"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
Motivation is a polarizing concept. As it's met with apathetic eye rolls, it is just as veraciously preached and defended as an idea that can transform any person or group. For me, I can find myself in either camp every other day. No matter which side I'm on, motivation is always a topic that I'm trying to figure out. In conversation with others, it's interesting how often I hear things like, "I can't be doing nothing, I have to be up doing something," or "I can't watch more than a show a day," all the while I'm sitting thinking, if only Nothing Doing were a career path. For a long time, this repeated event led me to believe that I just had a natural inclination toward laziness or that others just had a natural ability to be continuously motivated. I created the excuse that this was reality and little could be done to change these predispositions. But, every so often, I'd get these strong yearnings, feelings that I was meant to do more than I was currently doing. Sightings of elusive motivation added to it's attractiveness as a topic to ponder and understand. But nothing changed for years.
I would ask myself "How am I going to be able to do this for the rest of my life?" Anything is going to be daunting if put into rest-of-your-life terms. About the only thing that I can 100% guarantee that I'll do for the rest of my life is breathe. Immature thoughts like this kept me from doing things I should have been doing and kept me doing things that were useless for my growth. That is the tragedy when we aren't doing that we should be, we further ourselves away from success by doing things we shouldn't be, forming the wrong types of habits.
The quote at the beginning of this post came to the rescue. I heard it recently on an episode of The Ziglar Podcast, and something about it clicked in my mind; a breakthrough that I may look back on for years as a changing point in my life. Motivation isn't intended to be drawn upon every hour of every day. It's a spring board. It's that 15 seconds of insane courage. It gets you up and moving. But it won't keep you there. That's what I misunderstood. I thought it was the driving force, the goal to work towards, the attribute to be conquered and attained. It's much like lighter fluid; very valuable to get a fire started, but horrible for keeping a fire burning on its own. Instead, use small bursts of motivation until a habit is formed. Think about habits you already have in your life. Do you have to pump yourself up to brush your teeth everyday? No, that habit has been engrained for years, you barely even notice it now. That's where we have to get with whatever tasks we are trying to accomplish now, whatever it is.
Insight into my life - I've never been an avid reader. I enjoy good books, but would often pass on reading, choosing instead a movie, listening to music, or some other form of entertainment. Years of this pattern left me unfulfilled. There seems to be something imbedded in us that gives us the desire to learn. Through suggestions from many friends, I dove head first into the vast world of podcasts. My initial motivation lead me day by day to listen to a variety of podcasts, a habit blossomed. I firmly believe that the only reason that I have this burning desire to spend time with this blog comes from that habit that has been created in my own life. This small twig is catching fire, propelling me to a new motivation to spend more time reading books. Something that was uninteresting and difficult before is currently in the beginning stages of my next life altering habit.
Please, if you find yourself struggling with the idea of motivation like I do, attempt to view it as a quick short term, boost of energy or application of willpower. Change your goal from being motivated into gaining healthy habits. Realize that progression in your life rarely comes from a single event or a secret cure. It comes through stringing together boosts of motivation for long enough to form a habit (which research says is about 3 weeks). Let your habits lead you to other habits until you are transformed by the refiner's fire into a new human being, someone who is continuously growing.
You will find quickly that I devour TED talks and find so much value in them that I would feel selfish if I don't share the insights that I gain from them. With that, find 18 minutes in your day to watch this one titled "The Puzzle of Motivation" by Dan Pink. In my next post, this video will serve as the launch point as my discussion ventures deeper into the principle of motivation, but I want you to have time to watch it and ponder on how the principle Dan is teaching can affect change in your life.
My name is Brian and I have a voice and something valuable to say. I'm on a quest to discover myself and the world around me. Join me and together we can do good in the world.