Motivation: How To Use It Correctly

At the end of one year, about ten percent of people are still on board with their New Year’s Resolution, according to Dr. Jim Taylor.

My New Year’s Resolution: To provide an alternative to trying to change once a year using a heavily flawed, proven-to-fail method.

The reason I’m not writing about this closer to New Year’s day is that many of you have already failed your New Year’s Resolution(s).  This hopefully means you’re receptive for a new idea.  In addition, I can write about New Year’s whenever I want to.  😀

So maybe you’re already on board with believing New Year’s Resolutions to be pointless.  Great, but do you understand why they don’t work?

Abusing Motivation

When you abuse something, it loses appeal.  It is degraded.  It is weakened.  New Year’s Resolutions abuse motivation.  Motivation is temporary in nature while New Year’s Resolutions are long-term goals.  You’ll see why this is a problem later.

Motivation has a profoundly negative effect on our lives when we abuse it.  Unlike other failures, a motivation-based failure to achieve a goal does more harm than good because it is not something we naturally learn from.  It is evidence in our minds that we don’t have what it takes to be who we want to be.  Of course this is not true, but it is difficult to believe in yourself after repeated internal failure.

A newly motivated mind considers previous instances of motivation and what results came of it.  Imagine a person with a success rate of 95% when they are motivated to do something.  At 95%, motivation is strong because the perceived likelihood of success is very high.  Now replace that with a 20% success rate – motivation suffers.

Motivation Is A Cannibal

It feeds upon itself and works best when it works.

I bet that was confusing to read.  Allow me to explain that mess.

Motivation is best created under probable conditions of success.  In other words, don’t be motivated to lose 100 pounds, be motivated to lose 2 pounds.  If you think this is a small difference, then I BEG you to reconsider for your own good.  Here is how each one usually turns out.

The Grand New Year’s Resolution: Decide to lose 100 pounds this year

You weigh 300 starting out and the goal is 200.  This would be an incredible accomplishment!  You start out ready to do it.  You are so motivated that you lose 10 pounds in the first month.  You kick it up a notch and lose 15 more the next month.  You are well on your way!

Weight Loss MotivationInto the 3rd month you’ve lost 35 pounds, but you sprain your ankle and have to rest.  You gain some weight back.  You lose focus on the goal for a while and try to get back into it, but at 8 months you’ve only lost 40 pounds and you know you won’t reach the goal.

You finish the year at 270 pounds.  You’re mentally worn out from trying to get to 100 and let yourself gain a lot of the weight back.  Now you’re certain you’ll never be able to lose weight.

Tuesday Afternoon At McDonalds: Decide to lose 2 pounds whenever

You weigh 300 starting out and the goal is 298.  You lose 2 pounds the first week and are naturally encouraged to lose 3 more pounds.  Next week, done!  Now you’re feeling really good, having accomplished two motivation-based goals, and want to see if you can lose 5 more pounds to get to 290.  This trend continues into the third month when you sprain your ankle.  You have to rest for a while and even gain back some of the weight from before.

You recognize the setback and adjust the goal to lose 5 pounds from your current weight and accomplish it in 3 weeks.  This process continues and you end up accomplishing 23 small weight-loss goals during the year.  When you’re reflecting on the past year, you realize that you have lost 40 pounds and weigh 260!  You know that if you just keep this up, you’ll be right where you want to be in no time.  So you set your next goal – 255….

Results

The reason that the small goal-setter continued on is that he did not have to keep re-motivating himself for the same goal.  This is tiring and extremely difficult to do, especially for lofty goals.  Instead, he motivated himself for goals he knew he could accomplish. Each of the 23 goal intervals on the way to 260 was met with a great feeling of success.  His motivation for the next goal fed off of his results for the previous goals (cannibal!).  He knew to expect success when he set a goal, and it excited him.

So be careful with motivation.  It is extremely powerful when used effectively and a major drain when it is not.  It is still good to set challenging goals, because the sense of accomplishment is greater.  Push yourself, but don’t overdo it.  If you push yourself too hard and fail once, you have the support of succeeding with 25 others.  If you make one huge goal a year and fail, it pounds your confidence into the ground.

Have you been using motivation correctly?  Let me know in the comments what you think.  I’ll leave you with this quote, which sums up 100 pounds (results) vs. 2 pounds (small change) very well.

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” ~Jack Dixon

 

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Chris Kahler @ Bloggeritus

Great post Stephen! I have an idea similar with this, but from the action point of view. A lot of established marketers have mentioned the term “massive action” which people mistake for making a huge step in a business. Really this isn’t the case, but is rather a combination of many smaller steps headed in one direction.

Just as you mentioned above how motivation feeds off of itself, so do the actions that result from it. Take the two and put them together and you’re massively getting things done!

Take Care,
Chris

Chris Kahler @ Bloggeritus

I think I’m going to do a similar follow up post on the sister topic of this: inspiration. The difference in the two is what ties in with them. Motivation and action tie together, inspiration and decision tie together. All in all you create commitment, which is what keeps you on track. I’ll be sure to drop in a mention for this blog post, as I feel it’s a needed read 🙂

sguise

I like the massive action concept you brought up. From everything I know about getting things done, that is definitely the way to do it. I look forward to reading your post on the sister topic. That sounds interesting! Thanks for your input Chris.

Chris Kahler @ Bloggeritus

Working on it now, and giving you some link love in the process lol.

sguise

I love link love. lol

Amy

This is a great post. I’m working on getting back into running after a year-long lay off. Right now, finishing a half-marathon feels daunting, so I’ve been putting off running. But running twice this week? That is a goal I can actually accomplish! Thanks for breaking it down for me! 🙂

sguise

Amy,

That is a great example of how this works. I think the key thing it does is help us to live in the present moment. You cannot fully train for a half-marathon in one day, but you can still accomplish a lot towards that goal. I’m going to look at my life right now and see what I can apply this to.

So my post inspired you to inspire me. Cool!

Riley Harrison

I like it. It keeps you in the present and focussed on detailed manageable progress. Grandiose goals can be overwhelming and feeling overwhelmed isn’t a good feeling “If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” That is a great quote Mr. Dixon should get a gold star for that one.
Riley

sguise

Hey Riley,
I’m glad you liked it. I like it too but I’m hopelessly biased. Maybe we could email Jack a gold star? I have no idea who he is, but I loved the quote and it fit perfectly.

Denys Yeo

Good post. Big picture goals are important, but they need to be broken down into small doable steps; then you will give yourself the best chance of getting there!

Ashvini

These are some great tips for keeping motivated. However resolve plays a strong role in reaching the goal. I reduced a lot of weight by walking a lot and doing yog(a). Thanks for sharing your tips

sguise

Absolutely Denys! Thanks for contributing. 🙂

sguise

That’s a great point about resolve. So the best bet may be setting small goals towards achieving a greater goal. That makes a lot of sense. I love yoga by the way. Thanks Ashvini!

Ashvini

Hi Stephan,
I should have read ‘about'(what was I thinking 😉 ). In there, You clearly said that you like Yoga. Glad to make the connection with you.

Thanks and have a great day.
Ashvini

Amy

It’s a crazy, inspirational cycle! 🙂

A. Irvin

This is awesome advice – especially in regard to goals such as weight loss. I just returned from a 20 hour road trip (NY to FL) and it was quite helpful to only think of the shorter intervals (planned stops) versus the entire drive 🙂

sguise

That is quite the drive! I have trouble with 4 hour drives sometimes! Long distance driving is not for me. My parents drive pickup trucks all around the United States though.

It seems like this advice can be applied to many different areas of life, which is nice. Anyways, I’m glad it helped you!

sguise

Reading my about page isn’t required here, so no hard feelings Ashvini! 😀 Do you do yoga at home or a gym? I do it at home with P90X yoga.

Marco Lee

I think motivation is not the key… It is about tracking your results.

A person must strive for discipline: To keep him in track, to journal his endeavor, to find change and grow for it.

Chris Kahler @ Bloggeritus

But will a person follow through to track their results if they aren’t motivated by what tracking the results will eventually bring to them?

Marco Lee

oooh. I left my gravatar off 😀

Marco Lee

That is why discipline and focus is what really needed. Plus enough inspiration. Inspiration is the igniter and Motivation is the driver. (http://bit.ly/ajsi2p)

I heard that self help is false because we can’t really help ourselves lol. Most are not that disciplined to really push themselves. Maybe if we can let others know of our goals, then maybe they can help. A wingman perhaps or a partner in crime. 😀

Chris Kahler @ Bloggeritus

I agree with you on that… honestly, if you think about it there really isn’t a single “key” more like a key chain of a bunch of keys lol. One to open your house, one to start your car, one for the office…. lol but in terms of success rather than general life though.

Chris Kahler @ Bloggeritus

It’s kind of funny you posted that blog post of yours… I wrote one just the other day that pretty much says the same exact thing, that inspiration is needed to start towards something and motivation is what allows you to follow through on the inspired commitment

sguise

Marco,

Chris is right, there are a plethora of things that combine to help us live better. This article was only about how to use motivation most effectively. I don’t think self help is “false” because I’ve already helped myself and others change for the better.

The problem with most self help is people try to treat the symptoms. That doesn’t change anything in the long term. We must look at the roots – our perspective and beliefs. We will always act according to our beliefs in the long run.

sguise

I think discipline and motivation are both important. Like Chris said, you need at least a small amount of motivation to be disciplined. I will admit there are definitely times when motivation is lacking and discipline helps tremendously to keep going, but even then you need to be motivated to have that discipline.

Ashvini

Hehe!!!
I do Yoga at home 3-4 times a week each for 40 mins. Previously, I used to goto gym and work very hard but the kind of job I had (consulting) made sure that I got that weight back on me as soon as I left the gym for a short time.
I tried various weight losing techniques but did not work. I once got hold of the http://www.amazon.com/Light-Yoga-B-K-Iyengar/dp/0805210318 this book. This is a masterpiece. It is absolutely not possible to finish this book ( need a lifetime or more).
Walking and yoga has worked sustainably for me . I have lost a lot of weight and actually now its a downhill for losing weight. I do less and lose more. Yoga is awesome when done regularly.
You may want to check out his other books as well( but they talk more of philosophy of ancient Indian culture, if you are interested).

It is nice talking to you.
Thanks and best regards,
Ashvini

Ramcel | The Meek Watcher

I couldn’t agree more. I have to retweet this. I have slightly worked around about this topic on one of my previous post http://bit.ly/mS1j94 discussing about things that every newbie blogger should know before starting a blog. I missed to emphasize about motivation which could have made it more solid. So I thank you for coming up with this highly relevant topic. Cheers!

sguise

Hi Ramcel,

Motivation is a key part of blogging and life! You had some good tips in that article, especially the first one – having a reason to start a blog. I think the motivation comes from having a reason and purpose for blogging.

I imagine that’s why most bloggers fail – they start without a solid reason and purpose, and then realize that not everybody in the world wants to read about their trip to the mall last Saturday. Thanks for your thoughts!

alfa 4c

I liked when you said that motivation “feeds on itself”. I found that to be very… let’s say poetical in part, and philosophical in the other part. As far as I know from own humble life experience, motivation feeds on two things: the first is the need. The need to get something you don’t have but you think that you need. And the second nutrient for motivation is the mind’s awareness of the probability for your motivation to lead into getting that thing that you need. If you think you don’t stand a chance, motivation would equal to zero, and you won’t even try to get it.

But what do you do when life (which is the best teacher) teaches you that you don’t really need that much like you thought you did, and finally you learn to let go. You practically give up on some things that you used to believe you needed, but now you think you don’t. And you end up by advancing to a (maybe) higher level of understanding and you finally give up to even wanting many of the things you used to. How do you motivate yourself then? In my case, giving up at trying stupidly to obtain things I didn’t really need brought me more time and peace of mind, things that are quite valuable to me. But caring for other people around me, motivated me to do something and provide them what they thought they needed, even if in my opinion they did not need those things.

So my conclusion is that motivation feeds on our needs to achieve our goals. We are driven by our goals, which are in fact our reasons for performing some actions, our motivation.

Georgia

Amazing post! You definitely have a future as a blogger – that rivalled some of the better posts on Steve Pavlina or Pick The Brain. I’m in love with this site!
I’m a huge perfectionist so I have the tendency to look at people and say “I want to be like that”, and try to force myself to change. Of course it never works and I get into a rut of feeling terrible about myself. I love that last quote, it’s given me a new way to think about progress in improving yourself… so thanks! Keep it up 🙂

Stephen Guise

Thanks very much Georgia! I love Steve Pavlina’s content, so I take that as a huge compliment.

You’re right, looking at something you want for yourself makes you desire immediate results and leads to the wrong frame of mind. Unless of course, like now, you understand what it actually takes (focus on changing) to get those results!

I’m really happy you enjoy the blog and I hope you’ll stick around and share your perspective. 🙂

~ Stephen

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