Breaking Up with Motivation Is Hard to Do (365 Days of Spirited Living — DAY 361)
“Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.”
— Zig Ziglar
We like to think that we will always be motivated to achieve our dreams and reach our goals. The truth is, that’s a nice thought, but we won’t be. When we are hungry, we are compelled to find food. When we feel threatened, we have no trouble getting to safety. But when we are hit with a choice between staying in bed past 9 AM and hitting the gym at 4:30, we’re suddenly searching for motivation to aid us.
Most of life treats us this way. Or, better said, we treat life this way. Motivation isn’t our best friend. In fact, sometimes it can be our worst enemy as it doesn’t show up when we think we need it most. A lack of motivation isn’t always the problem, though. Sometimes, we aren’t prepared to use our own two feet to go on. After all, breaking up with motivation is hard to do. Here are two ways to think about motivation:
Motivation changes like the weather.
We like to think that motivation is that always gentle force pushing us onward. The truth is, motivation is very rarely the constant wind beneath our wings. Motivation increases and decreases, waxes and wanes.
In the moment of inspiration that occurs once or twice a week, we tend to set ambitious goals that are easily achievable in our highly motivated minds. We may be able to stick with a routine or a new habit for a day or two, maybe three. However, after a few days, motivation grabs its hat and is out the door. And for many of us, our goals and dreams go out the door with it.
We fail to remember that motivation is not constant. Sometimes it is there, sometimes it isn’t. Successful people don’t reach their goals on motivation alone. It takes a bit of determination and self-discipline. Sometimes, you can start out running, other days you have to start out walking, then speed-walking, then jogging, and then running. Start out slow and then you begin to gain momentum. Momentum is not full motivation. It is fuel that keeps you going even when you don’t feel like it.
I remember in college, there were plenty of times I felt demotivated. On Sunday night, I would feel great and ready to go for the week and come Monday morning, my motivation bubble was completely popped. Some days, my energy was sapped, other days I just didn’t get enough sleep, still other times, I was sick, and yes, other times, I just didn’t have the motivation. But I got through college. Not always because of motivation, but because when motivation leaves, I let the next assignment pull me to it no matter how hard it was.
No matter what it is, let the thought of the goal pull you to get it down. Let’s say you want to want to write a book by the end of the year and you commit to write one page every night before bed. You get home late one night from your kid’s football practice and the bed is calling you with open arms. Your motivation has crashed and broken into a million pieces. Instead of putting your goal on the back burner, you allow the original goal to pull you to get it down. You sit down and write one sentence, then five sentences, then a paragraph, then two paragraphs, then three paragraphs, and then you’ve got a page.
Fall in love with your WHY.
When your good intentions run up against your inner feelings of inertia, you can take the road easily traveled, partly because the rest of your being is already headed in that direction. Or you can identify the big WHY and let that keep you on track.
Some people never reach their goals because they don’t really know why they are trying to reach these goals to begin with. They just arbitrarily set some goals because a parent, teacher, or counselor told them they need to have goals in their life in order to feel fulfilled. And so they went away thinking, “Oh, if I just put some goals on paper, I’ll be doing just fine.” That’s crazy thinking.
You may not initially know why you are doing something, but if you ask why long enough, you will eventually get the answer. One of the underlying questions on grad school application is WHY? Why do you want to attend this school? Why do you want to major in this subject or another? Why should we accept you into this program? If you can’t answer why you may not be a good fit.
Asking and answering the big WHY for your life and your goals is important. First, it allows you to get real with yourself. No more mind games, no more wishing. Second, it helps you to remember why you are doing what you’re doing even when there is no motivation to do it. You keep pushing yourself because you are defined by something greater than just the moment you’re in. Third, it reminds you of what the big picture is when all the pieces are scattered. You can see the end from the beginning. Fourth, it forces you to focus your efforts and time on what matters. Regardless of the odds, you are compelled to push forward, take risks, and overcome challenges. Finally, it gives you something to measure your life by. This means setting your beliefs, mission, and core values and living your life in alignment with it.
“Motivation is important, but you need persistence and self discipline to get to the finish line.”
— Senora Roy