A woman who raises her hands in front of the sea amidst the sunset.

Dissecting Motivation

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“Don’t worry about motivation. Motivation is fickle. It comes and goes. It is unreliable – and when you are counting on motivation to get your goals accomplished, you will likely fall short.”

Jocko Willink

Index

  1. ) Introduction
  2. ) The lie of motivation
  3. ) Enslaved by motivation
  4. ) The forceless approach
  5. ) Coping with motivation
  6. ) Two ways of motivation
  7. ) Conclusion

Introduction

Our innate gears sometimes appear to just click without any extraneous influence. No force involved – not even the sheer will of one appears to be necessary, so as to complete the task at hand. These sorts of seamless transgressions from “having to do”, to simply “doing” are quite rare, yet one has to wonder, which sorts of forces are behind them. Is it true that there is a need to convince oneself of having to do something, so as to actually get to taking on the problem at hand? This post aims to explore the topic of motivation and its ramifications on a few other related areas of our life.

Waking up early, studying for that exam, and facing the imminent problem head on, are tasks which we all are confronted with on a regular basis. Yet most of us simply lack the will, let alone motivation to actually start hammering away at said opportunities. Without proper long term guidance and a way of making sure that one is actually getting closer towards completing what needs to be done, all sorts of efforts regarding the achievement of a certain outcome, are done in vain. For if there is no lighthouse to guide the way, one is essentially lost. As the waves come crashing down and all hope seems to have been abandoned, drowning is inevitable. Yet, a small flame within – the sheer will – rekindled by a strong motivation to really get back starts to shine forth brighter than ever before. As one feels himself again after having taken into account the pluripotentiality of what can be achieved by simply not giving into the destitute attitude of casting away the opportunity at hand, life starts to be but an interesting ride, full of opportunities and nooks to explore, once again. The waves subside and sunrays seem to light the way towards a brighter future. The gloomy outlook has been discarded, and the torch has been picked up.

The lie of motivation

Motivation is a concept, which seems to resonate heavily with a great many individuals. Often times we complain that we are lacking the motivation to take on task “X”, or that we simply do not feel motivated enough, to do this and that. Yet I wonder, whether these personal aphorisms are but means of evading responsibility. You see, every human being has an innate strive towards doing something of meaning. If no meaning can be found, one is essentially dead, as every day starts to become a drag. Yet most insist upon relying on concepts, such as “motivation” in order to do something.

Grass, which grows out of concrete.
Did this plant one day feel motivated enough to grow in a specific place at a specific time?

It has been my experience, that no such thing as “motivation” truly exists. Whilst it is true that one may gain a short leverage in terms of perceiving a specific goal or rather specific possibility of having achieved this or that by means of relying on motivation, I dare claim that getting hooked on such a nebulous concept is, what enables people in the first place to not complete anything at all.

If you are not driven by a deep inspiration towards manifesting yourself in a certain way in our world, and have to rely on motivation, so as to keep your gears running, I do suppose that you have not been truly interested in taking part in the process of accomplishing anything worthwhile in the first place. If you only strike while the motivational iron is hot, you will never rise above mediocrity. Doing things due to an innate drive, or doing things simply out of motivation, are two different pairs of shoes.

In my experience, the erroneous term of “motivation” is usually ascribed to a short feeling of pleasure in regard to what may be gotten out of something in the long run. Strictly speaking, it is nothing more than a way to proclaim that you do not really feel like doing such and such, in terms of having a sense of passion. Something much more pristine and genuine than motivation could ever be. If you truly desire to do something, you simply do it. You do not wait until you feel motivated enough. There is no such thing as the right time, or the right degree of “motivation”, to actually go out and do something, for there was never something as illusory as “motivation” to begin with.

Enslaved by motivation

With that being said, I would like to further elaborate on the connotation that motivation can be perceived as a somewhat superstitious concept. In adhering to an extraneous force, such as “motivation”, you are in essence but trying to gain leverage by means of extrospection. That is, you are not really being true to yourself in the most fundamental way of being. If you have read some of my articles beforehand, you have surely come to the conclusion that I am a huge proponent of “looking within”. I do believe that mental maladies, such as depression, are a result of our cultural predisposition towards using others, but not ourselves, as points of reference.

A lighthouse and the sunset; both are near the crashing waves of the ocean.
Which light guides your way?

For what lies outside of yourself is always transient. If you are bound to get your next kick out of something, which you have to obtain first, so as to “feel” yourself, you are but a slave to your environment’s whims. In doing so, you are giving away the very thing that makes you human in the first place: your ability to choose how to react to something.

The same goes for motivation: It is but a fleeting sensation of feeling enabled to actually get down to doing something, but it will never last. Moving down further said tangent of thought, “motivation” is rather like a drug. A short stimulant, which propels you to act in a certain way. It is, however, not commonly recognized as such, which is, why it is dangerous. If you constantly have to rely on motivation to actually do something, you are not really doing it out of your own volition.

You will feel like you have genuinely accomplished something, after having used said illusory scapegoat as a means of starting to work. But is it truly you that has accomplished something, or is it a part of yourself, which has done something out of sheer angst of missing out on the experience of having accomplished something, which does not genuinely resonate with the very kernel of your existence?

Misguided efforts, which hinge upon the idea of motivation are commonplace. Most proclaim that they do not feel motivated enough, so as to finally start with a certain project. One has to wonder, whether motivation is truly, what is amiss. If it were said concept, then doesn’t this imply that the person in question, is not capable of doing something, without relying on extraneous forces? Is said person, then, not really being themselves?

The forceless approach

In effect, there is a need to clarify genuine interest. I do believe that “being” in its most fundamental sense entails not having to force anything. That is; you are not doing anything out of a sheer lack of something. You are doing it for the sake of doing it. This, in turn, means that if you are not willing to do it without any sort of extraneous force whatsoever, in the first place, you are not being true to the deepest parts of yourself.

A colourful balloon, which drifts along the blue sky.
Not forcing anything allows your genuine self to shine through.

Of course, one might argue that a great part of humanity has not even contemplated the idea of becoming themselves and can thus be incentivized to strive towards fulfilling their innate potential by actually becoming aware of it through certain stimuli, which may be linked to “motivation” (read: inspiring quotes and such). That is a valid argument indeed. There is, however, a certain point of threshold towards being reliant on an external impetus, so as to simply do the thing, and actually being completely immersed in doing something (which is the “genuine” way of being).

If all we ever had to do, to actually get started on hammering away at a task, was to indulge in inspirational and motivating stimuli, we would in essence only conform to what we think needs to be done, so as to chase a figment of mind, which permits us to finally get to work. We do not really need motivation. It can be used as a way of showing people what is possible, but it should never be abused, in order to do something. Genuine immersion in something, without actually relying on anything, so as to even get started, is the way to go, if one is being themselves at the most fundamental level.

For said abstract concept only grants a fleeting sense of being in control of ones own destiny. Yet destiny is a fickle thing. You cannot truly control it, nor can you really prophesize what is going to happen tomorrow, but the probability of reaching a desired outcome by means of acting now, can of course, be raised. To truly act “now”, you do have, however, to forget the “later”.

Coping with motivation

I think it to be of utmost importance to reconsider the whole concept of “motivation”, when it comes to making decisions. Life is passing by every moment. In abusing something as fundamentally superfluous as “motivation”, you are not really living. It is simply another form of dependence, albeit a quite tricky one at that. Mostly due to the fact that culture has supplied us with the illusion that we are constantly in dire need of something, so as to get started on actually doing something. A quick glance at “YouTube”, which offers you thousands of motivational videos, vividly illustrates said faulty dependence.

Old, rusty gears, which are working together with a clock.
Maybe a quick surge of extraneous motivation is what’s necessary, so as to aid you in becoming aware of what lies dormant within your self.

With regards to a former point, I do believe that there are times, when “motivation” may be necessary. People, who are not aware of the possibilities which lie within them would do good to get a little glimpse into the bright side of the abyss. It can thusly be said that inspiration can be derived from using some sort of motivational resource. A quick surge of motivation may henceforth indeed allow one to be kissed by the muse. It should, however, be noted that said way of prompting oneself to do something should not be relied upon for reasons previously mentioned.

Whilst “motivation” may give you the incentive to do something, “discipline” is what’s keeping you on track. I will further elaborate on this concept in another post, but for now it suffices to say that building rituals and habits, which allow you to truly get things done cannot be achieved by means of constantly using motivation as a way of getting started.

Other than that, it is paramount to consider the way motivation can interfere with your well-being.

Two ways of motivation

Generally speaking, there are two types of motivation. The first one is intrinsic, whilst the second one is extrinsic.

Happiness, just as motivation can only be truly experienced, if it comes from within.

Intrinsic motivation is what you want to explore. It resonates with the deepest parts of yourself and allows you to genuinely bring forth what is usually hidden. It is something that originates from within and is thus a source of pristine fuel for your undertakings. These are motives, which put you in a place of true power.

That is, you are doing something simply for the sake of doing it. You are not doing something, because you hope to get something out of it other than the sheer enjoyment of partaking in a specific activity. It has been proven that people, who rely on this motif of being are able to improve their day-to-day happiness after achieving something. As a result, they are both less anxious and depressed.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is an insidious way of accomplishing things. A great majority of people rely on this type of motivation. It is a way of using external loci of dazzlement, so as to get things done. That is, doing things simply to get something out of them. Fame, money, cars, sex and the like are what fall under this category. Unfortunately our society is constantly feeding us false images of what “success” means. It is, at its current state, heavily reliant on showing us what life could be like, if we just had product X or were to be Person Y.

In relying on this motif being, one is not being true to oneself. It is just another way of getting you to consume more happiness instead of genuinely embodying it. It is crucial to realize that you cannot find happiness. It is something, which manifests itself the second you are doing something and are engaged in something.

Yet society tells us otherwise. Most people are trying to get that illusory goodie by living in the future. They are thus stuck. In trying to get that illusory goodie they are but losing themselves. For as soon as they have achieved what they have deemed necessary “to be happy”, they will simply substitute said purpose for another one, which lies, once again, in the future. Happiness can therefore not be really enjoyed. It has been deformed and reduced to simply another puny form of fleeting sensation.

Accomplishing tasks due to an extrinsic locus of interest will not improve day-to-day happiness after achievement. It does, in turn, however increase anxiety and may lead to depression in the long term.

It is thus highly advisable to not use points of reference outside of yourself, so as to get to do something.

Conclusion

Motivation itself is a flawed concept. It predicates upon the basic premise of needing something before you can actually start doing something. You do not need anything, in order to be yourself and get to do something. Motivation should henceforth not be viewed as a necessity, but rather as a plain way of allowing you to see that, in becoming who you are, way more is possible then could have been imagined beforehand. Differentiating between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is also highly suggested, so as to be really happy. If you are keen on building new habits and rituals, using discipline is necessary, in order to stay on track. However you might use motivation, it is highly important to do things simply for the sake of doing them, not due to expectations of getting something out of them.

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