The Ugly but Honest Truth About Motivation
Motivation alone will not help you accomplish your goals. There, the elephant in the room has been called out. We are fascinated by motivation, its origin, how to obtain it, keep it, fuel it and more. We have motivational speakers, self-help books and gurus all available and ready to help us be and stay motivated. But motivation, like so many other human emotions or thoughts, rises and falls, or more aptly ebbs and flows. If you rely solely on motivation to carry you forward, to propel you closer to your objectified finish line, disappointment is your likely greeting party.
If you rely solely on motivation to carry you forward, to propel you closer to your objectified finish line, disappointment is your likely greeting party.
Let’s check this scenario out for familiarity. You wake up in the morning, motivated to go to the gym and get in a good work out. First, however, you feel compelled to check your email. You find that there are a few items that you just have to attend to that cannot wait or life as you know it may come to an end. Two hours later, you complete your responses and maybe you can squeeze in that workout. But now, you aren’t motivated to do so. You think maybe later. The day progresses, evening comes and with it the realization that you have once again failed to get to the gym. Is this relatable?
Motivation ebbs and flows. At its height, it is a power source for action. It can help you overcome obstacles and solve stubborn challenges. At its low, the impetus to act is absent, procrastination or worse replaces drive and determination. I know for many, including myself, that this is the space in which self-criticism invades, further deflating motivation. But, the reality is that no matter how motivated we are or how committed, there will be lulls. How we maintain momentum during those periods of waning motivation greatly impacts the eventual outcome.
The reality is that no matter how motivated we are or how committed, there will be lulls.
There is a secret sauce and that sauce is ritual. Sounds weird I know, but let me explain. Ritual turns motivation into habit. Habit energy is strong and is rarely susceptible to the ebb and flow pattern described above. So, to return to my earlier illustration of going to the gym, if your ritual is to get up at 5am and go straight to the gym every weekday, then you are less dependent on motivation and more on ritual. It is only a small change that is required. It means moving from being motivated to find time each day to work out, which is aspirational to a ritual of starting everyday by getting up and pulling on the exercise clothes and hitting the gym, which is habitual.
I believe this to be an absolute truth. I remain as motivated (at times) to exercise and eat mindfully as I ever have been, but of late, I have allowed my rituals to fall away. In doing so, I have become completely reliant upon my intrinsic motivation everyday and at every meal. Guess what, I fail and do so frequently. I know that if I can reestablish my ritualistic behavior, I will have a far greater likelihood of success.
This holds just as true in a professional setting. If you are motivated to spend more time on the production floor, but rely on that motivation alone to take action, more often than not, something will intercede. Busyness will get in your way. Yet, if your ritual becomes to walk the production floor at lunch every Tuesday and Thursday, and your schedule reflects that plan, you will find yourself doing just that.
Please, don’t get me wrong. Motivation is still needed. Use those moments when it is at is strongest to establish some rituals that can be repeated and grown in to habits. This will ensure that action is taken with regularity and consistency, which increases the odds of a favorable outcome.
I don’t consider myself a motivational speaker or coach. Rather, I view myself as a ritual builder and accountability maker, both of which I find far more sustainable. To learn more about this approach, please reach out. I am passionate about this topic and would welcome the chance to share my thoughts and learn from you. In addition, please use the comment section below to share your wisdom or to question mine.
Thanks for reading.
Elliot Begoun is a Business Therapist and the Principle of The Intertwine Group. His purpose is to help businesses and business leaders grow. He works to solve real issues, establish strategic guardrails, develop integrative leaders and foster employee enlightenment.