Zig Ziglar said: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” It’s a classic line from a legendary speaker. If I had to guess the cause of Zig’s zinger, my money would be that it was his retort to a challenge from a skeptical audience member. I want to take a slightly different view here to make a point.
Motivation and inspiration are different. External forces, like speakers, books, audio programs, conferences, and other types of content can inspire you. That inspiration may light a spark inside of you, motivating you to start pursuing something you hadn’t before pursued. It might also inspire you to try something again or to persist instead of giving up. Inspiration may provide motivation, but motivation isn’t found in things external. It’s internal.
The word motive means that something provides a reason or inspiration for one to act. While people can inspire you, they cannot motivate you. What motivates one to act comes from inside.
What Do You Want
If you pay attention to motivated people, you will notice they “want” something. They may want something for themselves, or they may want something for someone else. It is the fact that they want something with a strong enough desire to pursue it without requiring an external force to spur them to action means they are motivated. The motive is the desire for something to be different than it is now.
There may be nothing more frustrating than wanting something for someone who doesn’t want it for themselves. But for one to be motivated, they have to want something themselves.
If you have ever wondered with force, the threat of force, or a transactional leadership approaches fail, it’s because the leader wants something that the person they are trying to motivate doesn’t want. One transactional approach is to say, “If you do this, I will give you more money.” If the person who is offered more money were motivated by money, they’d already have more money; they’d already be driven by the prospects of acquiring something they already want.
If you don’t have written goals, you either don’t want something, which also means you are caught in “the drift,” or you haven’t done the work to decide what you want your life to look like now and in the future. The greater clarity you have around your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. But if you sincerely want to reach your goals, you have to want something so badly that you will do what is necessary to possess it.
Inspiration may provide the want. Wanting provides motivation. Discipline ensures the outcome.
Motivation is easy at the beginning. You want something, you take action, and you start moving towards your goal or your ambition. At some point, the excitement wears off, and you hit a plateau. You recognize you are no longer progressing, and your motivation wanes. You no longer have the same fire you once had. You may need to seek inspiration, but that is a short-term fix. What you need is discipline.
To breakthrough, you must have the self-discipline to keep after what you want even when it feels as if you are no longer making progress. Disciplines are what allow you to persist long enough for you to make enough progress that your motivation returns.
Motivation doesn’t last. But your disciplines (or habits, if you prefer) are what sustains your effort and ensures you persist until you obtain what you want.