I’ve never struggled with finding the motivation (reasons, desire, enthusiasm) to change, do, or create things. I easily fall down the rabbit hole of motivational articles, books, and pep-talks on YouTube. It’s always cool to feel that exciting new things lay ahead.
However, I can get stuck at that motivation stage.
I want to work towards a goal, on breaking a bad habit, or making a good habit, and then what do I do? I seek some extra inspiration. So I do a little more research. Watch a few more videos. Read another book. You know, just to really reinforce those good intentions.
But there’s a problem with this.
When we’re stuck looking for motivation, we can sabotage everything. Because the truth is, we don’t need more motivation.
“Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.” – James Clear
In seeking the motivation to do positive things, we can overthink, overcomplicate, and overwhelm our good intentions. Somewhere along the line, the drive for motivation results in a lack of action. Because it drowns the true requirement for progress…simple clarity.
We need to be clear on where we want to get. And we need to have a plan for how we’re going to get from where we are to where we want to go.
A Journey Without a Plan
It would be crazy to start a car journey without a plan for which way you need to go in order to arrive in the right place.
No matter how motivated you are to get in the car and drive, without a clear plan, the odds of arriving in the right place are heavily stacked against you. Why bother setting out on the journey when you could literally end up anywhere?
When we start by seeking motivation, we are more likely to begin with tactics. Our focus moves to what people closest to the destination appear to be doing. What are they doing? How are they dressed? What are they focussed on?
There’s an old adage that says you should dress for the job you want. As if that is the difference maker.
But this can leave you pursuing tactics that don’t feed where you really want to go. Chasing fads, hopping on the latest craze, and seeing where it takes us, without plugging our values or vision into it.
So how can we break free of motivation chasing. How can we build more clarity into our endeavours?
Once you’ve identified the goal you want to hit, you don’t need more motivation. No more books, articles, or TED talks. You need a clear and simple plan.
However it feels, you don’t actually need motivation to get fit and healthy. You just need clarity on the next step.
What vehicle are you going to use? And how are you going to navigate?
For example, the vehicle is exercise, and you’ll navigate through the gym three times a week. Decide when you’re going over the next 7 days. Then do it. Don’t worry about what you’ll do when you get there.
Just go. The rest will take care of itself.
Don’t Chase The Feeling
“I write by inspiration, but luckily inspiration arrives at nine every morning.” – William Faulkner
We often wait to feel inspired. We hang around, hoping that motivation will suddenly hit. But as Faulkner realised, inspiration is a habit, not a random bolt descended from the heavens. It’s the same with motivation. It is not a feeling, it’s an active and habitual commitment to show up in regular, consistent, small ways.
Don’t look outside of yourself for the right time, the right environment, or the right set of tools. You don’t need to read that latest motivational book, with the belief that it will finally provide you with the missing bit of inspiration.
Just identify the next most important thing that you can do right now to move towards where you want to get. Then take the step. As your foot moves forwards, the motivation will follow. So will the next step. And then the next one.
Strip Away The Complexity
It’s tempting to overcomplicate our goals. To overthink, seek perfection, get bogged down in details etc. And to sabotage our efforts by clouding things with unnecessary planning.
I used to do that as a student. When it came to revising for exams I was an expert self-motivator. I produced some magnificent revision timetables, with intricate colour coding and topic keys. I was very motivated. But that was about as far as I went with revision.
The whole thing felt futile once (if) I started to actually tackle the mountain of work. It suddenly became clear that there was not enough time to get through it all. So I did what any good student would do. I moved to Plan B…I went and played golf. A lot of golf!
Don’t let complexity muddy your path. Whatever destination you need to hit. Whether it’s cleaning the house, finding a birthday present, planning a holiday etc. Ask yourself, what is the single most important thing that I can do right today or this week, to make progress?
Make The Right Thing The Easy Thing To Do
Set yourself up with a clear path forwards.
A good example of this is to leave your workout clothes at the end of your bed so you have to actively choose to not put them on when you wake up. Or leave a book on your pillow, so you have to choose to put it away rather than read it before bed.
Make it as easy as possible to implement the habits you want to change. Remove the barriers so you have clarity on exactly what you need to do next.
You don’t need more motivation. Or inspiration. Or willpower. You need clarity. Clear plans, and a clear next step in the right direction. Now go and do it. Remember that small steps, when strung together, result in big adventures.