One of the most frequent questions I encounter in my practice as a Health Coach is about motivation. Whether my clients or even my friends and family, people ask me a lot what is the secret to being motivated to do all that we know we should do and is important to us.
Whatever our goal is, either to lose weight, find a new job, start an exercise routine, learn a new language or improve our marriage, it is often easy to know what we should do in order to achieve it. And even if we don´t seem to know exactly what to do, in this internet era we all have access to vast amount of information which makes it a matter of “Googling” a question to get the answer. “Do you want to lose weight? Top 10 diets that will make you lose pounds within days”, “Problems in marriage? Practical guide to be the perfect wife”, “Entrepreneurship 101: How to launch your own business and not die trying”, and the list goes on, no matter the goal we set, Google will show us the steps to achieve it.
And yet, many people seem to keep struggling to achieve their goals. Why? Well, the problem is not about what we know or don’t know. The problem is about closing the gap between knowing and doing, this is, between knowledge and action. We all have heard the phrase “information is power”, and it is true to some extent; its great conditioning is action. Information is power if and only if it triggers action. And this is where we ask ourselves: How can we go then from information to action?
If this was an easy task, many of the problems we have nowadays wouldn’t exist: We would eat what we know we should eat, we would do the exercise routine we know would keep us healthier, we would seek that job we know is a better fit for us, we would work on that project we know we must finish, we would be the most loving wife we know we are capable of being, etc. The problem is, even when we know what we need to do in order to achieve our goals, for some reason we don´t seem to get into action. We wake up in the morning of that day when we promised we would start taking action, but suddenly we don’t feel motivated. We don’t have the energy to do it, so we say that phrase we’ve all said before: “I’ll start tomorrow”. That’s it, today was a difficult day to start, but tomorrow it will be different. Tomorrow I’ll start, without fail. But the days go by and every morning we wake up again without the motivation to do what we know we should do. Procrastination, anyone?
So the main problem is with the concept we all have about motivation. According to Wikipedia, motivation is “an internal state that activates, directs and maintains behaviour”. Up to here, we are fine. Motivation is that impulse that urges us to take action. The problem is that we think that motivation is a necessary ingredient in taking action, so while we feel motivated, everything goes wonderfully, we do everything we have set our minds to do, but when we lack motivation, we feel confused and discouraged so we decide to postpone the action and wait until we feel motivated again to continue. But motivation is a state of mind – a momentum – temporary and volatile, so it is not constant in time. And this should be fine, because actually motivation is not a necessary ingredient to take action. I love how Mel Robbins – an American writer, expert on the subject – exposes this dilemma on motivation:
“Motivation is garbage. I think we have all fallen into this lie that we have to feel ready in order to change. We have fallen into this complete falsehood that at some point, we will have the courage, at some point we will have confidence and it is a total lie. We all have incredible ideas and what we think is missing is motivation. And that’s not true because that’s not how our brains work. For the simple fact that we are human beings we are not designed to do things that are uncertain, difficult, uncomfortable or frightening. In fact, our brain is designed to protect us from these things. Because the goal of our brain is to keep us alive. And in order to change, in order to build a business, in order to be the best mother, the best wife, in order to do everything we know we want to do with our life, with our work, with our dreams, we’re going to have to do things that are difficult, uncertain or frightening, which sets up a problem for all of us: We will never feel like it. Motivation is garbage.”
So, what is then the secret of moving from knowledge into action if motivation is not the key? Once we understand that motivation is not a necessary ingredient in taking action, we free ourselves from having to wait for the right moment, the moment when we will finally feel ready to take action. The famous slogan from arguably the most famous brand worldwide, Nike, has got the answer all this time: “Just do it”.
So, that’s it. It seems more complex, but in reality the secret to move from knowledge into action is quite simple, it is just to act. According to Mel Robbins, there is a micro-moment – of only a few seconds – in which once our brain conceives an idea, for example “I am going to the gym”, we must move immediately into action otherwise those seconds of hesitation between going or not going to the gym, between taking or not taking action, our brain will perceive that micro-moment of hesitation as a threat to our survival, so it will try to talk us out of that action in order to keep us alive. This, is then the secret to move from knowledge into action: Catch ourselves during that micro-moment of hesitation and decide to take action immediately. Hugh Laurie says it best:
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
This doesn’t mean that taking action will be easy, it will probably involve an extra effort on our part. Sometimes more than others. For these special occasions, I like to recommend to my clients, friends and family some of the tips that have served me the most to take action especially in those moments where the motivation is so inexistent that even the simplest task feels like going against the stream:
1. Be honest with yourself: It’s okay to not be ok. We don’t have to pretend to other people that we’re okay if we’re not. Let’s be honest, especially with ourselves and then with others. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, they are trying to tell you something. Listen to them.
2. Socialize: Go out, don’t isolate yourself. Surround yourself with people who love you and support you and help you go through these difficult times.
3. Take action: Read inspiring books, see a therapist, get blood checks to make sure there is nothing physical causing your low energy, take some classes you enjoy like yoga, meditation, dancing, pilates, etc. Do whatever you feel inspired to do, this will help you get out of your mind and take action.
So now you know, forget about motivation! Motivation is not a necessary ingredient to take action. It is proven that the happiest, most productive and successful people don’t wait to feel motivated in order to act, they just do what they have to do. Pay special attention to enjoy the action itself, that is, no matter what you do, try to have fun doing it. When you bring fun and passion to everything you do, you literally become a magnet so more good things can come into your life. Many of us wait to feel motivated before taking action, and we don’t realize that it is actually the fact of taking action that allows motivation to flow.
Now, tell me about your experience, have you taken any of these tips? How did it go? What other tools have you tried to take action especially during the most demotivating days?
With all my love,