Merriam-Webster defines motivation as “the act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something: the condition of being eager to act or work.”
Now there is nothing wrong with the first bit of that definition. Indeed, it’s quite admirable. The second bit however? Not so much. Okay, I can sense some of you are tensing up already, like you don’t like where I’m going with this. Like who the hell am I to call bullshit on motivation?
Trust me, writing this piece isn’t easy for me either. In fact, it feels downright hypocritical, like stabbing an old mate in the back and taking his phone in the pretence that I need to call the ambulance. But sometimes we just have to do things even if he don’t want to, and that’s kind of the whole point of this article.
This whole thing started a few weeks ago as I was preparing to return home from another long overseas odyssey. I had been on the road for almost 11 months and even the thought of going home left me paralysed with fear. (Read more about my fears here)
So, in a desperate attempt to soothe my trepidations, I came up with a list of all the stuff I would do once I was back in Australia. I would write and write and turn my blog into this kick-arse online phenomena. I would practice my Spanish and learn how to rock-climb and dive. I would make a fucking adventure out of being home.
Then I flew home, got all settled, and like the responsible, mature young man that I am, proceeded to chomp down on my hectic to-do-list. But as the weeks passed and the novelty of being home faded away like the memories of an old friend you don not wish to forget but do anyway, routines and every-day mundane shit (like looking for a job, moving out etc) began to tighten their vice-like grip on me. Then one day I woke up and I couldn’t be bothered anymore.
And then it hit me; I had been here before. The truth was, I had wanted to do all those things after every home-coming in the past too, and yet, I had blown it every goddamn time. It was a cycle of making promises to myself and then silently breaking them. And not being able to trust your own words is perhaps the saddest realization of all.
I was gutted. Whatever happened to my motivations?
It was then, during that period of guilt and turmoil that a close mate of mine showed me a quote he had recently found. It was something like ‘Fuck motivation, it’s a fickle and unreliable little state that isn’t worth your time.’ And suddenly it all made sense.
I looked back and it was clear to me that I had an unhealthy addiction to motivation; from listening to some ghetto beats to get myself pumped for a work-out to waiting for the right lightning bolt of inspiration to strike me in order to write, it was almost as if I used motivation as an excuse. And I realised that was the first problem with motivation; when it is used by our lazy, fearful side as a stalling tool, promising that we will do whatever it is we really want to do but can’t be bothered as soon as we have enough motivation for it.
The second problem with an addiction to motivation is the fact that motivation is a forgetful, fretting creatures, never sticking around for long. How many of us can claim to be motivated all the time? And so relying on such an unreliable guide to get us where we want to be is risky at best and a fatal error at worst.
In the words of Will Smith, ‘excellence can only be achieved through working countless hours on your craft,’ and for that to happen, one must turn that work into a subconscious habit. You must wake up thinking about your goals, shower and have breakfast and go to work thinking about it. You must get to the point where you can’t sleep unless you know you have taken some steps that day towards achieving your goals. And to get there, you need something more than mere motivation; you need inexhaustible belief, fierce perseverance and determination bordering on obsession.
So let me correct myself; motivation alone ain’t shit.
To get very far, I need to believe that I can go far, and then; motivated or not, just get going.