Motivation is unnecessary.
A lot of people of asked me recently “how do you maintain motivation to stick with a fitness or health program, or see a project all the way through to its end goal?”
There are a lot of great thoughts, speakers and soundbites on the subject of motivation. Zig Ziglar for example has a memorable quote about motivation: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” To an extent I agree, because he’s framing motivation as a habit and not an emotional state.
Everybody loves a good motivational quote or saying, loves to be inspired, loves to have an emotional response to a goal that helps supercharge you or get your fired up. But I would argue that what’s truly necessary to reach your goal is not motivation; it’s the decision to act. Plain and simple.
And I think here many people would also agree, you need to choose to change your behavior if you want anything in your life to change. But taking that action, taking that step to start something new or different, that is where everybody feels like they need motivation to actually take the steps on the plan.
Every time you feel that resistance or hesitation to taking the action that you know you need to take, you have to break that habit. This is where most people believe they need motivation, but instead they just need a new habit.
I came across a really interesting resource this week from speaker and author Mel Robbins, and it has to do with what she calls the Five Second Rule. I’ve experienced something similar in my life, but I really like the way that she broke it down into something super actionable. With this sort of tactic, motivation becomes unnecessary.
Here’s how it works: Every time you feel that resistance or hesitation to taking the action that you know you need to take, you have to break that habit. This is where most people believe they need motivation, but instead they just need a new habit.
As Mel points out, people aren’t procrastinators- they have a habit of procrastination. You aren’t lazy- you have a habit of laziness and inaction. People aren’t worriers- they have a habit of worrying. Our behaviors and habits are creating our reality, and are doing so using subconscious patterns in the brain (nerd alert!).
So what people really need is an approach that can help them break the bad habit, interrupt the part of their brain on autopilot, and enroll an active decision making part of the brain. Mel came across something that’s as simple as the countdown, like you used to do along with a NASA rocket launch. Whenever you feel that resistance or hesitation to take action, start a new habit of counting backwards from five. Actually verbally count five, four, three, two, one, and then launch yourself into action and do what you’re supposed to do.
The 5 Second Rule!
This little trick is enough to switch active regions of your brain from the subconscious habit-based one into the active drive center (because we have to think to count backwards!) There’s some pretty cool science behind it, if you want to learn more about it I recommend going to check out her book or the podcast I listened to, but in the meantime I encourage you to give this a try. Even if it feels silly at first, it still works! It’s brain science ya’ll!
Because the truth is actions and habits are what’s going to get you to your goal. It’s not motivation. The only time we think we need motivation is when we’re stuck in the bad habit of procrastinating. Or stuck in the bad habit of old patterns that need to be changed. The easiest way to move forward with that? Simply take action.
And the next time you hesitate, count down and take action again. And again and again and again. Action breeds confidence, and confidence reinforces motivation or what we think of as motivation.
There are a lot of other things that help in the process of making change, don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to be said for support and accountability, but at the end of the day you have to find a way to change your behavior and take some action. This is a simple shortcut I came across, and it’s worth a try!