Motivation. You fickle little pickle.
So often people think being motivated is the key to achieving their goals, only to come to the disheartening conclusion that they must be defective or lack desire because they’ve inexplicably lost their initial motivation to complete a task or remain committed to their goal.
But…what if I told you relying on motivation is just setting yourself up for disappointment?
No one is motivated all the time. Motivation is a feeling, and feelings don’t last.
It’s not about being motivated; it’s about respecting yourself enough to uphold the commitments you’ve made to yourself.
Think about this: past-you thought it was important enough to make this goal, so what are you (consciously or subconsciously) telling your present self when you don’t follow through on the commitments you’ve made?
You’re reinforcing low self-esteem and a lack of self-respect. You’re reaffirming to yourself that you don’t deserve to prioritize your personal goals. You’re living up (or down) to your expectations of yourself, or, even worse, you’re allowing pessimistic outside expectations to influence the way you think about and act toward yourself.
So how do you actually do the things you said you were going to do?
Well, you definitely don’t rely on how you feel. Because that initial motivation is a feeling, remember? Feelings are fleeting. Feelings are not the foundation of any type of sustainable habit, relationship or goal.
Motivation is a feeling, and feelings aren’t facts. If feelings dictate your decision-making process, then get ready for a life of underachievement.
The good news here, though? You get to decide who and what has authority to influence your choices. Feelings are real, but – and this might be a controversial opinion – they’re not always valid.
For something to hold validity, it must have a sound basis in logic or fact.
Feelings (about yourself) change based on action (or inaction), circumstance and/or environment, not logic or reason.
Let’s think through an example: Picture the range of feelings you may feel before, during and after giving a speech: apprehension–>nervousness–>dread–>courage–>confidence–>relief–>satisfaction–>pride
These feelings vary based on where you are in the process. You must go through the dread stage to get to the pride stage.
So what gets you to the end? What gives you the gumption to push through the dread?
Putting more value in how you know you will feel in the future than how you’re feeling right now.
Let’s do the reverse of the speech example: what if you said you would give the speech, but then chickened out at the last second? Feelings may look like:
In this example, we let fear dictate our action, which produced compounding negative future emotion. But was that fear valid? Was it based in logic and reason?
We had the potential to produce the first result – the outcome of satisfaction and pride. But instead, we let the unfounded fear of failure or judgement overcome the commitment.
This scenario relates to any commitment we make to ourselves, which is anything we say we are going to do, whether that thing is something small like going to the store or cooking dinner or something bigger like working out regularly or changing our eating habits.
Taking consistent action that is in alignment with your commitments is the only way to achieve your goals and produce true satisfaction and pride in yourself.
Many times, this consistent action must take place despite our feelings.
But that doesn’t mean they’re something to be overlooked. Denying our feelings will only further exacerbate mistrust and disrespect – they deserve to be felt, acknowledged and accepted; they don’t deserve to be the driving force behind our actions.
There are a few steps I’ve found to be crucial in being able to push past that negative emotion and take aligned action. They require self-awareness and honesty, but anyone can employ this method:
Acknowledge the negative emotion.
This is the part that takes self-awareness. You need to be able to name the negative emotion. Is it apprehension? Dread? Laziness? Shame? A combination? Be as specific as possible. Being able to describe and be aware of the negative emotion you’re feeling is crucial in determining what may be causing you to feel this way, and how you could possibly lessen the frequency of this emotion in the future.
Accept the negative emotion.
Do not try to avoid this emotion. Accept that you are feeling this way – it says nothing about who you are as a person. Feelings are not facts. They are just reflections of our internal state produced by our external influence. This can teach you something if you’re brave enough to let it.
Embrace the negative emotion.
You are still worthy, despite feeling this way. You can still trust yourself. You can still treat yourself with respect. Do not berate yourself for feeling negative emotion – embrace it as an inevitable facet of the human experience. But remind yourself: feelings are temporary. You’re just gonna have to ride this one out.
Act, despite the negative emotion.
This is the time to put it all together – acknowledge, yes, this sucks. No, no one enjoys experiencing negative emotion. Accept that there will always be times you must continue to uphold your commitments even though you don’t feel like it. Embrace the struggle of being human. And then? Do the thing.
Reflect and recall the outcome of the action.
Every single struggle-bus moment is worth it if you are able to learn from it. This step is critical in being able to lessen the resistance of remaining committed in the future. Ask yourself: how did it feel to act, despite the negative emotion? Did this action bring me closer to my goals? If I could go back and tell myself something in the midst of experiencing the negative emotion, now that I’m on the other side of it, what would it be?
I hope this method helps you remain steadfast in your commitments while being respectful of yourself in the process.
No one gets to skip the struggle of the process, and the most successful people will tell you they wouldn’t, even if they could.
Because it’s the struggle that produces satisfaction, and the commitment to the process that produces pride in your work.
Stop relying on motivation, and start emphasizing aligned action, despite the resistance.
You owe it to your goals. You owe it to yourself.