We have been lied to our whole lives about motivation.
Television and movies, where we derive most of our knowledge and education about life, personifies motivation in the form of the gruff, surly coach who shouts words of encouragement to his team. The sweaty, pudgy, middle-aged high school coach exalts his kids to bounce back from the beating that they are getting early on in the game. After a rousing speech, the music swells and reaches a crescendo. The kids’ eyes widen and they slowly start to smile. Slow claps begin and gain strength. The team leaders high-five each other. Everyone, including the towel boy, jumps up and down and then they all charge back onto the field to win the big game and become hometown heroes.
The motivational speech always seems to work wonders in the movies like The Bad News Bears, Rocky, Rudy, Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Invincible, Chariots of Fire, Field of Dreams, Seabiscuit, Cool Runnings, The Blind Side, We are Marshall, Bull Durham, Breaking Away, Bend it like Beckham, Cool Running, The Mighty Ducks, Happy Gilmore and Dodgeball. In real life, not so much. I strongly question if this movie reality is really the way to go. To me, this type of motivation is like a sugar high; it offers an immediate boost, only to burn out shortly thereafter.
There is an entire industry of self-help gurus, such as Tony Robbins, that write books and offer expensive seminars and programs designed to help you become motivated and successful. These products and services tend to help the gurus earn vast fortunes for themselves and we hardly ever see the attendees on the cover of Forbes or The Wall Street Journal.
When it comes to looking for a job or embarking upon a new project, it is socially acceptable to tell people that you are waiting to get inspiration and motivation. Your friends and family will nod their heads in agreement. “Yes, you need to get motivated to start,” they say.
I call BS on this whole motivational thing. You can wait forever and never feel motivated. You could feel motivated today, do some work, email a few résumés and then stop tomorrow because the motivational feeling flitted away.
My advice is to forget about being motivated. Try something different and more realistic. Set your goal, outline a plan of how you can achieve the goal and then execute it. Yes, it’s that simple. Well, not really so simple. This requires you to constantly grind away at doing the hard, dirty work to reach your goals. This calls for you to work when you are tired, sick, hungover, not in the mood, having a bad day or just want to sit and watch a sports movie.
It is unglamorous and tedious to plod away, day in and day out, but that is the reality of how to succeed. It doesn’t make for good TV or movies watching someone going through all the boring daily tasks needed to get to the next level of their goals. There are no crowds cheering you on as you do paperwork. It’s just you pushing yourself everyday, all the time. That’s the secret. There is no one moment when motiviation hits you and everything falls into place. It’s the thousands of hours doing mundane boring tasks that slowly and methodically get you one step closer to succeeding.
For example, when you are seeking out a new job, if your plan is to wait for the right moment to feel motivated, you will never start and, consequently, remain stuck in the same old, dead-end position. The trick is take the first step, whether you feel motivated or not. Spruce up your résumé and update your LinkedIn profile. Then, take the next step of searching for jobs online and send out your résumé. After that, call a couple of recruiters and set up meetings. Seek out colleagues, former co-workers, mentors and others who can turn you on to new opportunities. Read about which companies are hiring and which ones are downsizings. Keep adding new steps every day.
When you feel tired, rundown, weak and beaten up by life, don’t give up and hide in your bed under the covers waiting for some divine intervention of motivation to strike. Toughen yourself, get out of bed and push forward, even if every fiber in your being is telling you to quit. This is what they don’t tell you in the costly seminars and Hollywood version of life.
You have to keep striving, even though mentally and emotionally you don’t want to. It is an ironic contradiction and paradox. It will feel as if you are going against the tide—and you are. You will have to get used to striving for a goal and doing all of the unpleasant work (while not feeling motivated). It’s not easy, but nobody ever became successful by taking the easy path.