You Are Misunderstanding Motivation

Treat Thompson



This is a republishing of The Steady Fella Newsletter. Twice a month readers use the timeless insights on passion, productivity, philosophy, and happiness from this newsletter to build towards the life they want.

What we’ll learn (in 4 minutes):

👨‍🏫 Topic: How to TRULY master motivation

🔍 Quote: Maya Angelou on a common tragedy we do to ourselves

📜 Passage: General Jim Mattis on why your personal experiences aren’t enough in life

How to Master Motivation to Achieve Your Goals

We all want motivation on our side to help achieve our goals. But a common misunderstanding of it is probably holding you back.

Most people think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task it gradually becomes easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.

The resistance we face comes before we start, not while we’re working. So to master motivation we should focus on making starting easier.

Make Starting Easier

1. Schedule it

One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it.

When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.

An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”

2. Measure Something

It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.

3. Make it Public

Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.

The goals that matter the most are oftentimes long-term processes. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation of consistency.

These techniques will help you maintain interest in your goals and achieve them in a sustainable fashion.

How to Stay Motivated Long-term

1. Stay in Your Goldilocks Zone

The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.

For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging.

The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.

2. Pursue Intrinsically Motivated Goals

Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within.

For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.

3. Pursue Your Goals Sustainably

Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.

This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.

Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.

Featured Quote

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. - Maya Angelou

The ultimate goal in life is reaching our potential and achieving fulfillment. When we come to our end we want to be sure we left nothing on the table.

It’s agonizing to suppress your dreams and not live life as your true self.

Featured Passage

We have been fighting on this planet for ten thousand years; it would be idiotic and unethical to not take advantage of such accumulated experiences. If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.