Why Motivation Should Never Be Counted Upon

When it comes to motivation, inspiration and productivity, there is all kinds of information out there. How to get motivated, how to be more motivated every day, whatever the idea, it is out there. I am here to say that this entire approach is wrong. Motivation is nothing to count upon when it comes to getting things done. In fact, starting to regularly depend on motivation is a fast track to not getting very much at all done.

We all need to be getting things done and achieving things that matter to us, which is exactly why we have produced this article explaining exactly why you need to start ignoring the enticing dream of inspiration and motivation and just start getting on with things. Here’s why motivation should never be counted upon.

What Is Motivation?

Everyone has experienced motivation at some point or other. It’s that sudden rush of competence that always seems to come rushing in after a little bit of productivity. It’s settling into the zone of really getting things done, making that all important forward progress we all need to feel good. No one wants to feel like they’re failing to make progress, and the adjacent sensations of feeling out of control, and worse, depression and boredom.

Motivation is the antithesis of all this negativity. You’d be reasonable, therefore, in thinking that you should be trying to live your whole life in a state of relative motivation. You’d be wrong. Motivation is like our nitro tank. It’s a boost when we’re already running forward, but it’s never our primary fuel source.

If you spend your life counting on motivation to help you get work done, you’ll never get round to it. Motivation is not to be counted upon, it’s a reward you get when you’re already making major progress. This is the way you should be viewing it, at least.

Productivity is Vital

When it comes to happiness, functionality and feeling useful as a human, nothing is more important than productivity. Now, I don’t mean productivity in any corporate, soulless sense. I mean the productivity to get after the things that matter to you. The hobbies, business ideas, self-improvement, socialising, creativity, whatever. The drive to simply get after it, enjoy life and produce good things.

This can mean work, but it can also mean a million other things. We’re not really binary creatures, destined to spend half our lives working, half our lives pursuing fun things. There needs to be much more grey than that. When we’re being productive, driven and making real progress, we can start truly feeling in control and purposeful.

The big confusion is the belief that the ideal state for humans lies in lazy retirement.

The idea that the ideal circumstance is settling into restful relaxation. This couldn’t be more false. We need productivity, drive and purpose to feel good in life, and once you subtract that, you’re opening the door for depression, uselessness and stagnation. Not good.

That’s not to say you need to spend your whole life battering yourself against pointless tasks, corporate goals, endless career milestones. Its all about finding the things that truly matter to you, and spending your life pursuing those things properly. This is the key to feeling great, purposeful and fending off aimlessness and stagnation. Obviously motivation plays a major role in all these things, but it’s definitely not the be-all and end-all of thriving.

Callous the Mind

Enter the concepts of stoicism and callousing the mind. What I’m saying here is that you need to learn to harden yourself against the drain of having to do difficult things. You need to settle into a comfortable lifestyle of pursuing new, difficult things and settling into a stoical resignment to getting them done. You need the balance of finding joy and interest in your work and simply accepting the boring, difficult parts.

The idea of callousing the mind comes from ex-Navy SEAL and ultramarathoner David Goggins. His belief is that it’s all about conquering the self, putting yourself through tricky circumstances and task regularly with the intention of callousing your mind to these challenges. He was even against listening to music while training because he thought it distracted him from the difficulty and struggle of the activity! While I’m not saying you should be going at it that hard, this mentality is what we all need to foster in order to embrace both the hard times and the easy, motivated stretches.

Just Get On With It

Fundamentally, this means we all need to just be putting all our little tricks and distractions to one side and simply getting after it. We need to settle into patterns of just getting it done. Simple, right? It isn’t, I know that, but that doesn’t change the fact that in many ways, it is incredibly straightforward. Make a plan, understand what you need to do, and force yourself to start. Starting is always, always going to be the very worst part.

Conversely, on the other side of the coin, you need to know when it’s time to take a break. If you just continually batter your head against the wall when it comes to work, you’re going to run out of steam and end up losing more potential work time than you gained by overworking. Treat yourself like an employee you value and don’t work yourself to the bone.

Tricks Are Useful, But Never Count Upon Them

The depressing reality, in some senses, for most of us is that the only person we can truly count on one hundred percent is ourselves. You know yourself, you know you’ll get what needs to be gotten done, done. If you don’t callous your mind and get used to doing things you don’t really want to be doing, you won’t be able to trust yourself like this, and that’s a major shame.

Fundamentally, its all about being able to trust and rely upon yourself completely, rejecting all the little tricks and ideas behind productivity. Motivation is just another trick. You should definitely utilise these little boosts, but see them for what they are, little treats and rewards along the way. Never count upon them.

Never Wait Around for Motivation

What’s the alternative? Spending your life waiting around for motivation and inspiration to strike? Nothing will ever strike. You’ll spend your whole life saying “I’ll do it tomorrow when I feel like it”, and you’ll never get it done. That’s the thing with difficult tasks, we’re extremely good at self-sabotaging and justifying not getting on with hard things. We don’t naturally want to settle into difficult things, we want to take the path of least resistance. Trouble is, the path of least resistance rarely takes us where we actually want to go.

That’s why you need to just do it. Just sit down and force yourself to make a start. You never know, half an hour in, you could start feeling that great old feeling of motivation and inspiration taking over again.

A Chicken and Egg Situation

The reality is that motivation is basically a chicken and egg riddle. A lot of people like to think that motivated successful people got that way because they were motivated from the get-go. This isn’t the case very often. Maybe occasionally, we’ll start out with a small spurt of motivation or inspiration, but far more often than not, it’s the hard work itself that provides the path forward. Without that groundwork, you can’t hope for these supercharging flashes of motivation and inspiration to strike.

That means we all need to simply be settling into our work and getting on with it instead of waiting around for motivation to strike. While it might feel hard in the beginning, simply going through the motions and getting the preliminary elements done is going to make you feel more productive, more in control and better overall. That’s why we all need to be getting after it.

What Should You Do?

Make a plan and get to know yourself. These two things will light the way forward when it comes to getting difficult, impressive things done.

Once you know a vague big-scale plan and a more detailed “what to do today” plan, you can start getting major progress done and making some real forward steps towards achieving your goals.

The other thing is knowing yourself. Once you understand what you’re like as a person, as a worker, you can start using that knowledge to make sure you’re not self-sabotaging and are getting what you need out of life. The fact is, unless you understand yourself, your needs, tics and shortfalls, you won’t be able to meet, mitigate and avoid them. Sadly, this information only really comes from getting on with things while being mindful. Reflecting on your successes and failures and learning from them. This is all essential when it comes to becoming that supremely productive individual that you want to be.