Before talking about how to make motivation work, let’s define motivation. Motivation is that feeling you get inside you when you want to achieve a certain goal or outcome. It is defined as “the state or condition of being motivated or having a strong reason to act or accomplish something”
So do you need motivation? The answer is it depends. Some will argue that motivation is what keeps you alive; while others will point out you take plenty of actions without the presence of traditional motivation.
Motivation is tricky. One thing for sure is, without motivation, it’s easy to procrastinate and you may never get anything of real value accomplished.
So, What is Motivation?
Is motivation enthusiasm for taking an action? For example, being excited about doing well on a project so you can be considered for a raise?
Alternatively, is motivation simply a situation where taking an action has become more desirable than not taking action? You might not be excited about doing that report, but at some point, your anxiety of not getting it done becomes worse than just doing the work. How does motivation work?
Let’s take a look at some motivation myths:
1. Myth: You can accomplish anything with enough motivation.
This is pure B.S. As I write this, I’m in my mid-60’s. While I was a very good martial artist when I was in my 20’s and 30’s (and a fair one still), there is no way I could compete in the MMA today. I would simply get my butt kicked.
You may sing beautifully in the shower but this won’t make you the next Beyoncé. While you need motivation to succeed, many other things also matter. Intelligence, talent, skill, resources, and opportunity are just a few things that come to mind.
While your mother loved to tell you that you could do anything, you need to remember that she was prejudiced. There are a lot of things you could never do no matter how motivated you are. But it’s okay. Your mom still loves you.
That being said, motivation is far from worthless. In Mindful Mastery, I tell a story about Michael “Eddie” Edwards, who is better known as Eddie the Eagle. While Eddie wasn’t the most talented ski jumper in the 1988 Olympics, he is probably the most famous. Why? Because of how his motivation to become a ski jumper got him to the Olympics. This is how Eddie was able to make motivation work for him.
Like Eddie, there are many stories of people who have used their motivation to overcome some of the many handicaps we all have. The key is to find something positive that supports your goals and values.
2. Myth: You’ll never do anything without motivation.
Really? Do you jump out of bed, ready to go to work every morning? Probably not. Are you excited about taking out the garbage? Not exactly. You do lots of things whether you’re motivated or not.
3. Myth: Don’t try to do it unless you’re already motivated to do it.
Wow! Talk about a croc!
Besides going to work and taking out the garbage, what are some things that you regularly do that you truly don’t want to do? I bet you could list quite a few.
Let me ask, do you think LeBron James only trains when he feel like it? Do you think Danielle Steel only writes when the urge strikes her? You can’t make motivation work this way.
The one thing that all successful people do is they go to work and get busy every day. They certainly don’t wait until they feel like doing it. They simply do it in spite of how they happen to feel.
Face it, if you only did the things you really want to do, you might spend your entire life laying around on your couch eating munchies and binge-watching Netflix.
Motivation is great when it’s available, but there are going to be a lot of times when it’s not. These are the times you’ll have to pick yourself up and do what needs to be done, no matter how you feel.
4. Myth: Motivation is always available.
You don’t have great reserves of motivation. Motivation isn’t always on-tap.
You are just like everyone one else. You will have days when you feel super motivated. You’re going to have many other days when you’d rather just quit. We all have to put up with a lack of motivation from time to time.
There is no way for you to predict when you’re going to feel motivated. The best thing to do is decide you’re going to put in the work whether you feel like it or not. This is the best way to make motivation work for you.
The Reality of Motivation
No matter your motivation, you are going to have to make daily decisions. Every decision you make has a cost. However, the right motivation makes it much easier to pay that cost. For example, if you’re just dying to go to Amsterdam, the cost of the plane ticket is easier to bear than if you’re just so-so about the trip.
You may not have a reserve motivation at times. It can be in short supply. When this happens, it’s up to you to make motivation work for you.
How to Make Motivation Work
One technique you can use to make motivation work for you is to imagine how great you’ll feel when you get the job done. Then imagine the pain of not getting it done. This can be a real motivator, especially when the task at hand doesn’t motivate you much.
Remember, sometimes, you just have to put your head down and do what needs to be done. This is how you accomplish great things.
If you waited to go to work until all the traffic lights were green, you would never start out to work. In the same way, you can’t spend your life waiting for the perfect circumstances and the perfect attitude. You just need to begin.
Now that you know the myths and reality of motivation, you have a great advantage. You can work while everyone else is waiting for inspiration to strike. While you need to take advantage of motivation when it’s available, don’t waiting for it to strike. After you decide to begin, motivation just might sneak up on you. Let it. This is how you can make motivation work for you.