You Can’t LEARN How to be Motivated

A new year inevitably brings promises of resolutions kept and goals achieved. More often than not, these promises and achievements are never met. Could it be that it takes more than just a calendar to generate motivation?

A motivational speaker candidly writes, “I often bring a magic wand to my seminars and classes. The audience usually emits a loud chuckle when I ask for a volunteer and proceed to wave my magic wand over their head and declare them ‘motivated.’”* While this approach is meant to be funny, there are many books and speakers out there that promise instant motivation if you follow the author’s guidance (and if your check clears…).  Authors of these books declare that when one follows their formula, intense drive and immediate success will result … leading, of course, to massive wealth. People think that motivation is everything. Motivation is a lot – but it’s by no means everything.

Let’s talk about generating wealth. Hard work and motivation are necessary, but they’re far from enough. There has to be sufficient customer demand – insufficient supply – for what you’re making. In the best case, you create a product or service that nobody has brought to market yet, and that mass numbers of people want. The smartphone comes to mind.  Before that, it was things like the automobile, the toaster, the personal computer, radio and televisions, just to name a few.

Let’s face it: Mass wealth creation is unlikely, even if you are highly capable. The good news? Making enough money to satisfy your needs while remaining autonomous and self-employed is always a possibility. There might already be plenty of supply and demand for something, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for you to help meet that demand. If you want to pursue what you love and make a decent living, it’s almost always within reach, at least if you live in an economically unrestrained, low-tax, low-regulation environment. (Unfortunately almost nobody does anymore.)

Aside from supply and demand, it takes other things to create success. One is a belief that you love doing the activity for its own sake, and that it’s all worth it even if great success is not guaranteed. Look at anyone who achieves success in difficult fields like music, writing or art. If you study the history of anyone who achieved success in those fields, you’ll find periods—sometimes long periods—of uncertainty and doubt. This is one reason why you can’t go to a seminar to “learn motivation”. The motivation has to come from you. If you were really that motivated, you’d get down to work rather than spending time and money at a seminar. One key factor in motivation is a deep commitment to the thing you’re doing. Nobody can teach you that. It’s just there, waiting to be developed. The key is to find it.

Sometimes people tell me, “I really would like to do that. But I’m not motivated.” My first response usually is, “So you’re not really committed enough to it? You don’t really want it enough?” My response is not always appreciated, but think about it. Think about the things you ARE motivated to do; even routine things like grocery shopping or personal hygiene. Don’t those come automatically, since the alternative to doing them strikes you as unacceptable? It’s the same with great achievements. Unless you find living without the activity unbearable, you probably won’t get very far.

The challenge psychologically is not to “learn motivation” as much as it is to discover what motivates you. That can be difficult, but it’s crucially important. Your emotions will tell you. Emotions cannot tell us what’s true or how to rationally do things. But emotions are great at telling us what’s important to us. If reason overrides a particular emotion, so be it. But pay attention to your emotions so you can better discover what you really love, value or enjoy. Don’t judge your emotions — not at first. You can later apply reason to figuring out the best way to achieve what your emotions are telling you to do. But if you’re unaware of what makes you passionate, and as a result don’t feel motivated, it’s a likely indication you need to pay better attention to what you feel.



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