Maybe you feel stuck in your situation. And you think to yourself, “If only I were more motivated…then I’d be able to do ‘x’”
You may have the idea in your head that you’re generally not motivated as a person at all. But I guarantee that’s not true. What if I said you were very motivated? I believe you are, but your motivation might be pointed in the wrong direction.
What Motivation Is (and What it Isn’t)
When you break down the meaning of the word motivation, its definition is nothing more than the incentive, want, or need, to do something.
Nowhere in the definition does it say motivation needs to be directed towards something positive, productive, or life-changing.
Motivation is commonly associated with positive situations and outcomes — getting a six pack, starting a lucrative business, finding a great job and becoming a top performer — but you can direct your motivation in all types of ways.
It takes motivation to watch Netflix for 12 hours in a row…
It takes motivation to sleep in…to have that mental conversation that derails you from getting up on time and working on something important…
It takes motivation to go to a job you dislike…because you could just not go…
Some of these examples are negative, some are neutral, but when you look at each of them you know that given the right incentive you can become very motivated. You can even become very knowledgeable and talented, albeit not in a subject that’s incredibly useful in the real world.
I’ve had conversations with friends about the movie Star Wars — they can tell me every single detail of every movie. They know the backstory of each character, the names of each fake geographical region in the universe, the hidden sub-plots only people who’ve watched the movies dozens of times would know. They’re motivated to be super fans because they love star wars.
From my days of being a pothead, I know that drug dealers are very good at math.
They keep records like an accountant, project revenues, measure accounts receivables, and tend to be quite good at mental math when in conversation with someone who owes them money. Drug addicts themselves create ingenious schemes to procure their product.
Gamblers and poker players are basically probability experts.
Why do I bring these examples up repeatedly? To hammer the point home — we’re all motivated already.
The question remains — how do you direct your motivation in the right place?
The Key to Positive Motivation
In many aspects of my life, I’ve been extremely lazy. I once paid someone to wash my dishes for me. The next time the dishes piled up I threw them away and bought paper plates.
I know the true depths of laziness.
The only thing that dug me out of that laziness pit was the combination of incentives and desire.
Let’s start with incentives. You need a good reason to do something. It’s simple, but this idea gets overlooked. Actually, you don’t just need a good reason to do something, you need a compelling reason to do something. A compelling reason puts the focus on a real outcome including the “why” behind the outcome itself.
A few examples:
A good reason for starting a business would be, obviously, to make money. But it’s not very compelling. Starting a business isn’t easy and you can always make money through a job, so as soon as things get tough you’ll rely on what you know and give up on the business.
Compelling reasons to start a business — Control and agency over your work and your time. The ability to take the day off simply because you feel like it. The benefit of knowing for better or worse you’re the one responsible for the outcomes of the business. The chance to have an impact on others and leave a legacy for your family.
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A good reason for getting in shape would be to look good naked. Who doesn’t want to look good naked?
Compelling reasons for getting in shape — Being able to play with your kids without getting tired. Having more energy to tackle your biggest goals in life and do more adventurous activities. In some cases, exercising may literally save your life.
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I never frame the outcomes I want in my life in their objective state, e.g., I want to write a book.
I frame them by painting a picture of what my life will be like after I reach the outcome, e.g., I’ll get the gigantic monkey of an unrealized dream off my back, the word in my head will finally be visible to someone else other than me, and at minimum I’ll have a memento of a monumental life accomplishment.
Do me a favor: If you’re still reading, go ahead and comment with your version of a compelling reason for whatever you want to accomplish.
After you unearth your compelling reasons, you can also harness the power of desire.
There’s a great book on the power of desire and purpose called Think and Grow Rich. It’s a little new agey and leans toward the idea of a literal law of attraction (which I don’t believe in) but the message throughout the book details how it is possible to accomplish anything.
The book talks about having a burning desire for something. I have a burning desire for writing. I’m addicted to it and almost feel a lust for it. You need something that burns that deep
How do you find what burns deep? Well, I wrote two books on the subject.
But once you have something you deeply desire, you have to tap into that source of desire constantly. It has to be something you want badly enough it pulls you. You can’t have lukewarm dreams.
There are many many many many days I don’t feel like writing or working on the business, but I almost always do.
Why? Because I’m more motivated than you? Hell no. I’m not. Trust me, I’m not.
I just have an inner-well of desire and the incentive to keep going.
When I started writing it was all desire based. But, as things progressed, I’ve developed more incentives to keep going.
I made zero pennies for the first year of my writing career. I’ve made quite a bit more since then…now I have the incentive to keep building.
Your desire will get you into the gym and soon looking in the mirror and seeing progress will become an incentive to keep going.
Your desire will get you to start the business but your first sale will become the incentive to keep going.
Even overcoming the first hurdle of creating something new is a great incentive — I felt incentivized to continue writing by completing a draft of a book. I didn’t even need to publish it. Just knowing I finished something was incentive enough.
So to recap:
- We’re all motivated
- You need a compelling reason to motivate yourself toward something positive
- Harness the power of incentive and desire to reach your goal
Here’s what I want you to do. Leave a comment discussing something you’re already motivated to do. Maybe it’s watching your favorite show or reading or playing with your kid. Also, tell me a bit more about your plans to change, your compelling reasons, and how you’re going to develop that burning desire. Participate. I want to hear from you.
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Originally published at medium.com