Motivation Deconstructed

Why don’t I have the drive to avoid junk food at work? Why don’t I have the desire to help my spouse with house chores? Why am I not motivated to workout every day? I am sure all of us are familiar with similar questions we ask ourselves regularly.

And what are the common answers you hear?……… “if you really want it, you’ll do it” or “it all boils down to your passion” or “you should have that burning desire/fire” etc.

We are conditioned to believe that having an unending flow of will power or being constantly motivated is the trait of a winner and the opposite of that would make you a lazy person, where you would be procrastinating things.

Attributing the inability to do a certain task to self-blame is only going to take you spiralling downwards, resulting in you not doing the task and also hating yourself for not doing it.

This blog will be all about understanding motivation. I will be talking about how to translate all this information in dealing with motivation or the lack of it or what other tools you’d need while trying to achieve your goal in my next blog

Motivation isn’t as simple a word as it’s known to be; it is more complex.

Sometimes deconstructing is the only way to understand something. So, let’s take out our hammer (feel free to bring a wrecking ball) and break the tower of motivation into smaller bricks to understand it.

Breaking walls

So, what is motivation?

Motivation is defined as the reason, need, want, willingness or desire to do something or to act in a certain way.

 Here’s another definition –

“Motivation is like a party-animal friend. Great for a night out, but not someone you would rely on to pick you up from the airport.”

Excerpt From: BJ Fogg. “Tiny Habits”

& we know this from our experience that you cannot rely on motivation.

This is not all, there are more sides to the motivation brick – come let’s explore:

breaking bricks

Motivation can be conflicting in nature – Let us examine a few of our daily thoughts:

Me: I really want to get better at saving money.

Also Me: I really love the feeling of sitting and working at Starbucks.

Me: I really want to help my spouse with chores.

Also Me: I really want to rest and watch TV.

Me: I really want to lose weight .

Also me: I really need that cookie right now.

Me: I want to hit the gym early in the morning.

Also me: I really want to sleep for another hour.

Do you see a pattern? Motivation is always there, but just for different things at the same time creating a push and pull – “a tug-of-war” of sorts for the desire to do different things. Do you also see that the side (in the tug-of-war) that is associated with a feeling or an emotion is the side that is stronger or even bound to win?

BJ FOGG quote

Even successful people have problems with staying motivated

Mastering anything requires practice. The excitement of learning something new keeps us motivated, but once the honeymoon phase is over, and you know what to expect every day, boredom begins to set in & motivation starts to fade. So, boredom is one of the driving forces to lose motivation.

Confusing the desire to achieving something as motivation

We think that setting a goal or having a desire is enough to motivate us to do all those actions/ behaviours needed to achieve it. Of course, setting a goal is an important first step, but focusing only on the motivation towards your desired outcome is a thinking flaw especially because of its unreliable nature.

The complexity of your habits has a direct impact on motivation

Let’s say, you have written down your goal and have also listed all those things you need to do to get there. Please read my previous blog (habit-based coaching) where I talk about what happens when we overwhelm ourselves with too many tasks/ changes/habits/ behaviours all at once. In a nutshell, the more the number of new habits or tasks you choose, the harder you are making it for yourself to execute it.

BJ Fogg Quote 2

The motivation-surge

A spike in motivation is great to accomplish emergency or urgent tasks (like saving a baby from a speeding car), but this is also the reason for you to get that annual gym membership or to buy a product from a telemarketing channel and never use it again. This happens to everyone and not just you (and me) because anything that evokes a feeling (excitement/desire/fear), makes the brain start rationalizing the actions to be taken towards it. In this process, we end up with an assumption that we will continue to be motivated in the future as well, but the reality is that motivation is never stable, it’s there this hour and not there the next. 

Let me summarise: 

  • Motivation comes and goes in waves – become aware of when your motivation wave is at its peak and use it to do the hard things. This builds a system or creates an environment for the behaviour to follow much easier. Ex: Getting that gym membership on the 2nd of January. Now all you need to do is go there in the morning before work. 
  • If you still find yourself not going to the gym, then recognize the fact that there could be a stronger competing motivation for another behaviour Ex: “The meetings at work go on till 10 pm; I am so exhausted, I want to sleep for a little longer” 
  • When you are ready to make a change in your life, don’t make it so hard that you will have to rely only on your will-power & motivation.
  • The only important and probably the only task of motivation is to generate that initial readiness/push to kick-start the process of moving towards your goal. Once it has done its duty of prepping the scene for you, it is important to shift the focus to the things you need to do to get there.
  • Recognise and become aware of your triggers for motivation and also your personal motivational waves (when is it high and when is it low for you). This is so different for everyone because it’s based on your conditioning, your culture, your beliefs, your support system, your environment etc. & this makes it the biggest reason why what has worked for someone else may not work on you. 
  • Further reading material:

Now that you know what motivation can or cannot do, start observing and using it to your advantage.

Do leave us feedback or any questions you may have in the comments below.

BJ Fogg Quote

Next up: Goals vs Behaviours & steps to achieve your desired outcome/ behavioural change.

6 thoughts on “Motivation Deconstructed”

  1. Good one! Liked how you put it note your triggers of motivation! I always keep in focus: A percentage scale of this activity that needs motivation.. like if the activity say meditation is giving me a 30 percent boost up in my mood and helps in good sleep, I write it down.. And if doing a physical activity adds in a 30 percent , I write that down. So creating a log book of what activity helps achieve a certain goal _ and when there is a wane or a lull in the motivation , going through it.. has helped.. ????????

    1. Thanks for the read Sita.
      Wow, that awareness must have taken quite a bit of practice; especially journaling and reminding yourself of what puts you back on the productivity-track! Thank you so much for sharing ????????

  2. A little confusing, motivation or desire we are talking about, here. Does motivation keep changing, it has triggered a thought process within me, I would look for some answers

    1. Hi Parag,
      Thank you for the read.
      1. I can relate to the confusion. When we develop the desire to achieve something, we are excited and looking forward to reaching our goal & we end up thinking that this initial excitement is enough momentum to stay on course.
      2. That’s true, it’s changing all the time. Competing demands call for competing motivation. This fact also gives us an opportunity to observe al the competing demands unknowingly deal within our lives.

      Thank you

  3. Yesss I loved it awesome font too super easy to read even on the phone! And my God is it detailed!! Awesome!

Leave a Reply