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The Myth of Motivation: How to Get Unstuck



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Many of us get stuck in the trap that motivation is something we need to have first to start or finish a task. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

I am sure you’ve been in situations where your mind wanted to accomplish something, but your body said, “Nope, not today.” It’s almost like you are fighting yourself for the very thing you said you wanted to get done.

Many of us procrastinate until we don’t want to think about the task anymore or unconsciously find something else to do to keep our minds preoccupied.

American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson is famously quoted as saying, “Do the thing, and you will get the energy to do the thing.” In translation, even if you don’t feel like writing or working out now, once you open your laptop and start typing or tie up your running shoes and walk out the door, the energy you are seeking to get it done will come after you start.

Even though this quote was said in the 1800s, science is proving what Emerson noted so many years ago.

Here’s the thing about motivation

For so long scientific research associated the dopamine neurotransmitter with pleasure; however, new research confirms that it is also responsible for motivation.

Many of us wait until we feel inspired or motivated to start a new task or habit. We patiently wait for the dopamine to be released into our brain, hoping it gives us the motivation to work out or start writing that new book. And we all know it rarely comes.

Here’s why: motivation comes after starting a task, not before. So, if you desire to start writing a book or hitting the gym after work – try focusing on what David Allen calls the “2-minute rule.”

The rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

So how does this work? When you want to develop a new habit, just focus on the first 2 minutes of the task, and once you do, the motivation surge comes!

If you want to read more, just focus on opening the book and reading one page. If you desire to run after work, just focus on lacing up your shoes and walking out the door. In both of these examples, you will find that once you get started, the rest of the task will flow quite easily.

The idea behind this strategy is just to start; then, your brain will start working for you, giving you the motivation you yearned for prior to starting the task.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, stated, the greatest amount of friction for any type of new task is in the beginning. But when you set a goal just to lace up your shoes and walk out the door or just open your laptop and start writing – you make it so easy it’s difficult for you to say no.

“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Get clear on what you need to accomplish

Another way to instill motivation for a task you want to complete is getting clear on when you are going to complete it. Schedule the task in your day!

This has been the most significant life hack for my consistent writing and reading every day. In fact, my wife and I have this saying that “if it’s not on the calendar, then it’s not getting done.” So even when we hold family meetings, we pop calendar invites on each other’s calendars because we know how busy life can be.

We have way too many distractions and demands to “hope” you’ll find the time to complete a task. Remember this: It’s not getting done if you don’t tell your brain when.

Instead of waiting around, hoping you will find time to complete a particular task, put the task on your calendar. This tells your brain that you won’t do anything else but this task.

The truth you need to understand about motivation

You’ll find that many people never start a task or pursue a goal because they “never got around to doing it.” But if you schedule your tasks daily – it almost puts your willpower and motivation on auto-pilot regardless if you “feel like doing it or not.”

For example, if you desire to hit the gym every other day after work between 5-6 pm – overtime through each gym session, you will begin to create a routine that creates less friction. And since we are creatures of habit – you will continue to deepen the corresponding neural pathway in your brain, making it easier for this new behavior to stick.

It’s almost like your body will pull you toward the newly established habit because you are consciously ingraining a learned behavior.

Many of us allow circumstances and emotions to unconsciously influence the tasks we hope to accomplish, but if you have a consistent routine – your body will naturally fall into line, making it easier on yourself. 

So in the context of human change, motivation is less about having the sufficient energy to carry out a task. Instead, it’s more about understanding how your body develops its behaviors and actions. Once you gain knowledge of how your body works now, you can adequately guide yourself toward the desires you seek.

Chazz Scott is a mindset & resilience expert. He trains leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals to "unlock their inner wealth" to achieve their potential professionally and personally. Chazz is also the Executive Director & Chief Creative Optimist of Positively Caviar, Inc., a grassroots 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on building mental resilience through positive thinking and optimism to combat mental health stigmas in youth. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area. For more info, check out his weekly blog at or download his latest free workbook to learn how to set better goals and build effective habits: download here.


Here’s Why You Need to Make Motivation Personal



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You put down your self-help book and you feel ready. You are ready to conquer any Herculean task that is standing in your way to success. You are transformed, and you cannot wait to show the world what you are capable of. The next day, you wake up early in the morning. You turn off your phone’s alarm clock with such energy you know you are going to smash the day.  (more…)

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This Isn’t a Disney Movie: No One Is Going to Save You



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I think we’ve all been hypnotized. Hypnotized by movies, books, and stories that we’ve heard growing up as children.

All of these stories can provide a great source of inspiration, but as you grow up, you start to realize reality isn’t necessarily the same. When life doesn’t go right, goals don’t get accomplished, you can’t overcome a bad habit, or when you feel stuck in life – no genie magically comes out of a lamp to save you. (more…)

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A Step by Step Process That Will Help You Make the Impossible, Possible



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We have all been there, looking at something and wishing we had it. The girl, the car, the money, the family, the lifestyle…but then we tell ourselves “Yeah, but that’s not me”. The people who get that are cut from a different cloth and we keep telling ourselves that until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We waste the wings we got believing the entire time that we can’t fly and that it’s impossible for us. We don’t even see our wings most of the time. (more…)

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How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals



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Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.

What is Motivation?

The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.

Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).

Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.

However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals. 

How to Get Motivated

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.

This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.

4 Ways to Make Starting Easier

1. Schedule it

One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it. 

When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.

An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”

2. Measure something

It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.

3. Extrinsic motivation

This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.

4. Make it public

Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

How to Stay Motivated Long Term

When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.

These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:

1. Stay in your goldilocks zone

The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.

For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging. 

The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.

2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals

Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within. 

For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.

3. Use “chunking”

Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.

Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.

For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.

4. Be flexible

We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.

5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion

Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.

This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.

Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.

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