The Motivation Fallacy

When we scroll through social media, sit on a couch, or watch TV we often state that we are not motivated to do our work. We feel guilty but helpless – what can we do if we lack motivation? Well, let me help you and say that you don’t need the motivation to get things done. What you need is discipline.

In the book “The Motivation Myth” by Jeff Haden the author states that motivation is the outcome of our action, not its cause. Motivation comes from dopamine created when we see our progress, improvement. Let me give you an example. You get into painting. You paint every day for an hour. After a week you compare your first and last painting and you can see that your skills have improved. This makes you happy and motivated to keep going and paint some more.

Motivation is simply a by-product of our actions. We can not rely on it as a cause of our work. In the beginning, we should use the excitement of a new and fresh project as our initial drive. As we progress the motivation will appear, you will create enough dopamine to continue working.

As an athlete, I can observe this rule very clearly in my workouts. Like other people, most of the time I don’t feel eager to work out. It is hard to get yourself to run 15km when you really don’t feel like getting up. But I’ve learned not to rely on motivation but discipline instead. I push past these self-destructing thoughts and just change into running clothes. Because for your brain, it’s scary to think about this big training session so the whole trick is in hacking your brain and focusing on one small thing at a time (I’m going to write a whole other article about this phenomenon so stick around for that). Thus I put my hair up, get my phone ready, and eventually start running. Curiously enough the motivation shows up as I run because I’m proud of myself and I want this run to go great.

We cannot rely our performance on something so unpredictable and unstable as motivation. It will eventually develop but as a by-product of our actions as we progress. Meanwhile, it is important to focus on improving self-discipline and hacking our brain into doing things it initially doesn’t want to. There are a lot of ways to do that and I’m planning to write about some of them. And for now, let’s just close the laptop or phone and go get shit done.

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