Motivation is a Myth [What to do Instead]


We’ve been told that we need the motivation to do things. It is this magical thing you need to have to do important stuff. What’s the truth in this? We believe it because we want to and it is convenient to do so.

And without even questioning if we need motivation, we set on the quest to get it in order to act.

To me, motivation is such an abstract concept.

We have a condition, we hear something and then we act on it. We believe the surface-level problems. We’re eager to believe.

Let’s understand the problem first, the cycles we go through.

Why do you need the motivation to do anything? Can’t you just do it?

I think it is easier to accept that you need motivation and wait around for it to come by simply because you don’t want to anything.

By accepting that you put yourself in waiting mode. For motivation to come by and when you get tired of that you try to motivate yourself by reading self-help books and look for other ways to motivate you, but it is still doing nothing.

Focusing on motivation is a distraction from doing what you actually want to do. Your attention is on motivating yourself to act rather than act.

We do this because we want to give ourselves a false sense of progress and there is some comfort in it. It looks like preparation and so we think it is progress.

It is still inaction.

To understand this better we need to dive into our current condition.

I’m not an expert in any of this, I’ve read books, applied, and observed myself doing certain things, that doesn’t work. This is me simply sharing that.

Why do we wait around for motivation or confidence or courage to come by or to cultivate them in order to act? Because that preparation to act is just waiting around avoiding action.

Waiting means no action, and so comfortable.

We’re animals, and we take action based on reward and punishment or pleasure and pain or desire and fear.

You usually wait for inspiration, or desperation as stimuli. Either to move towards pleasure or avoid pain.

When the pain becomes too much you start chasing pleasure.

In this process, either you give up because chasing pleasure induces more pain than doing nothing. Or, you get a taste of pleasure, get bored of it, or realize you can’t sustain it.

So chase new highs, or you try to deprive yourself so the next time hit the current high it will feel like a high when you hit it because there is a gap.

So you deprive yourself go back to pain and chase pleasure again. This is how we act based on reward and punishment.

You want to avoid doing something, so you bring in the problem of motivation.

Once you start doing something, you go into this incessant planning or get obsessed with productivity tools. We trick ourselves into thinking we’re working on our motivation, or confidence doing unrelated things because these may look like progress.

Here are some more forms of this waiting around that may look like progress.

  • loving yourself and getting confidence
  • getting the courage to act
  • self-care routines
  • Affirmations
  • Endless consumption of youtube tutorials
  • Signing up for various courses

Why not just do what you want to do? Instead of bringing in all these steps in between.

If you don’t have a certain skill you can learn that, but you don’t have to have the motivation or become a better person psychologically to act on things.

Waiting, which is looking for motivation, or planning or preparation, consuming endless tutorials on youtube will not induce action.

Action induces action.

Why don’t we realize this, and still continue to wait around, deceiving ourselves?

I think this is a habit.

We’re generally taught that we need to prepare for things before we attempt something. Prepare for exams and interviews.

We lead a checklist life, which has steps, to progress in life. College, work, get married, have kids. Progress is usually going through these steps.

Though in the case of exams, you need to learn the skill. The problem is this habit spills in when you don’t want to do something in the form of preparing to a better person.

Somehow we believe that we need to make ourselves better as a person to do something too, in addition to learning the skills required for a job.

We like the preparation because it acts as a buffer in between action and you. You prepare and plan even when it is unnecessary.

So the question is, is there actually a problem of lacking motivation? Is it just a habit of waiting, or being told that we need this abstract concept such as confidence, or motivation?

We love bringing in problems and working on them so that, we feel we’re engaged with life. So when some motivational speaker says, we need motivation, because otherwise, they will lose their jobs, we believe him or her.

You’re far more comfortable in following and being told to do things. It may be just enough to think for yourself to get out of this waiting game.

And stop having this life coaching session just so that you can feel you’re making some progress in life.

The problem is that you’re concerned with you wanting to look like you’re progressing in your life, but not act.

You see most of the time when we wait for inspiration, or motivation, we’re waiting for an emotional precursor that puts you into action. Because we’re conditioned to act from emotions.

This is skewed. We generally use feeling good as a precursor.

You see desire is a mechanism to repeat the pleasurable feelings of the past and fear to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of the past. So what you want to do is to repeat or avoid the past. Hence the stuck-ness. You probably know deep underneath it is not going to lead anywhere.

The solution may just be to re-evaluate what you want, and instead of chasing and imitating others on Instagram, have a good look at what you want to do. It may be just that you don’t want to do anything.

You can be motivated to do the wrong things if you just follow what makes you feel good. Chasing feel-good things may be just the thing that has you stuck. Because you’re trying to repeat a pleasurable memory from your past. Or avoid a painful one.

Some say you need to find new values, but you just don’t know what you don’t know, if you try to define new values based on a book or what you think you need, it is still you recollecting something from your past.

Acting on things is really about identifying any psychological barriers that you put in between you and the thing you want to do, and stop doing it.

Unnecessary drama is one such roadblock

Another way we avoid things is through drama. Self-loathing. Saying my trauma, my worries, and my anxiety.

Let me deal with it. You need to respect it. There may be something wrong with me, others seem to have figured it, why can’t I? I am special.

It is a twisted sense of self-importance.

There is comfort in it.

We love gossip and the sense of community, so we seek out people (in our tribe) to praise us as kings and queens to feel good, but to actually do nothing.

Such drama comes in between

Wanting to make things complicated is another one

When doing simpler things you don’t get praise from others, or get to pat on your back. It has to be something big.

People don’t praise you for doing the small things, they praise you for starting a business, for your hardships and struggle.

So you either want to do only complicated things. or you want to make simple things complicated.

What ends up happening is that you overcomplicate things so much that, it takes too long to see the results, and you give up.

Acting from reward and punishment

We act based on reward and punishment ( pleasure and fear). From monkeys to mice, to any other animal, we’re animals too, we’ve evolved from them.

Before we start to do anything, we consciously or unconsciously do this reward vs risk assessment.

If it is something rather easy and there is a high reward, we say hell yeah.

But if there’s high risk and low reward, you say, no way!

and if it is something in the middle we say, you go either, can’t be bothered or, fine! I will give a try.

The perceived effort to achieve a task, if it is less of a risk, and there is a greater chance of reward, we do it.

Our struggle to act is the resistance of not knowing what we set out to do will be worth it or not.

Where do we go from here knowing this?

Traditional solutions

Tradition solutions are motivational seminars, self-help books, and consuming content. Cultivating motivation, or confidence, or courage.

Or coming up with new values. Letting go of the goal, trusting the process, and all that. Which doesn’t work either, because you give up when you don’t see instant results.

Discipline doesn’t work

Discipline doesn’t work. Habits work, once a routine becomes unconscious and forms into a habit. But habits are unconscious. And we try to form a habit through will and discipline.

We have tried discipline sticking to the diets and gym etc. But applying discipline doesn’t work.

Discipline only works if you have got an ego boost in applying pain and endure hard things.

So what works, knowing some of our nature.

Let’s talk about some important actions

Awareness is the start of action

Identifying how you put these roadblocks. Which will mean no deceiving yourself by reading self-help books or any form of waiting around.

Stopping any waiting around is already action. In this way, Inaction is action.

Stopping to lie to yourself is action

Some practical steps

Fill the knowledge gap

If there is a knowledge gap try to learn it. For example, if you want to learn a new skill.

Ignore any psychological progress you tell yourself that you need

Stop listening to others telling you need to love yourself, or gain confidence

Make it easier to start things?

We know that we overcomplicate things so that we fail to execute, to avoid action.

Break down larger tasks into smaller concrete ones.

Avoid vagueness and be specific in tasks. Do things that can be done in less than a day. Instant gratification and that good feeling of having completed something will propel you to do the next things.

Reduce the number of steps in between to finish a task. Choose the minimum viable solutions to problems.

Reduce the number of decisions to make for faster execution of tasks.

Limit decision-making time to avoid over-planning.

Pleasure based approach to doing things, doing only things that make you feel good is a stupid thing to do.

Stop engaging in drama.

Stop living by slogans. Positivity and all that, you waste so much time, doing affirmations, mindfulness apps and stuff like that. Awareness of how you actually live and delude yourself is real meditation.

So those are my practical tips.

What do you think, let me know in the comments?

And until next time see ya.

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