Motivation is a crock

Photo of man dozing next to his laptopThere. I said it. Motivation is a crock.

Willpower is too.

Motivation is fickle. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes not. Waiting for it to wander back into your life means you’re not doing the things you really do want to do. If only you “felt like it.”

Willpower. Gritting your teeth and forcing yourself forward. Exhausting. And when you’re exhausted, just how much can you actually do, or do well? Plus, willpower tends to breed resentment. That tooth-gritting thing means you’re doing it because you feel like you have to or you should. Resentment is almost inevitable.

So what else is there? What will move you forward to do the things you know you want to do … even if right at this moment, you don’t really WANT to do them?

My husband and I were digging into this over the weekend. We ended up talking about the dog, as one does … especially when she has her head in your lap, puppy-eyes gazing up at you and begging to be petted.

I asked him: why do you walk the dog, even when it’s cold, dark, and raining, and you really do NOT want to?

Because he loves her. Because he wants a good, healthy, happy dog. Because she is a good dog, and she deserves to be properly cared for.

Dedication, commitment, and devotion. 

What are you dedicated to? What have you committed to? What are you devoted to?

You don’t have to want to do the things necessary to stay dedicated, committed, and devoted. You do them because you are dedicated, you are committed, you are devoted.

And if you can’t get yourself to do the things you need to do to honor the dedication, stay true to your commitment, and keep the devotion alive, then ask yourself this: 

Is this something I really want?

Not in the sense of “I want to binge-watch Netflix,” or “I want a cookie.” In the sense of, this is truly an aspiration, a sincere desire.

And not the next necessary task, either. My husband doesn’t want to do the task – walking the dog when it’s dark, cold, and rainy.

It’s the result that’s wanted.  And the result isn’t necessarily a goal – an end point. It can be an ongoing process, like having a happy, healthy dog.

Or having a career that brings you joy, a sense of meaning, and a rewarding lifestyle.

Stop seeking motivation.

Stop relying on willpower.

Ask yourself, every day if necessary:

What am I dedicated to? What matters to me? What values am I striving to live?

What am I committed to? What promises have I made to myself? Am I honoring them?*

What am I devoted to? What moves me, even if I don’t talk about it? How do I nurture meaning in my life?

Don’t wait for motivation, or rely too heavily on willpower. 

Figure out what matters. And do what needs to be done because it matters. Not because you’re motivated, or because you can grit your teeth and force yourself.

*(Yes, it’s important to honor commitments to others, of course. But it’s even more important to honor the commitments you make to yourself. Do you trust yourself to do so?)


If you liked this post, you might like this article: “Is that fair?”

And you also might find the Change Leadership workshop of interest, including the video on that page defining the core reasons for resistance to change. 


gljudson Career development, Self-talk