Have you ever tried to motivate yourself to take action? … What happened? If you are typical, the motivation might have worked for a short time, but probably didn’t last and didn’t work in the long run. Did you then ask yourself: What’s wrong with me? Why am I unable to motivate myself to do the things I really want to do?
I’d like to present a heretical notion about motivation: It’s not your fault if you are unable to motivate yourself. Motivation is a spurious concept, because it actually cannot work in the long run.
What is motivation?
First, let’s define motivation. Here are three definitions I found on the Internet:
- Providing with a reason to act in a certain way.
- The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
- Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.
To begin with, the primary source of what people do and don’t do is their beliefs, not “reasons,” whether given by themselves or others. Moreover, the “process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors,” is beliefs, not anything we say to ourselves or others say to us. Finally, motivation is not the process that “causes us to act”; our beliefs are the primary cause of our behavior.
In the long run people cannot be motivated by others (or even by themselves) to do anything using the promise of reward or the threat of punishment. If you want to do something and the necessary behavior is consistent with your beliefs, no motivation is necessary. You will do it naturally. If what you want to do (or what others want you to do) is inconsistent with your beliefs, your beliefs will trump your motivation in the long run.
If you have any questions about the impotence of motivation to drive behavior consider the tens of thousands of people who are told by doctors annually that they will die if they don’t start exercising, change their eating habits, stop smoking, etc.—and who make no changes at all in their behavior. Almost all of these people want to live and don’t want to die, and yet those reasons do not “motivate” a huge percentage of them to take the action necessary to live.
How to get yourself to do what you need or want to do
If you aren’t doing with you want to do, don’t try to motivate yourself. In such situations you will usually notice anxiety just preceding the need to take action, which is what prevents you from taking action. So the real question is: What do you believe that would cause you to feel anxious about taking action?
Some of the most common beliefs causing this anxiety include, mistakes and failure are bad, if I make a mistake or fail I’ll be rejected, what makes me good enough and important is doing things perfectly, what makes me good enough or important is having people think well of me, and many of the core self-esteem beliefs, such as I’m not good enough, I’m inadequate, I’m not capable, and I’m not competent.
These are the beliefs that cause the anxiety that frequently stops us from taking action. Yes, with sufficient will power you can do anything in the short run.
But if you have beliefs like these, “motivation” (in other words, reasons for acting, be they threats or promises) rarely will be sufficient to overcome them in the long run. On the other hand, if you eliminate the beliefs that prevent action, motivation will be unnecessary.
Banish your frustration and disappointments
It really is possible to be what you want to be, do what you want to do, and have what you want to have. Life does not have to be a series of frustrations and disappointments. The tools exist to remove your barriers to true happiness and satisfaction. Don’t try to motivate yourself. Use the tools I’ve told you about and create the life you’ve always wanted.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please share below your thoughts and questions on the role of motivation in human behavior and the possibility of having the life you’ve always wanted. Your comments will add value for thousands of readers. I read them all and respond to as many as I can.
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Copyright © 2013 Morty Lefkoe
Use this information to improve your life
The next time you notice yourself avoiding doing something you want or need to do, don’t waste time by trying to motivate yourself. Instead, see if you can get in touch with the anxiety you are probably feeling that is the source of your failure to act. Then ask yourself: What do I believe that is the source of the fear?
The best way to identify the beliefs is to notice the thoughts that accompany the anxiety. They are the best clues to the beliefs, which are the source of the anxiety.
When you eliminate those beliefs, notice that the anxiety is gone. And when it goes you will notice how easy it is to be, do, and have what you’ve always wanted. Without needing any motivation.