Motivation is an illusion

Lately I’ve been thinking about motivation and how you make progress on your goals. First, in a week of serendipitous moments, I read an article by Amy Hoy. Then I listened to a podcast with Jocko Wilink who both talked about this subject.

My dictionary says the definition for motivation is:

a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way

But you don’t have to look far on the internet to see people asking the same questions again and again:

How do I get motivated?

How do I stay motivated [especially when times are tougher]?

The answer should be self-evident, the goal you set should be reason enough. If it’s not, maybe you need to adjust your goal. But I think they’re actually saying: “I don’t feel like doing the work I need to do to achieve my goal”. They’re hoping that someone has “one weird trick” which magically gets the work done.

Amy Hoy points out that motivation is a feeling, not a state of being. You do things when you feel motivated. You do things when you’re not motivated. For example she says, you don’t just feed your pets or children when you feel motivated to do so. So treat your business or your goals in the same way.

I haven’t kept my own business running for 14 years because I wake up highly motivated each day. That “one weird trick”? It’s simply to show up every day and do the work. It’s not sexy; it’s not glamorous and it isn’t always easy.

As Jocko puts it “Don’t count on motivation, count on discipline”. The discipline of getting up every day and going to work. There’s no shortcuts, you just have to make yourself do the work. Waiting to be motivated is just a form of procrastination. And the best cure for that is to get to work.

Create yourself a process or system to make it easier to start working. Want to write? Set yourself up to make it easier to sit down and start writing. Clear your desk, set out your clothes and go to bed early. Then you can get up an hour earlier, get dressed, sit down and start writing. Write anything, it doesn’t matter. Even if you were to throw 99% of it away, you’ll have made more progress than if you were waiting until inspiration hits you in the face. Make it a routine and a habit.

Jocko (as usual) says it best:

“If you don’t feel like writing, or painting, or composing [or whatever], it doesn’t matter – you do it anyway!”


Got any questions or comments? Drop me a message on Twitter (@elaptics).