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Writing

Waiting For Motivation Is Like Waiting For Godot

March 3, 2014

Do you need to be motivated to take action?

Hell No.

In fact, there are lots of times you’ll absolutely NOT feel like taking action when you promised yourself you would.  These very moments, I’m here to tell you, are the moments you’ll need to take action anyway. Otherwise you’ll stand around twiddling your thumbs while the world passes you by.

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Walt and I recently finished our six-week Masterclass, Your Best Year Ever.  (I probably mentioned this before, but, hey, here I go again.) We had tons of fun helping folks get clear about what they really want to do, be, and have by the end of the year.  Then we got a little rambunctious wheeling out those tips and strategies designed to keep them on the straight and narrow long after motivation skips town, usually in mid February.

There’s that word again:  Motivation.

We get a lot of questions about the way we conduct our lives, not just from our coaching clients and webinar participants, but also from friends and family members. Many don’t understand why or how we do some of the things we do, things the average bear considers fucking ridiculous excessive and unpleasant. Why we run all the time, say, or go to the gym to lift stupid weights, or write non-stop, or climb high mountains. Others want to know where we find the motivation necessary to stay committed to our practices. They like the results, want them for themselves; they’re just iffy on the mojo thing.

Ha.  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.  That’s the sound of me laughing.

I don’t care what Walt says; I hate winter.  I don’t like the dark, or the sub-zero temperatures, or black ice. I have yet to meet a cold winter morning where either of us, regardless of how perky Walt may sound, FEELS like going out for a morning run. No one FEELS like running in that weather. No one likes the blowing wind, or the horizontal sleet that slices your eyeballs in half, or the four inches of filthy snow on the roads that acts like quicksand. At least no one I know. Except for maybe Lonnie Dupre, our Arctic explorer pal.

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I love writing, I really do, but I’d rather clean toilets than sit down to face a blank page. Actually, I’d rather trot down to the kitchen and eat the pan of raw vegan brownies my writing student sent me.  (Seriously, here’s the recipe.  They’re KILLER.) And I’d rather dig into season two of House of Cards on Netflix, which I’ve just discovered, and forget about the fact that I don’t have a clue what I’m going to say next. Preferably with the aforementioned brownies. But I digress.

Oh, snap!  Here we go. I got it.

Motivation, i.e. good feelings, is not required to take action.  You act anyway, regardless of how uninspired you feel.

Think of motivation as a perk, sort of like popcorn at the movies.  Nice to have, particularly with a shitload of salt and butter, but not necessary to enjoy the show.

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More often than not, motivation arises AFTER you start, after you get going.  After you start to write and get in the flow.  After you start to paint and the time whirls by.  After you pick up your instrument and that hour has disappeared, or that day.   After you start to run, and your body warms up, and your muscles loosen, and you settle into a rhythm, and the miles disappear.

And suddenly you don’t know why you didn’t want to start.  You feel good; you’re motivated; you’re on fire.  The motivation, the good feelings, followed the action.

Here’s the funny thing: Motivation and action are co-arising phenomena.  One doesn’t necessarily precede the other.  Sometimes, like when we’ve got lots of time and space in Ireland, we can hardly wait to get out the door for our morning run.  We want to check out the foxen and the pheasants and see if the farmer up the hill has turned on that popping thing to scare away the crows. It’s also true, that sometimes you can write for an hour and it feels like a day; you can run for three miles and it feels like you’ve been beaten by a stick; you can make 20 sales calls and every one of them tells you that you suck as a human being.  That happens.  It will happen.

So how do you act when you don’t really feel like it, or if the motivation hasn’t come somewhere during the process? We spent an entire session answering this question, so forgive me if I give you only three abbreviated answers. (If you’d like to access the class, click here.)

  1. You remember why you’re doing the crap in the first place. You dial back into the goal; the vision, the destination. The very reason you decided action was required in the first place. You connect with your WHY.
  2. Decide you’re going to do something—like run five mornings a week come hell or high water—once.  Don’t revisit your decision to act; don’t bitch; don’t re-think; don’t re evaluate. Just fucking do it.
  3. Make it a habit; make it routine. Run at 5:45 A.M. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Write from 9 P.M. to 11 P.M on Thursday nights. Be predictable.  And boring.  It’s good for you.

Stop waiting around for the perfect moment, when you feel like it.  For all of the planets to align and the angels to show up singing a show tune. The people who are getting the results you want?  Who are doing the things you wish you could be doing?  They’re not riding the motivation pony, man.  They’re following a routine and doing the things they don’t FEEL like doing. That’s just how it works.

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