Motivation and Why It’s Overrated

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In this article I’d like to present an unconventional view of motivation… and even make an argument for why the apparent need for it is over-rated. Many people have the underlying belief that in order to engage in difficult tasks they need to feel confident about their ability to complete the tasks, or at least feel excited about the task. Sometimes we believe that we need to feel inspired before we can even begin certain projects. While there is certainly something to be said for being prepared, and for taking advantage of moments of inspiration, you’ll probably find it very difficult to be consistently productive if you wait for these factors to be present. 

Let me ask you a question: What is something that you do on a fairly consistent basis? Perhaps it’s brushing your teeth, getting out of bed at a certain time, taking your child to the bus stop, etc. Do you tend to feel very motivated or inspired to do these things? If not, then how is it that you get yourself to do them? 

I bet there are plenty of things that you do consistently, which you don’t really enjoy or feel particularly motivated to do! Somehow we seem to just muster up the energy to do these things, and perhaps we don’t even think much of it. So why are other tasks so much more intimidating to do? I think a lot of it has to do with the perspective that we take on the tasks. Consider this: perhaps taking out the trash is no big deal for you, but what if you had a fear of germs? You’d probably feel much differently about taking trash out in that case, and maybe you would not feel motivated to do it. It’s the same task, but the perspective you take affects your motivation level. 

Here are a few suggestions for increasing your ability to get things done (even when you don’t feel like it):

Embrace your “negative” thoughts and emotions- If you feel down or depressed, it’s OK. You don’t need to feel excited or inspired to get something done. Let’s say that your intention is to exercise, it’s fine if you feel sort of “meh” about it. Sure, feeling excited might make it easier to exercise, but you can still have a good workout even if you don’t feel all that great about it.

Embrace the possibility of making mistakes- Some people have a bad habit of over-analyzing their plans before they execute them, mainly in an effort to eliminate the possibility of making any sort of mistake before undertaking their task. I would say that this isn’t a great idea! You’ll probably find yourself being paralyzed by inaction if you have this approach. If you embrace possibly making a mistake, and even see it as a being positive in some ways, then you’ll be more motivated to get started on your tasks. 

Start really small- Oftentimes our biggest hurdles are the mental ones, the ones we create for ourselves. We imagine something as being so intimidating that we can’t even start it. Let’s go back to the exercise example. If my goal is to lift heavy weights for an hour, engaging in all of the most difficult exercises that I can think of, I probably won’t feel too motivated to get started! However, what if my initial goal was to just lift some easy weights for 5 minutes? After getting started I bet I wouldn’t stop after 5 minutes. I would probably continue for longer, and I might end up lifting heavier weights and doing harder exercises over time. Sometimes it’s useful to make your initial goal small enough that it’d be silly NOT to accomplish the goal. Afterwards you may find that you naturally continue with the activity.

So next time you are feeling stuck by a lack of motivation, try embracing that feeling and accepting it as a normal feeling. Then try out some of the tips mentioned above to get yourself started on your task.

Today's the day to make a change.