6 min read

The Motivation Myth (Part 1)

Looking for Motivation like the Lost Ark?

Note Before You Begin Reading: This post is not to imply that motivation doesn’t exist, it does, in fact I’ve written about it a few times previously. This post is to imply that it is largely misunderstood and we have a long way to go before we gain significant understanding of it.

Motivation is like the long-lost Ark of the Covenant. Everyone claims to know where it is.

They can all help you find it but no one actually knows where it is, what it really looks like or what’s inside.

Only Indiana Jones can find it and get his picture taken with it.

We seek out motivation as if it were a reward, not because we fully understand it, but because we think we need it.

To be ‘motivated’ is a prized quality to have, right?

How do I know?

Well I was once like you and everyone else reading this. I was constantly looking for external sources of motivation, people like Tony Robbins or Brian Tracy, or things like a raise, or more responsibility at work.

They may even have left me momentarily motivated when I received it, but like most things that motivation never lasted.

Most self-help types have this effect, you may walk away from a seminar or having read a self-help book with a reinvigorated sense of focus, at least for a while.

Maybe even a blog post??

When we do this, we express that we feel motivated, when really we feel inspired. Inspiration is temporary and this explains why the positive emotions we feel after such events is typically short-lived.

Others, — especially motivation 2.0 thinkers, managers and control freaks — miss that effort is natural and view their roles — business, schools, coaches, etc… — in work or social settings as needing to motivate others.

You know the type…but they drastically miss the point, in that, what they are really doing is trying to inspire you.

Many people in my profession, assume it is their responsibility to “motivate their clients” and provide an accountability factor.

I’ve been in many conferences, or in many gyms and asked many trainers this question, “what do you think your primary job is when it comes to working with clients?

Motivating them is high on the list of responses.

I contest that it is our job to help our clients learn to motivate themselves. We implement systems that help you be accountable for your own actions.

After all, is anyone really truly successful if they aren’t motivated all by themselves? Isn’t it just easier to blame the coach if you’re accountable to the coach?

The Long-Term

This is actually one, of the two things I’m going to talk about in this series of posts.

1) Motivation is not the same as inspiration, and shouldn’t be confused as such. Inspiration is short-lived, and relatively superficial, meaning it rarely lasts more than a few days at a time. Motivation comes from two different factors, external sources (not ideal) and internal ones (most ideal).

2) Aligning what you do in life with an internal philosophy, values and/or purpose, is far more important than seeking out the long, lost, misconception of ‘motivation.’ 

Do your best to focus specifically on your ‘intrinsic’ or ‘internal’ motivators whenever possible. 

Inspiration can be a necessity for maximizing productivity during as much of the day as you can muster, but it can easily be more of a by-product of your internal motivation.

Many times just doing meaningful work is inspiring, other times we feel drained of energy.

I believe that we should all put ourselves in the best possible circumstances we can, in order to find free flowing inspiration, but be open to the idea that we will not always be functioning at high levels.

It’s the lows that require us to pause, slow down, take a break, or be still.

For inspirational purposes, I like to dedicate a little time for it first thing in the morning, or when I have some isolated time to reflect, write and do some of my more creative work.

This is not to say that I actively seek out to ‘be inspired,’ or that I’m inspired every day (I’m not), but I seem to be most days and I credit much of this towards my redirection inwards.

For instance, my morning inspiration often comes in the form of a card that I keep on my bedside table.

On the front, my why statement — which I’ve talked about before, could also be your purpose statement, mission statement, etc… fairly interchangeable — and on the back the answers to two questions:

  1. What wakes me up in the morning?
  2. What keeps me up at night?

These however, merely serve as a reminder, not necessarily inspiration.

It’s ritualistic as opposed to random.

Generally however, inspiration comes from the act of relating concepts together.

Relationships between things in your life as opposed to motivational quotes, images, and other external hormone drivers.

I find that stumbling across a different perspective, or visualizing the unique relationship between factors, is by far the most inspirational thing I do on a daily basis.

Therefore, I seem to find inspiration by letting myself engage in some of the following:

  • Music
  • Art
  • Travel
  • Reading (Blogs, Books, Articles, etc…)
  • Writing
  • Conversations with Clients/Friends
  • Performing
  • Watching TED or Authors@Google or other people speak
  • Asking questions and listening intently
  • Movies and sometimes even TV
  • In Nature (In the Surf or on the Mountain)
  • In Sport
  • Many other avenues, don’t limit your options, just look…
  • Let your mind wander to the perspective of each activity.

Instead of looking for differences, look for ways to relate the above to whatever you are doing, or hope to achieve.

For instance, the other day I took the opportunity to finish up Derek Sivers’ book, “Anything You Want” and I was able to instantly think of how a lot of his concepts may apply to fitness.

I could then relate some of his business experiences to some of my training experiences and find solutions to some problems within my system.

I could also find justification as to why things did work, if they did.

Those become the things I know at this moment in time I need to devote more time to developing.

Of particular note Derek speaks of turning work into play, so I get to thinking about ways to turn fitness success into play.

He had many other concepts that I related to from minimalism, to helping yourself out, to being comfortable as a leader.

I found a lot of ways to relate what he was saying to my personal life and my work life and as a result I ended up spending 3-4 hours writing about it, and revisiting my framework of personal philosophy — part of this post is a direct reflection of that particular inspiration.

I generally find that when I’m not actively looking for inspiration, is when I feel most inspired — i.e. don’t google motivational quotes or images, these are the most superficial and short-lived form of inspiration.

This was a book I was reading for the sake of reading, not to deliberately find inspiration from.

This is not to say either that inspiration isn’t compounding, or moving towards motivation, but that can only happen when internalized.

You can get on a roll, find flow, and experience far more productive periods of time via inspiration, but this inspiration –> good work —> lack of inspiration –> bad work –> find inspiration again, then repeat cycle, is one to generally be avoided.

This approach might help you push through some difficult times, but it’s effectiveness will be short-lived.

Instead, I recommend letting it come naturally and internally, for better results.

Likewise, experiencing several set-backs with something can also compound in another more negative way, and these two compounding effects are constantly at odds.

They always say bad things happen in 3’s right?

It’s been proposed that for every set-back you have, you need to have 3 good things go right to find your flow again and get back on track.

It’s perfectly natural, even necessary to be still and let yourself go in these circumstances, allow your inspiration to return on it’s own.

This may also be a good indication that you are in need of rest, a break, vacation, or some other form of retreat to let your mind and life be still.

You have to recharge your batteries every once and a while, so the next post is how to internalize that.

Continued here…


[x_alert type=”warning”]*Of significant note: When becoming inspired, I’ve noticed that it almost always has far more to do with me relating to something, as opposed to finding the differences. I relate music to things going on in my life, I relate business concepts to my fitness ideas, I relate books to my own experiences, I relate movies to things other people have said to me, etc…etc…As soon as we start looking for differences I think we end up diverting our attention from the positive aspects of whatever we are doing and this can zap our energy and motivation.

When looking for similarities we ask ourselves questions like, “how can I do that? or how can I become more like that?”

When looking for differences we ask ourselves questions like, “why can’t I be like that? or why am I not living up to that?” 

Hopefully you can see the entirely different context.People always tell me they can’t do something because they are different, rather than telling why they can do something similar enough to make it work for their purposes. Avoid looking for how you are different from something, and focus more on how you are similar. [/x_alert]