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  • Stan D

The problem with motivation...

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

There's a problem with motivation that I notice often. I see it happen with a lot of people, including myself. We all like to feel motivated. It's an uplifting feeling. There's excitement, positivity, optimism. When we're motivated we're activated. We're ready to take on the world... But here's the problem: motivation does not last.


Jim Rohn once said that motivation lasts for about as long as a shower 🚿. That's why you need it daily! I'm sure you've been there - you're hyped up about starting a new:

  • Project

  • Role

  • Diet

  • Exercise program

  • Craft or hobby, etc.


How long before that initial jolt of excitement and enthusiasm wears off? It probably depends on the activity, but when it's been a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, I bet the feeling you have right before starting the activity is not what it used to be on day 1.

Motivation seems to be so transient. It's likely to come and go, almost as if it's got a mind of its own. Have you ever felt super motivated to do something in the evening, only to find no trace of that motivation the morning after? I know I have experienced that quite a few times.

Is there a cure, or some sort of a fix for the non-stable nature of motivation. Sadly, I do not know. What I do know is that you don't need to feel motivated to do something. As a matter of fact, I'm positive that there are dozens of things you already do on a daily basis without feeling particularly motivated.

Just consider small routines like brushing teeth or showering. Sure, there's an element of necessity to them (like hygiene and social norms) but perhaps you've built these habits so deeply into your life that you don't need to think about doing them (or how you feel about doing them). You just do them. Period.


If we only did things when we felt motivated we would never get anything done. If we only took action when the feeling was right we would struggle miserably to make progress. Here's a little secret: it's not about how you feel, it's about what you do.


4 times Obstacle Racing World Champion and ultrarunner Amelia Boone (@arboone11) said the following about herself: "I'm not the strongest. I'm not the fastest. But I'm really good at suffering." I realize she is an extreme example. Amelia is a remarkable human being, willing to push her limits on a daily basis, however there is an underlying principle. The principle is that you can get yourself to do something, even if every fiber of your being is screaming against it.


Being able to push yourself and take action despite any feeling, or emotion, in the moment is a learned skill. It's something you get used to doing over time and gradually perfecting through practice. Much like a muscle, your ability to push beyond motivation grows, as you put in the reps and gradually increase intensity.


Bestselling author and speaker Gary John Bishop (@garyjohnbishop) says that "The lack of motivation points to the fact that you don't have enough at stake". This is another powerful statement. I think that it's incredibly important how we define our own stake in the game. Are you looking at the implications long term or short term? Do you keep big picture in mind, or go tunnel vision? How we conceptualize the importance of things on our agenda is critical 💡


Let's say you are supposed to exercise tomorrow (I often use exercise as an example simply because it's easy for most people to relate to). You're perfectly able to exercise, but for some reason you decide to skip your workout. What's the damage done?

You might say something like "It's no big deal. I'll do my workout tomorrow, it's not the end of the world". And you will be right, if you are looking at the short-term impact of that decision and the narrow context of exercising alone.


Consider the alternative: in the long run, skipping a workout creates a precedent. Repeat that enough times and it that can evolve into a pattern. That pattern could lead to you dropping exercise altogether and becoming the kind of person living an unhealthy lifestyle.

On top of that, exercise is an activity that not only affects your health, but also your mood. When you skip a workout, you might find yourself (among other things) more grumpy, negative, lacking mental and creative power. In other words, it will be less fun to be around you when you're not exercising. This affects your relationships, team mates, partners, etc. Now, what's the real damage done when you skip a workout? Again, it depends on your perspective and frame of reference.


One thing is certain - the vast majority of high performers and outliers out there can easily point to their north star. Their deeper reason 'why' they do what they do. You will notice that usually the reason goes far beyond reaching a goal. It's not about hitting an arbitrary objective like making X amount of revenue, or getting X number of followers. It's about creating positive change, solving a problem and making an impact on the world. When you have a strong connection with that deeper purpose, then you can make the argument that you don't need motivation. Clarity of purpose and meaning behind an activity transcends motivation. It justifies the discomfort and pain you may have to experience as you move forward.


Don't look to be motivated all the time, look to be driven by purpose and meaning!

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