A lot of people struggle with motivation. They have a deep desire to do more and to be better but they lack the motivation to do so.
As a result, they end up living a life where they know that they have “potential” but chose to never pursue it. It leads to a mediocre life at best.
My answer to “How do you stay motivated?” is simple:
I don’t try to “stay motivated”. I take action. The motivation follows.
People seem to think that it works the other way around. That we must wait for motivation to come our way for us to act.
But that’s NOT how it works. Motivation is not a force that is magically created on its own. It’s a force that must be created through action. Motivation is a reaction to action. Hence, the only way to gain motivation is to take action. Otherwise, the motivation you’re waiting for will never come.
Let’s look at an example…
Have you ever planned to go to the gym but then began to deeply dread the idea of going? You knew deep down in your heart that this is the right thing to do. But going to the gym is the last thing you wanted to do in that moment.
So what do you do? You start to distract yourself. You check your phone for new notifications. You read useless stuff on the internet. You grab a snack from the refrigerator.
Before you know it, you killed another hour. And by this time, going to the gym feels even more dreadful. There’s a million other things you rather do or that you all of a sudden “need” to get done.
“I don’t want to go right now. I have a lot of other things to do,” you tell yourself.
If you think you’re alone in feeling this way, here’s the good news: You are not. Everyone, including the most successful people, feels that sense of dread when they have to do things that they know they “have” to do but don’t “want” to do. But guess what? They do them anyway.
So how do they do it?
We had a really big dinner last night at a hotel buffet. The food was impressive for a buffet so I ended up getting multiple plates of food. There was an open bar too and I ended up drinking 4 glasses of wine. And on top of all that, we ended on a sweet note with dessert.
The whole meal took close to 3 hours. By the end of it, I was stuffed and satisfied. 😊
When I finally got back to my hotel room, I told myself that I’d go to the gym in the morning and do a quick 20-minute sprint workout. Nothing fancy. 1-minute on. 1-minute off. 10 times. For a total 20 minutes.
And since I had a big meal that night, it meant that I would have a lot of fuel in me to have a killer sprint workout. So I went to bed with the plan to hit the gym at 7:30am. I set my alarm for 7am and fell asleep within minutes.
The next morning, my alarm rang exactly at 7am (obviously). I woke up but frankly had no desire to go down to the gym to sprint. I was still a bit tired. I was sleepy. I felt a little heavy and lethargic from the wine. I simply didn’t want to go.
So I snoozed the alarm. 😴
15 minutes later, the alarm woke me up again. And I snoozed it again.
Another 15 minutes passed and the alarm woke me up once again.
An inner voice still kept saying “NO”. It wanted me to sleep some more. But my heart wanted my ass to get up and go.
So what did I do? Did I listen to my brain? Or my heart?
My heart. Obviously.
Rather than letting myself think about not wanting to do, I got my ass out of bed, got dressed, and dragged my ass down to the gym.
Within 5 minutes of being on the treadmill, my brain shut off and I sprinted my heart out. I was in the flow and totally forgot about how tired and sleepy I was.
So what’s the takeaway?
Motivation comes to those who take action.
Motivation is when we have a deep desire to take action. If you want to gain motivation, you HAVE to take acton.
I realize this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that’s exactly the point.
When you act, you build momentum. A force propels you to take even more action. Which builds more momentum. And so on. It’s a virtuous cycle. A positive feedback loop.
On the other hand, when you don’t act, you create zero momentum. Instead, you create space for other things. Often times, this space is filled with “thinking” about the action. Your brain starts to analyze this action. You start to think about all the ways this action sucks and all the ways it can go wrong.
Soon enough, fear and anxiety kicks in. At this point, you’ve created negative momentum. And this is when you begin to dread doing the thing.
The longer you sit around waiting for motivation, the less of it you’ll have.
That’s not to say you should always act immediately and you should never think about actions you take. For example, let’s say you need to have a tough conversation with your boyfriend or girlfriend about ending a relationship. But you’re afraid of hurting them. You’re afraid of hurting yourself. You have no motivation to have this conversation even though you know you need to have it.
So what should you do? Not think and just act and get it over with?
No. Because thinking about how to carry out conversation will help you handle the situation appropriately and not be reckless with the other person’s feelings. But there’s a difference between thinking about doing it vs. thinking about the action. You can spend weeks, months, or years thinking about doing it and never get anywhere.
So first, commit yourself to action. Set the date and setting that you plan to have this conversation. And don’t let yourself back down on this commitment to take action. Don’t cheat yourself.
Then, only then, should you allow your brain to start thinking about the action itself.
Essentially, you’ve shifted your mind from thinking “Ughh, I don’t want to have this conversation,” to “Alright, what will I actually say during this conversation”. The former is unproductive thinking. While the latter is productive thinking. See the difference? 😊
The “secret” to motivation is action. The reason you’re “not feeling motivated” is due to inaction.
Don’t make it more complicated than that.
Stop reading. And take action.