How many times have you said the phrase “I don’t feel like it”?
How many times have you talked yourself out of doing things—things that you know you should do—just because you didn’t “feel like it”?
More than you can count? You’re not alone.
Last year I sent out a survey to my email subscribers asking them what their biggest challenges were. The number one biggest challenge was time management, which I talked about here. The second biggest challenge that people seemed to struggle with was motivation, which I’m going to talk about today.
Here are a few responses I received related to problems with motivation:
- “I tend to have this huge surge of motivation and will have an incredibly productive day. However, in the following days, I tend to slip and then be super lazy.”
- “The biggest challenge I face is emotional slumps and setbacks.”
- “…complete lack of motivation.”
- And multiple variations of finding motivation to study, exercise, wake up early, etc.
In that first post that I wrote about time management I made the following statement:
“After spending a lot of time thinking about this problem, I’ve realized that the problem for me (and many of you, it seems) is not a lack of motivation or drive, but perhaps it’s too much motivation and drive.”
But now that I’m re-visiting the topic, I think I was wrong. At least partially.
You see, I don’t think the main problem is that we have too much motivation or too little motivation. In fact, I don’t think the problem is related to motivation at all.
We all have days when we’re feeling motivated and days when we’re not.
No one is 100% motivated ALL the time.
Tim Ferriss, one of my biggest role models, has done some awesome things with his life, but despite everything that he’s managed to accomplish, one of my favorite things about him is the fact that he’s not afraid to admit that even he struggles with the same problems as the rest of us (including motivation).
In one of his posts, he once said:
“Most ‘superheroes’ are nothing of the sort. They’re weird, neurotic creatures who do big things DESPITE lots of self-defeating habits and self-talk.”
You see, the only difference between people who get what they want in life and those who don’t is that those who get what they manage to do so despite the “emotional slumps and setbacks” that they face.
They know that it doesn’t matter how they feel on any given day. Whether they’re feeling on top of the world or down in the dumps, they continue to take action and get their shit done, one way or another.
Now, I do believe that it’s possible (and necessary) to create a long-lasting motivation that underlies all of your actions by defining your “why’s.” Having a deep understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing will give you a reason to wake up in the morning every day and keep chugging along, no matter how bumpy the road might get.
But the point is that the road will get bumpy, no matter what.
Even with a strong underlying motivation, there will still be days when you “just don’t feel like it.” There will still be days when you don’t feel motivated. And while remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing will help you push through those days, the fact remains that those days are bound to come.
There’s simply no way around it. It’s the inevitable nature of being human. It’s one of those (many) things that are out of our control.
What you have to remember is that these things come and go. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, motivation, inspiration… They all come and go.
There’s no point in trying to control them. Instead, what you should do is focus on the one thing that you can control. The one thing that you will always be in complete control of: your actions.
We’ll talk about how to do that in just a second, but first let’s talk about something that’s not helping your cause…
The “F” Bomb
A few weeks ago I watched a TED talk called “How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over” by Mel Robbins. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it and I’ve watched it at least 3 times since then.
Mel begins by explaining how insane it is that one third of Americans, or 100 million people, are dissatisfied with their lives right now… despite having all the information that they could possibly need (thanks to the Internet) to get whatever it is that they want in their lives.
As Derek Sivers once said, “If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
So we know that information is clearly not the problem.
The main problem, and what it all comes down, according to Mel, is one word: F*©#.
You hear it all the time, but there’s nothing good about it.
It doesn’t make you sound smart, and it doesn’t express how you really feel. “It’s sort of a cheap shot to take,” Mel says.
I have to admit that even I’m guilty of using it sometimes…
Of course, she’s talking about the word “FINE.”
Not only do we use this word to lie to others about how we’re actually feeling when they ask us how we’re doing, but we also say it to ourselves. And this is the bigger issue.
When we lie to ourselves, when we tell ourselves that we’re fine with the way things are, we convince ourselves that we’re fine with not going after what we really want. Which is why we’re not pushing ourselves. Because we’ve already given up.
This is completely unacceptable.
You’re Not Fine, You’re FANTASTIC
In her TED talk, Mel says that scientists have calculated the odds of you being born—at the moment in time you were born, to the parents you were born to, with the DNA structure that you have—to be the following:
1:400,000,000,000,000 (that’s 1 in 400 trillion).
Let me repeat that. The odds of YOU being born are 1 in 400 trillion.
You’re not fine, you’re FANTASTIC.
Now, if you’re a skeptic like me, you might be wondering how accurate those numbers really are. Well, I did a quick Google search and came across an article by Dr. Binazir on his Harvard blog in which he performed his own calculation.
He begins by calculating the odds of your dad meeting your mom (1 in 20,000), multiplied by the chances of them staying together long enough to have kids (1 in 2,000), and so on.
Ultimately, he concludes that the probability of you existing to be 1 in 102,685,000 (that’s a 10 followed by 2,685,000 zeroes).
In other words…
The odds of you being alive are basically ZERO.
Of course, even Dr. Binazir acknowledges that “the probability of sentient life is not something that can be measured accurately, and hundreds of steps have been deleted for simplicity.”
But that’s not the point.
“…no matter how you slice it, it’s pretty remarkable that you and I, self-absorbed scallywags that we are, stand at the end of an unbroken chain of life going all the way back to the primordial slime. That’s the point,” says Dr. Binazir.
I’ve said before that not going after what you really want is selfish, because as long as you’re not being true to yourself, you can never be your BEST self, and this hurts everyone.
You’re meant to do great things in life. We all are. We’re all in that 1 in 400 trillion category.
So yeah, stop being so damn selfish, stop being “fine,” and start doing SOMETHING.
Getting What You Want Is Simple (But Not Easy)
The simple truth is that you’re never going to feel like doing the things you need to do in order get the things you want to get.
In order to get what you want to get, you have to FORCE yourself.
It’s that simple (but not easy).
In her talk, Mel says, “Anything that is a break from your routine will require force… Scientists call it activation energy — the force required to change from what you’re doing on autopilot to doing something new.”
And this is exactly why I spend so much time on this site talking about the importance of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Because in order to get what you want to get, you have to learn to want to do the things that you don’t feel like doing – the things that most people don’t want to do.
You can’t sit around waiting till you feel like it. It’s never going to happen.
There’s a quote from one of my favorite books, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, that has forever changed the way I think about inspiration (or motivation):
“Someone once asked Somerset Maughham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.””
Sitting around waiting for inspiration/motivation/some other mystical force to strike is a great way to never get what you want.
To summarize Mel’s argument, to get what you want requires the following:
- FORCE Yourself OUT Of your Head: “If you’re in your head, you’re behind enemy lines. That is not God talking…”
- FORCE Yourself PAST Your Feelings: “If you listen to how you feel when it comes to what you want, you will not get it, because you will never feel like it…”
- FORCE Yourself OUTSIDE Your Comfort Zone: “You need to get outside your comfort zone… that’s where the magic happens. That’s where the 1 in 400 trillion exists.”
– Mel Robbins
Or don’t… and join the other 100 million Americans who are dissatisfied with their lives.
The choice is yours.
Tony Robbins once said: “The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.”
The reason most people fail to take action is because they associate more pain with taking action than not taking action.
But if you reverse this, and start associating more pain with not taking action, then it will become nearly impossible to not go after what you really want in life.
Because then it’s simply a matter of choosing between voluntary short-term pain (doing what’s hard) and enjoying long-term life satisfaction vs. short-term comfort (doing what’s easy) and suffering from long-term involuntary pain. The worst pain of all — the eternal pain of regret.
Choose: voluntary short-term pain for long-term life satisfaction OR short-term comfort for long-term involuntary pain. – Tweet This
I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty easy choice for me.
What Can I Do For You?
At the very end of her TED talk, Mel says, “If I can do anything to make you do the things you don’t want to do, so you can have what you want, I will do it. But you need to walk over, you need to open your mouth, and you need to make the request.”
Today, I want to make the same offer.
If there’s anything I can do to help you go after whatever it is that you want in your life, let me know. You don’t even need to get out of the chair you’re sitting in right now or open your mouth. All you need to do is leave a comment below.
P.S. Be sure to watch Mel’s entire TED Talk here. I promise it will be well worth your time.