The Driving Force Behind Motivation

faceless woman in bay climbing wall in bouldering studio

If there’s anything I’ve learned from knowing many recovering alcoholics, it’s that the message gets through when the recipient is ready for it. Not one moment earlier.

That’s the case for any potentially life-impoving knowledge, I think. Unless you’re ready to receive it, it’s going to float away like dandelion fluff in the wind.

I recently read something quite simple that turned a lightbulb on over my hot and humid head. Maybe it will do the same for you or perhaps you’ve known this since birth.

Motivating Factors

I subscribe to author and speaker Mark Manson’s weekly newsletter and this was the simple but powerful idea he shared:

“Motivation is actually often the result of action, not the cause of it.”

Marc Manson, #1 NYT best-selling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Although I’d never thought about it consciously, it seeemed to me that motivation came before action. But Manson says action creates motivation. So, even if I don’t feel like doing something, the act of “doing” will make me feel motivated. Huh! Manson got loads of feedback after sharing this idea. It clicked for a lot of people besides me.

Get Up When You Want to Get Down

I’d say I’m pretty self-motivated and fairly busy. Not as busy as I seem, though. I’m surprised by how many people have the impression that I’m just running from one task to the next. Many days have a lot of “me” time built into them and I prioritize it.

But I digress.

I’m also pretty good about doing things I don’t like. It’s long been my habit to do the least enjoyable thing first. Sometimes I’ll promise myself a treat! But on occasion, I find myself feeling unmotivated and believing that the feeling needs to guide the doing. Manson says it’s often the other way around.

It’s easy to put into practice when the doing involves getting an ice cream cone or a massage. When there’s something less pleasant to accomplish – that’s when he says simply getting started will get the motivation juices flowing. I wish someone had told me this about six decades ago. Then again, we probably all do a form of this at work. There are days when we don’t feel like doing whatever the job is but we have to. The mortgage and the fridge demand it. That’s definitely motivation.

The Attitude and Gratitude

It strikes me that gratitude is much the same way. When times are tough, feeling grateful might not come until you put effort into examining your life and what you have to be grateful for. The feeling follows the action.

I need to apply this to physical exercise. I don’t often feel like being active but once I get going, it’s not so bad! Some days I can push myself. And on those when I feel I can’t, I need to do it anyway.

I tried this theory out a couple of weeks ago when I was feeling completely unmotivated about a task on one of those hot, humid days. But I started it anyway. And you know what? I got into it and before I knew it, I was done. I even enjoyed the process and felt great about my accomplishment. And I promise you, there wasn’t an ice cream cone or a massage therapist in sight.

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