“Motivation is Garbage” by Mel Robbins. You’re Welcome.
We put motivation on a pedestal.
You know what else is on pedestals?
Things that are difficult to reach.
Not literal pedestals—because those are usually waist level—but do you see what I’m saying here?
It’s this: turns out we have motivation all wrong. In fact, motivation is garbage. And that’s okay.
Allow me to tell you why…Actually, no. I could, but I wouldn’t do nearly as good of job as Mel Robbins. I mentioned her bomb speech on Impact Theory a couple weeks ago in a Roundup, but as I’m a writer, I felt the need to write it out.
This woman is a beast, so read her book The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage. The title is long, but five seconds is short. Not so short they can’t change your life, though.
Read on and let this sink in. It’s an idea that will never leave you once it hits. Like herpes, but awesome.
Disclaimer: This is a loosely verbatim transcription to which I have no rights. I’ve omitted short sentences more suited to live speech and taken out connector words like “um.”
Mel Robbins: “Motivation is Garbage”
“At some point we all bought into this lie that you’ve got to feel ready in order to change.
We bought into this complete falsehood that at some point you’re gonna have the courage. At some point you’re gonna have the confidence. And it’s total bullsh*t, frankly…
You have these incredible ideas and what you think is missing is motivation…that’s not true. The way our minds are wired and the fact about human beings is that we are not designed to do things that are uncomfortable, scary, or difficult.
Our brains are designed to protect us from those things because our brains are trying to keep us alive.
And in order to change, in order to build a business, in order to be the best parent, the best spouse—to do all those things that you know you want to do with your life, with your work, with your dreams—you’re going to have to do things that are difficult, uncertain, or scary.
Which sets up this problem for all of us: You’re never gonna feel like it.
You only feel motivated to do the things that are easy…
Why is it so hard to do the little things that would improve [your] life?
The way that our minds are designed is to stop you—at all costs—from doing anything that might hurt you…
The way this all happens is it all starts with something super subtle that none of us ever catch, and that is with this habit that all of us have that nobody’s talking about: We all have a habit of hesitating.
We have an idea…and instead of just saying it, we stop and hesitate…
What none of us realize is that when you hesitate, just that moment—that micro-moment—that small hesitation sends a stress signal to your brain. It wakes your brain up and your brain all of a sudden goes:
‘Oh, wait a minute—w-why is he hesitating?…Something must be up.’
So then your brain works to protect you. It has a million different ways to protect you. One of them is called the Spotlight Effect. It’s a known phenomenon where your brain magnifies risk—why?—to pull you away from something that it perceives to be a problem.
You can truly trace every single problem or complaint in your life to silence and hesitation. Those are decisions.
And what I do and what’s changed my life is waking up and realizing that motivation is garbage.
I’m never gonna feel like doing the things that are tough or difficult or uncertain or scary or new, so I need to stop waiting until I feel like it.
I am one decision away from a totally different life…
Your life comes down to your decisions, and if you change your decisions, you will change everything.”
Motivation psychology has gotten us all mixed up. It’s an issue of semantics:
What we are truly seeking is not motivation, but rather our inherent ability to just do things. Chutzpah.
Yes, the two are similar; no, they are not the same. You want more? Help yourself to her book, The 5 Second Rule.
Let’s put the right titles on the forces that drive us. The more honesty we apply to the psycho-physiological forces that guide us, the less room for confusion. You can’t argue truth (unless you’re the current president).
I spend a lot of time back-and-forthing things in my brain, so rather than waste mental energy wondering when and if motivation will hit, I’m going to try to remove “motivation” from my vocabulary.
Instead of, “I don’t feel motivated, I better wait” I’ll be forced to say, “I’m choosing to be a scumbag.” Honesty hurts.
If we give credit to “motivation” for enabling us to accomplish tasks, we’re giving power to something outside of ourselves.
The truth is that it’s us. And it has probably always been us, just doing things when things need to be done.
So don’t wait for motivation. You already have what you need.
What do you think? Am I alone on no-motivation island? Leave a comment! Get an email when I post something new!
I wrote something, but it glitched out, so I’ll just say it again. I think when she uses the word ‘motivation’ she is referring to emotional motivation. According to my personal experiences, a distinction can be made between emotional and logical motivation. An emotional motivation would be fear of the dark, whereas a logical motivation would be flossing to maintain healthy teeth. Everything we do or think is predicated by something previous, whether a fact or emotion, so in a sense everything we do has motivation behind it. I don’t want this to dissolve into semantics, but in my own experiences with motivation I’ve found if my logical motives align with my emotional motives I can align my focus like a laser. Without sufficient logical motivation, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with self-doubt and confidence. Also, emotional motives can be very deceptive, as she states. Maybe this makes sense.
That absolutely makes sense. I think you’ve really hit on something, whether we call it motivation or drive or something dealing with Maslow’s hierarchy.
Indeed this deals with a blurry field of semantics. It seems like you’ve come to peace with what motivation means to you, and it makes me wonder: do you have ADD? I have it, and the issue for me is that even when logic and emotion align, I still can’t always get to work. I think I tell myself “no” sometimes simply because I’m a combative person. Which is why for me it’s useful to remove motivation (and lack thereof) from the arsenal of excuses I often give myself for not doing something.
No, I don’t think I have ADD. How exactly does the ADD afflict you? Can you write gibberish, like the abc’s or random words, or can you not even focus enough to write anything coherent?
I’d say it’s more of an affliction when I’m not working. It keeps me from doing things that need to be done on perhaps a grander scale than what is normal and/or in-line with my actual desire to do things. Before I found writing, it made every job quite difficult and I tended to be an underperformer overall due mainly to forgetfulness or disengagement. Being in groups is tough. Test-taking in groups is a monster.
Can be hard to explain to non-ADDers because of all the skepticism around it. Because I don’t like being on medication (even though it helps like a mofo), I’m often trying to find ADD hacks.
Maybe you should do a blog post on this topic! I say that because I have so many questions. Like…
1) When were you diagnosed?
2) How long were you with your doctor before you were diagnosed?
3) Do you believe you have a disorder?
4) Have you tried alternative treatments?
5) What medicine do you take and how does it help/make you feel?
6) You say it affects you when you’re not working, but what about when you are working?
7) When it affects you, what thoughts pop into your mind? Are they rapid, coherent, or sensible?
8) Literally anything else you’re willing to elaborate on. I’m genuinely curious from a scientific vantage.
We don’t really understand the causes of ADD, so it’s hard to really pin down. The psychology behind it is more heuristic than well-defined science. People used to believe homosexuality was a disorder. I personally believe in ADD (and other diagnoses), but believe they are over-diagnosed. People are frequently diagnosed with a “disorder” on their first visit to a doctor, which in my opinion is absurd.
The potential of a species is not defined by strength or intelligence, but adaptability. This means genetic variation is favored over specific traits, such as attention. Therefore, I believe one day hyperactivity will be more integrated with the normative spectrum than now.
What drives you to write? Why do you choose that instead of say weilding?
You know, the easy answer to this is “motivation.”
The truer answer is that I’m often not so motivated to do it, but I find that once I sit down and pick up the pen or hit the keys, I feel happy…or at least good. Engrossed. Often I reach that state of flow where time doesn’t exist. I measure that feeling compared to other things I’ve tried and realize that nothing evokes a similar contentment (maybe ocean swimming, but getting paid for that seems less realistic).
As a pretty ADD person, I live for those moments of utter engagement that I find with writing. Similarly as an ADD, it’s difficult for me to act in accordance with said desire, which is why Mel’s speech really hit me.
great post! makes complete sense
Thank you kindly (and thank Mel)!
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