Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Motivation and How to Live Without It

Motivation is such an ephemeral quality. Sometimes you have it. Sometimes you don't. It comes and goes like an uncommitted suitor. You're thrilled when it shows up, but left sad and confused when it disappears again. It seems that every accomplishment in life hinges on that unpredictable suitor. You plan to get up early in the morning to run. Morning comes and you're just not motivated. "Oh dear," you think. "Motivation is not here this morning. I guess I can't run." And so you don't. Then you feel bad about yourself and once again define yourself as "SOMEONE WITH NO MOTIVATION". And you repeat this mantra with every task before you that isn't glossy with excitement and fun. No motivation, can't do it. Your brain is now operating in the No Motivation, No Can Do mode.

Well here's a startling concept. Motivation is for sissies! I proclaim it to be unnecessary and sometimes downright counterproductive. Are you going to wait for some floaty feeling to take over before you accomplish anything? No way! Some might argue that if you just don't feel like doing something, it can't be done. If the glove don't fit, you must quit! If you wait on motivation, you will never, ever break out of your comfort zone and seize the day. So here are some thoughts on living boldly without motivation:

1. Whatever It Is, Chop It Up
If you have to start a big project or tackle a goal, chop it up into many smaller pieces. Even the act of chopping will make you feel more relaxed and in control. And for heaven's sake, write it all down. If it's on paper, it will feel official. Type it even.

2. Create Some Energy
Pick one of those teeny, tiny chopped up pieces of a project and start doing it. Even if you are hating every minute of it. Just give yourself permission to do that one little piece and nothing else. See, not so hard. Didn't take any motivation. So now you've started. What? Are you starting to fell a little energy around this project?

3. Keep the Momentum
So you feel a little bit of movement. You aren't really jazzed about doing this thing, but now you've started. That's the hardest part, right? So pick another teeny, tiny piece -- or maybe two or three pieces. Just do them. Don't think about it. Things are getting a bit easier.

4. Make a Pronouncement
Tell some folks what you are doing. Let them know that you have this thing you are working on and planning to finish. Ask them to check in with you about it. Put yourself out there and be accountable to someone. If you want to make some big, bold movement with your goal, tell ten people that you will pay them $100 each if you don't reach your goal within a certain time. Money talks and money creates momentum.

5. Give Yourself a Sticker
Acknowledge every little accomplishment along the way. "Hurray, I put my running shoes on. Now I can eat a chocolate doughnut!" Not really, but you get the idea. Create a reward system for yourself that reinforces every step forward.

6. Redefine Yourself
You may no longer use the excuse of no motivation to slack off. Sorry. It isn't necessary, so don't wait around for it. Just take action, even if it's just a little bit of action. Once the ball is rolling, odds are you will get the job done. Take away motivation as a necessary factor in achievement, and the sky's the limit for you. Don't think, just do.


  1. This is a fantastic post, Barrie! i love the way you describe our love-hate relationship with motivation.

  2. Thank you Mary -- yes, it is a love-hate relationship. I try to take advantage of it when it's around, but I don't let its absence prevent me from moving forward!