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
Rather than a lack of motivation, sometimes we are deciding not to decide because we are overwhelmed. Our motivation is making whatever we are trying to do into too big of a deal. 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 making the problem worse.
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.
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 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's like being a motivated machine, doing something because that is what my program demands. It's difficult to motivate a sentient being to do something that is pointless. Motivation only works if it serves a purpose.
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.
Why do actors ask about the motivation of their character? Because they want to know why their character cares about anything that's happening in the movie. If we the audience don't know why the character cares about anything is when the movie is no longer believable. It's not believable for someone to do something for no reason. This is how human beings work, it's why detectives look for motive, and without a motive, they have no case. But why do we try to create motivation without a why? Whenever we see an orange, we see the skin, and that's what we see in pictures, so we think that's what an orange is. We forgot what makes the orange is what's underneath the peel, the stuff we can't see. When we see people producing great work, we see the motivation, but we don't see what's behind the motivation. So we mimic only what we see but can't accomplish what they accomplish.
Simon Sinek expands this further in his TED talk:
A Time for Self-Discovery
Find out why, understand your psyche. What do you care about? How does this task fulfill those needs? What makes this endeavor worthwhile? What reasons do you have for doing it? If you have no answers, why is it so important? Why should it be done? Spend your time on things that are meaningful, especially those things that serve multiple needs. And if you're having a hard time caring about a project, maybe it's not that important. Maybe it's only a vanity project. Maybe it doesn't match your values, it only matches societal values you think you're supposed to live up to. Then find a better goal. Motivation is useless without meaning.
Motivation on a Sinking Ship
Rather than completing a task through brute force, let reason shine. Imagine being on a sinking ship. To live, you must find the leak as quickly as possible. Only when the leak is addressed does it make sense to put all your efforts into bailing water (to add motivation). However, don't rely solely on bailing, use a system of redundancies to keep your ship afloat, have multiple boat saving techniques (all the reasons for succeeding). 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 (your purpose), can you create an environment for motivation to flourish.
Useful Companions (Improve Your Education and This Site by Buying a Book):
- Start With Why - Simon Sinek