I started this blog to try to help people take action and make positive changes in their lives. To do that I thought I needed to write articles that get people excited and energized. Articles that get people, well, motivated. Then, I came across this video. It basically explains that motivation is bullshit. Brace yourself, this video is like 4 minutes long. Just tape your eyes open if you have to.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I agree. Motivation isn’t really a thing. I think I already knew this, if you look back at my earlier articles about taking action you’ll see I was already thinking this way. If your mind is trying to stop you from hurting yourself which is what stops you from taking action sometimes, then preventing pain is also what causes you to take action sometimes. Motivation isn’t this magical happy feeling of confidence and energy that bolts you forward, motivation is a hatred for how things are or what they will fall back to if you don’t keep moving forward. Motivation is a willingness to do what is necessary because the result of inaction makes you sick. Think of the difference between these two situations. Situation 1, you have to take out the garbage. Situation 2, you are going to a party at your friend’s house.
In situation 1 you might have an alarm that goes off on your phone or your parents might scream at you that its garbage day. Somehow you know you have to this annoying ass chore. There is no rush of excitement, no momentary burst of energy, you just unhappily gather up the garbage and carry it out to the curb. In the absence of what you might normally think of as motivation, why did you do this? There are other thoughts bouncing around in your head about what will happen if you don’t. You don’t want to have a house covered in garbage. That smells horrible. People won’t want to come over if your house is a garbage dump. You don’t want to be seen as dirty so you don’t want a bunch of garbage around your place. Your parents might ground you if you don’t take out the garbage. If you have roommates who consistently take out the garbage when it’s their turn, you don’t want to be the lazy loser who doesn’t take care of the house. There are a ton of reasons, but they are basically tied to self image, the image others project on you, or to avoid gross situations.
If you believe yourself to be a clean person but you live in a house covered in cat litter and Doritos bags that is going to affect that self-image. You will probably start to have some internal conflict about your living situation and the person you want to be. To avoid that pain and self-reflection, you just take out the garbage.
If you want people to see you as responsible and on top of your shit, you don’t want them to come over to your house to find six bags of fly ridden trash piled up in the corner. Knowing that people see you as the dirty person might also run into conflict with the image you want to project to the world. This is why when secret dirty people have parties; they still clean the entire house for that one night. You don’t want to be judged by people whose opinions you value. So you take out the garbage.
Lastly there are practical reasons. Leaving garbage around and not cleaning is unsanitary and unhealthy. You don’t want to smell the filth and you don’t want to get sick. So you take out the garbage. In the absence of the feelings of motivation, all you need to have is the desire to avoid unhappy outcomes.
Now partying is another story, situation 2 is fun. You like that. You are automatically pumped to get your fancy clothes on and go crazy with your friends. Wait a second! That’s not really true. In most cases people don’t really like partying either. So, why do we go to all the trouble? Here’s a few possible reasons:
- Boredom – you just couldn’t tolerate the possibility that if you stayed home and watched Netflix you wouldn’t have as much fun as you could maybe have had if you were out at the bar with your friends
- Friendships – your friends count on you to help them have a good time at the bar, you’re basically letting them down if you don’t go
- You need human connection – if you’re single or just had a long day and just need to unwind, there is no better way than getting drunk. When you’re in the sweet spot you totally forget that you have problems in your life that you should deal with.
- You don’t want to find yourself living with only 7 cats when you’re 50 – this is a big fear for most single people and so we party to be near other people that we might end up in a relationship with
In both of these situations you can see that we do things to avoid other unhappy outcomes. If you need motivation to do something you just need to find the unhappy outcome that will result from not doing it and focus on it. There is a 0% chance you will do anything that isn’t fun, which is basically every single thing beyond lying in bed and eating cupcakes (just cakes, if you’re my friend Bill), if you don’t have a compelling reason to do it. If you’re earning $15 per hour and you don’t hate your life, you aren’t going to make any special effort to earn $25. When the world pushes back, you will just give up. Your will is too weak. If you want to strengthen your will and create the elusive motivation you desire, you need to strengthen your reason for wanting to change in the first place. If you’re married and your wife tells you she is going to leave you if you don’t get a job, you’ll probably try to get a job. You’ll probably try pretty hard too. Assuming you like her. If you like your job but you suck at it and your boss tells you to shape up or get fired, you’re going to work harder to avoid being unemployed. Motivation isn’t a thing that can be applied to stuff you don’t find any value in and don’t have any interest in doing. If you want to find the energy to do something you’ve been putting off, then you have to find the reason you want to do it and then the reason you’re putting it off. If the reason you want to do it really matters, the reason you’re putting it off will become ridiculous.
I work my ass off because I cannot tolerate the thought of living an average ass mediocre life. I want to do things that matter. When I feel like I’m slipping into mediocrity, I literally hate myself. I can’t sleep. I start to get acne. The stress is crazy! I can’t handle the possibility of being average. That’s the source of all of my motivation. I do things that I hate every day. I push my comfort zone because the alternative is unacceptable.
Until you realize that the alternative to chasing your dreams is absolutely unacceptable you will never be anything other than what you are. Until you feel sick to your stomach thinking you didn’t accomplish your dream, you will be whatever you are today. I don’t read motivational blogs to find the energy to pursue my passions. I just do it, because I can’t live any other way. You don’t need this blog, a book, or any other motivational crap to go become something new. You just need to realize that your life today is not good enough. Who you are right now is not enough. Until you believe that, nothing will change. You will just keep watching people like me and wishing you could be like us.
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