 5-step process (complete with pretty pictures), simply enter your email below and I’ll send it to you.

Goals: How to accomplish more of what you want by doing less

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I once had a super ambitious classmate who loved setting goals. His need for achievement compelled him to constantly overextend himself.

He complained about how much he had to do and how little time he had to do it. Then, one day, he announced he had signed up for a stress-management class.

My friend and I exchanged glances. Later, she said she couldn’t help thinking he’d just added one more thing to his long list of things to do.

I had to laugh. He’d missed the most obvious solution to his problem of too much to do. He could have easily reduced his stress by doing less (and it rhymes!)

We’ve all heard of decluttering your physical space. That means getting rid of things you no longer use or love.

But have you thought about de-cluttering your schedule? That means intentionally opening up white space in your overstuffed calendar.

When you stop filling every moment with productivity, you gain control over your life. Rather than reacting and rushing around, you have time to decide what’s important to you.

When you stop filling every moment with productivity, you gain control over your life. Click To Tweet

You begin to discern how best to spend your precious moments. Put simply, you do more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

When you’re more intentional with how you spend your time, you might actually get more done.

You become more focused on your goaIs, while avoiding distractions that take you away from them.

Here are 3 steps to decluttering your schedule. A guide to getting more done by doing less.

1. Ask, does it align with my goals?

Before engaging in a task, ask if it will bring you closer to your goals. Eliminate the busy work that does nothing to move you forward in your life.

This includes time spent on social media. Why not set a timer for 15 minutes, respond and engage with your followers, then turn it off?

You’ll be more productive in that 15 minutes than hours of mindless scrolling.

Whittle your to do list down to the bare essentials, three to five items a day. Some suggest only one item per day.

They say you write down the most pressing task at the beginning of the day. After that’s done, you cross it off and replace it with the next most important thing on our list.

The sense of accomplishment will keep you moving forward. And you’re always working on the most important thing first.

2. Use a values filter

Take time to understand your values. What’s important to you and gives your life meaning?

In general, when your life is aligned with your values, you feel fulfilled and on the right track. You won’t need to use substances like wine and food to feel good.

When your life is aligned with your values, you feel fulfilled and on the right track. Click To Tweet

It helps to write down your top five values and use them as a filter through which you accept or reject invitations and commitments.

If you value service highly, your calendar will prioritize volunteer or ministry work. If you value solitude, you’ll need to incorporate stretches of alone time in your schedule.

If there’s a huge mismatch between your schedule and your values, it’s time to reassess your priorities. Start saying no to the things that have little to do with what lights you up.

3. Stop people pleasing

When we clutter our calendars with obligations that don’t match our goals or values, we might have a problem with people pleasing.

In this case, it’s time to set some boundaries and risk disappointing people. That could mean reversing a lifetime of putting others before yourself.

It's time to set boundaries and risk disappointing people. That could mean reversing a lifetime of putting others before yourself. Click To Tweet

If you’re not used to it, saying no takes a tremendous amount of courage and will provoke some guilt.

Start by saying “I’ll get back to you,” instead of giving an answer right away. This buys you some space to decide whether to accept the invitation or not.

Often, the people we’re pleasing fail to realize how their demands affect us. They’re thinking of themselves, not you, because that’s your job.

Sad to say, some benefit from your refusal to put yourself first. They won’t take kindly to your saying no. Be prepared for that and stand firm in the face of their objections.

Resist the urge to explain your no. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)

Final thoughts

goals do less

Shedding excess activity from your calendar lets peace and quiet into your life and gives you space to breathe. Instead of treading water, you take strokes that propel you forward.

Rather than making decisions based on others‘ demands, you’re crafting a schedule that reflects your values, goals, and desires.

You begin to make choices more closely aligned with who you are and the direction you want your life to go. Instead of putting out fires you’re creating a life you love.