Does Motivation Work?

Career Blog

The problem with motivation is that you have to be motivated for it to work. And while getting it is easy, keeping it is tremendously difficult for most people. That’s why the gym is full in January and empty by March. Motivation is fleeting. It’s not a driver of success. It’s merely exhaust, a byproduct of the true fuel that lives within each of us.

The trick to obtaining any goal is recognizing whether or not it actually exists – whether it is big enough, important enough, and emotionally meaningful enough to garner your focus and push out all other competitors for your time. A goal can’t be a simple want or fleeting desire. Anyone can change their behavior in the short-term (work out, eat right, speak up, network more, etc.), but people will revert to old behaviors quickly if the new ones are not anchored.

Motivation only works when it goes deeper than behavior change. People find success when the goal is linked to a compelling, habit-forming, long-term vision that is tied to an unshakeable belief. It is made even stronger if prompted by an emotional insight. That’s the formula for lasting results:

Insight + Belief + Behavior Change = Result

True motivation is born in the insight, grows up in the belief, and turns pro in daily behavior. As a coach I see it all the time. A person is trapped by a limiting perspective and can only see one path. There are countless versions of this story. They believe that are stuck being the fat kid, the corporate cube dweller, the x-level business leader. In each case they are only as right as they wish to be.

We each have our boxes. The dirty secret is that we put ourselves in them and toss the key. Once we widen our perspective we can truly change our beliefs and thus be motivated to commit to behavior change.

The question is how do we obtain this belief-changing, behavior-shifting insight? Sometimes it happens organically through an experience. The smoker gets health scare and quits. Sometimes it happens via a teachable moment. A person hears a speaker or reads a book that connects with him or her so profoundly that it triggers a change. Most often however, it takes far more effort. This can come via self-reflection, mentoring or targeted coaching.

Regardless of the process, the individual must be ready to fight for the goal. Changes, especially personal change is never easy. But, clearly they are possible. I’ve seen them materialize in my own coaching practice. Examples include a food stamp recipient turned foodie, an introvert learning to flex her style, and a corporate employee turned entrepreneur. Remember the fat kid mentioned above? He got motivated to be an Iron Man once he saw himself as a father. His insight created new results for himself and sparked change in others.

Motivation isn’t easy, but it can be magical.

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Be sure to check out my latest book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi

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