Have you ever been excited about a clever new diet, only to have it fail? Have you seen someone promise, through tears, that they would never drink again? Or perhaps you’ve had a female friend that swears to you that she will never go back to that man that is hurting her? It’s perplexing when we “feel” so motivated but still fail. It can leave a person embarrassed and frustrated.
The truth is, motivation is not an emotion. Motivation didn’t fail, emotion did. Emotions rarely have the power to create big changes by themselves. I have met literally hundreds of alcoholics who leave a near-death experience with a heartfelt commitment to change…and yet drink again within weeks. The motivation to quit smoking is rampant, but so many smokers have an incredibly tough time quitting.
Emotions, desires, willpower–they are just a tiny part of motivation with little power to create big changes (excluding “threshold events” which is topic for another date.)
What is Motivation?
Motivation is whatever creates momentum. Motivation is like a car driving north on a freeway. The car is “motivated” to go north. But wait! That’s not motivation if it’s already happening, right? Au Contraire, Mon Frere! That car simply represents the highest level of motion which is when you’re already doing something and all your desires and habits are in line with sustaining that momentum.
On the other hand, an example of the lowest level of motivation might be something like this:
Your aunt gives you a car and says, “Hey, you should go on a trip up north!” She somehow gets you so excited about “Up North” that you decide to go for it. You get in the car and are ready to turn the key. You feel motivated. But does the car even run? Does it have gas? Do you know the way? Is there a road? Is it blocked? More importantly, have you decided what is it about “Up North” that’s engaging enough to keep you going that way?!
Willpower or emotion can be the first part of change, just like turning the ignition in an automobile. But it’s not the biggest part. So it doesn’t make sense to give up or feel ashamed if you don’t arrive at your goal no matter how “motivated” you were—it’s just that you haven’t completely prepared for the trip.
We will find that motivation has several parts to it, and once we begin to understand these key parts of this thing called “motivation”, there is little that can hold us back.