In a podcast interview I did last year, I shared my opinion that motivation is overrated. In the modern western world we live in, we overemphasize the importance of willpower and feeling ‘motivated’ in order to achieve our goals.
In truth, as I wrote in a recent blog, we constantly do things without feeling motivated to do them. We get up to go to work, we fill out quarterly accounts, we meet with friends without feeling like it (regardless of whether we start enjoying ourselves once we are in their company). We get up early to take our children to school, cook food even if we are tired after work, attend work events in the evenings while we would rather be at home and so on.
We often get angry with ourselves when we are not able to motivate ourselves to do the things that are good for us:
“Why I am not going to the gym, even though I am paying membership?”
“I know that eating healthy will make me fitter, happier and healthier. Why then do I continue eating junk food?’
“ I know what I need to do in order to succeed financially in my business. Why then am I not doing it?”
The answer to these questions, often lies in the fact that we lack awareness of the things we are running away from. Human motivation is slightly more complex than the popular idea that either we are motivated or not, and that when we are not we just have to make up for that lack of motivation with a strong dose of willpower.
When we have clarity about what we want and how to go about getting it, and we still don’t take action to achieve our goals, this often points to a ‘disagreement’ on an unconscious level. Somehow we haven’t convinced our unconscious mind yet that achieving this goal will solve our problems. There is still a part of us which lives in doubt.
Contrary to common belief, motivation is not always a magnetic force. We are not just motivated to achieve the things we really want. We are also motivated to run away from the things we don’t want. And these two forces often clash.
Money is a good example of an emotive topic which evokes strong emotions, whether they are towards attracting it, or away from its lack. If you find yourself not able to do the things you need to do in order to achieve your financial goals, ask yourself whether you are running away from poverty and lack instead of being motivated to achieve wealth.
If the avoidance of anything that can vaguely be related to an experience of poverty drives you forward, then you might self-sabotage when you will be called to do the very things you will have to do in order to succeed. You will avoid taking any risks, even those risks every business owner will need to take at some point; your mind will be set on protecting and preserving the status quo of your current life, rather than looking for opportunities for growth.
Such ‘away from’ emotions are often related to past experiences which are colouring and influencing our lives on an unconscious level. Like a sponge, they have absorbed experiences of a similar emotional content which confirm our early adopted bias. While this is largely unhelpful on the longer term, they have served a purpose in helping us, like an internal compass, navigate a complex and often confusing word.
So next time you feel you should be motivated to achieve something, but don’t seem to put the effort in order to do it, ask yourself what it is you are running away from. Becoming aware of the things we are often running away from, is key to our self-sabotaging behaviour, imposter syndrome and ultimately, our success.