Today is the day for which this post writing was scheduled. Guess what, I spent almost all day, until 5 pm, doing anything to avoid writing the post about how to develop the motivation to get things done. Go figure.
This shows that I am speaking from experience!
Have you ever had days when you feel an utter lack of motivation to do what you really need to do?
Motivation is the force that drives your actions. And let me make this statement: motivation is NOT what you need to acquire. You already have it.
Yes, even when you procrastinate, avoid doing certain things, you act from the position of motivation. You are full of motivation.
Sounds confusing? Hang in there, I’ll explain.
The nature of motivation
Nature created motivation mechanism for us so that we, as a human race, survived. This mechanism is the only function of our limbic brain (or “lizard” brain because it is the most primitive part). It is a very powerful mechanism. In fact, it is even more powerful than motivational posters, pictures, and those quotes you see on social media. And we all have this motivation mechanism; we evolved with it as species. I promise you, I didn’t learn it from Seth Godin, but I’m very excited how what I figured out for myself resonates with Seth’s ideas.
Let me emphasize this: motivation is the reason we survive. Needless to say, we all have it.
We are motivated to eat when we’re hungry. We are motivated to breed with certain “species.” We are motivated to create a “shelter”, to ensure security for our families. We’re motivated to sleep and recover.
Survival is the core of any motivation. We are motivated to survive and we do anything that will help us survive.
This is why you wake up in the morning (noon?) and go to work (in your home studio and start creating). This is why you go jogging in the morning. This is why you eat that delicious dinner.
There is no such thing as “no motivation”
There is no such thing as “no motivation” because… you know, with exception for certain psychological disorders, we can’t be not motivated to survive. We always have the motivation, and our motivation is governed by our subconscious idea of survival and of what may threaten survival.
This is where we confuse motivation to NOT do something with lack of motivation.
If you are on the edge of a cliff, you are not motivated to come closer to the edge because you can fall down. You don’t want to fall down, right?
So the fact that you don’t come closer to the edge of the cliff doesn’t show the lack of motivation. It shows motivation NOT to come closer to the danger, to stay in the safe zone and to survive.
Not let’s introduce a bear or something really dangerous to the situation. Now the only way for you to get away from that danger is to get closer to the cliff edge. This time you are motivated to come closer to the edge, because – again – you are motivated to survive. The danger from the bear becomes more immediate than the danger from falling down from the cliff, and your mind suddenly changes your motivation.
In the same way you go to work every day even if you don’t like it, because the danger of losing your income is more essential. You are motivated to go to work. If you were not motivated, you might not go to work.
So, motivation is always there. The question is, ‘what is more important for our survival?’ Our lizard brain, being so primitive, has its own funny idea about what’s safe and what’s not.
Let’s take another example. Say, your income depends on your sales and you need to make a few public speeches to sell your product.
But public speaking is a curse for you and you dread the very idea of speaking in from of a crowd.
Your survival depends on your income so you should be motivated to do those speeches. But you’re not. You consciously or subconsciously look for excuses to avoid speaking even if your sales – therefore, income and survival – will be compromised.
Why are you not motivated for public speaking? You see, your lizard brain doesn’t understand the link between speaking and income.
If you are not motivated to speak publicly, you are motivated to NOT speak publicly.
Maybe you’ve experienced some sort of when you attempted a public speech and that experience was intense enough to create a false survival association.
Being rejected is a threat for survival, and your brain motivates you to avoid what caused it – the act of public speaking – by all means.
We know this is absolutely irrational, but the problem is that our lizard brain is much more powerful than our rational thinking.
So what can be done with it?
The false association with the threat to survival comes from our previous experience, usually acquired in the early childhood. There’s nothing we can do about what happened to you when you were a child. Finding someone to blame for it won’t help either.
But we can change how this past experience affects your present thinking.
If you feel that you need to be motivated to do something, think why you are motivated to NOT do that thing.
Is a call to your prospect client associated with the fear of rejection?
Is finishing your project associated with the fear of failure?
Is failure associated with your loss of self-worth?
Ask yourself: what’s the worst that can happen? What’s the worst thing that can happen after?
In most cases you will realize that there’s no room for anything really that bad and your attitude to the task changes immediately.
Ask yourself what will happen if you don’t do what you need to do. Think of the goal, and what will happen if you don’t make that goal. Introduce a larger threat to survival, which will motivate you to act (remember the cliff and the bear metaphor?).
Sometimes the lizard brain’s false association between the action and the threat to survival will be too strong to use reasoning. Even the risk of failing the whole “mission” and not achieving your goals won’t be bad enough. That happens and that’s called “trauma”. It can be the reason for irrational fears and self-sabotage. In such cases you will have to do deeper work: try and find the moment, when that association was created, and make yourself realize there was no real threat to survival.
If you need help with it, reach out for help: there are therapists who can help you take control over the lizard brain and set your inner motivation in the right direction.
I do this type of work with my clients, and I can promise you: the power and the potential one can rediscover once the false survival associations are broken are astonishing and inner motivation becomes a natural part of your personality. Isn’t that great?