On the Barrier to Motivation

We are told our problem is a lack of motivation when, in fact, the problem is a lack of purpose. Just as a fan ceases to exist without a cause, so does motivation.

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

Sometimes we are deciding not to decide because we are overwhelmed. Instead of trying to understand why we are feeling this way, we try to overwhelm our sense of being overwhelmed with more motivation. We are not creating a solution, we are exacerbating the problem.

An Overwhelming Wall

A more direct approach would be for me to address why am I overwhelmed. If it is a lack of knowledge, then I should increase knowledge. If the cause is too many distractions, I should actively reduce other distractions. If it is fear, I must acknowledge my concerns and find reasons to be courageous. Whatever the case may be, what must be overcome is ourselves.

(Rock Climber | Sonia Sevilla)

(Rock Climber | Sonia Sevilla)

Motivation should not be the only reason for doing something. There should be multiple reasons. Things I have done, long undertakings, I did them because there were so many reasons to do them. Why would I do something if there is only one reason to do it? Especially if the sole reason is that I am motivated? When I don't know why I should be doing it or why I should even care? It is like being a motivated machine, doing something because that is what my program demands. Since I am not a machine but a sentient being, this method is pointless.

Pointless Motivation

Motivation in and of itself is not a reason to do anything, rather it enhances existing reasons. Motivation is like a fan, it needs a cause to support. We are told our problem is a lack of motivation when, in fact, the problem is a lack of purpose. Just as a fan ceases to exist without a cause, so does motivation. Imagine cheering for winning when there is no team. Winning is the effect, the cause is the team. We are confusing the effect for the cause. Motivating success without a cause is like trying to win without a team.

Simon Sinek expands these ideas further in his TED talk:

Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. ... But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by ‘why’ I don’t mean ‘to make a profit.’ That’s a result. It’s always a result. By ‘why,’ I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out. [...]

None of what I’m telling you is my opinion. It’s all grounded in the tenets of biology. Not psychology, biology. If you look at a cross-section of the human brain, from the top down, the human brain is actually broken into three major components that correlate perfectly with the golden circle. Our newest brain, our Homo sapien brain, our neocortex, corresponds with the ‘what’ level. The neocortex is responsible for all of our rational and analytical thought and language. The middle two sections make up our limbic brains, and our limbic brains are responsible for all of our feelings, like trust and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behavior, all decision-making, and it has no capacity for language.

In other words, when we communicate from the outside in, yes, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information like features and benefits and facts and figures. It just doesn’t drive behavior. When we can communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior...

A Time for Self-Discovery

Find out why, understand your psyche. What pushes your buttons? What reasons are there to do it? If there are none, why is it so important? Why should it be done? If there is only one important reason, find more reasons. Spend your time on the things that are meaningful and do not fill your plate with those things that are not. Motivation is useless without meaning.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
— William Arthur Ward

Summary

Rather than winning a battle with more firepower, let reason shine. Motivation is much like a sinking ship. Instead of bailing water, first find the leak. Only when the leak is addressed, does it make sense to bail water. However, do not rely solely on bailing, use a system of redundancies to keep your ship afloat, have multiple boat saving techniques. Most of all, know why you are on a ship in the middle of the sea in the first place. Once you know why you should accomplish a task and you can identify multiple reasons for performing this task — you have created an environment for motivation to flourish.

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