Motivation Will Get You Nowhere

Are you a perpetual consumer of motivational videos and articles? What if I told you that consuming this kind of content was actually preventing you from reaching your goals?

What if I also told you that the secret to achieving your goals is not motivation, but is, in fact, something much less sexy and quite dull?

Don't get me wrong, I love watching the odd Gary Vee video every now and again – but these videos are toxic to your productivity.

Even Gary knows this himself, and he's one of the few who will admit it. His goal is to "put himself out of business" and help you get started, so you no longer need to watch his videos.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is simply a desire to do something; it's a positive emotion that makes us feel good. However, as you'll quickly learn – it's not necessarily a productive feeling, and it only plays a very small role in achieving your goals.

Like every other pleasure in life, it wasn't long before someone capitalised on motivation. Motivation peddlers exist in every corner of the internet selling hopes and dreams (and their books and courses too).

It's big business; this genre of content is highly addictive because it solves two significant human problems, making it also highly profitable – a bit like crack – in a way.

Why Do We Consume Motivational Content?

All of us who set goals in life will experience some level of anxiety at some point when it feels like we're not on track to reaching those goals.

Maybe you find yourself lying on the sofa on Sunday afternoon feeling guilty and anxious that you haven't started that new project or business.

However, the emotional pain of actually having to make an effort to start substantially out-shadows the anxiety you're feeling.

Now you're in a very uncomfortable and conflicted state, should you take action now or endure the anxiety?

Fear not, your brain is smart and has a better solution that will solve your problem without actually having to do anything – watch some motivational videos!

Motivational content will provide the magic solution to all of your guilt and anxiety.

This kind of material:

  • Provides instant gratification
  • Makes you feel focused and driven
  • Provides the feeling of pursuing your dreams without the hard work
  • Makes you feel like you're making a change in your life while doing absolutely nothing

Motivational content provides a quick fix of positive emotions, and you can then continue your day feeling motivated and happy without actually having to do anything.

The big problem with this is that the stimulus for motivation is external, someone else's motivation can't be transferred to you. You might get fired up and excited watching it, but afterwards, you'll just be back to square one again (you may have lost your feelings of guilt and anxiety and can return to watching TV).

The reason motivational content works is that most people don't want to put in the effort to achieve their goals, they just want the feelings of guilt and anxiety to go away.

Now, not everyone is entirely work-adverse, many just struggle to get started.

So what's the solution?

Do One Minute of Work

The next time you're feeling guilty and anxious and feel like firing up YouTube to consume the latest interview with one of the world's most successful entrepreneurs, try this instead:

Open your laptop or notebook and complete one minute of work towards achieving your goal.

Just one minute. Even if you only write down a plan of what you need to do to achieve your goal, you've accomplished ten times more than you would have by watching a 10-minute motivational video.

Once you do this, something strange will happen: your feelings of guilt and anxiety will subside, and you will have achieved something by taking one of the most difficult steps and getting started.

You may even feel like you can now do two minutes of work, maybe ten. Once you get past that first step, the subsequent steps are much easier until you hit a roadblock, but at that point, you will have gained sufficient momentum to get you through it.

The caveat here is that you need to be completely honest with yourself and assess whether your goals are something you want to achieve and that you're prepared to put the work to achieve them.

Understand that it's OK to let some goals go; there's no point in wasting your time or getting stressed with something if you're not going to commit for the long term.

The Real Secret to Success

Of course, you're not going to build your perfect body or start a new business in one minute of work – that was just to get the ball rolling.

Remember I said at the beginning that the secret to achieving your goals wasn't as sexy as motivation and actually quite dull?

If you want to continue on your path and complete your goals, then you will need to commit to two practices:

  1. Habit
  2. Consistency

That's it! If you can do one minute of work today, then you can do one hour tomorrow, and one or more hours every day for the next 21 days then you will have successfully formed a new habit of working towards your goal. The longer you do this, the more compounded your habit will become and the more difficult it will be to break it.

Is it not as exciting as getting pumped up over a motivational speech huh?

Last year, I decided that I wanted to get fit and build my perfect body, so I joined the gym and hired a personal trainer. This is an incredibly difficult and long-winded goal that will take years and a lot of discipline and commitment.

At that point, I was highly motivated and excited to be in the gym every day. Am I still like that 14 months later?

I love training, and I'm excited to get into the gym most days, but that initial motivation and has gone. My fitness journey is much tougher than I expected and it's an extremely slow process with slow results.

There are days where I have zero motivation to even go to the gym: sometimes I'm tired, or I haven't fully recovered from my previous workout. If this happens, my performance suffers and I experience the complete opposite of motivation.

However, I still go to the gym every day, even when I feel like this. It's not because I'm feeling motivated; it's because I've created a habit where I go consistently five times per week, and the anxiety of breaking this pattern and the fear of hampering my progress is too painful.

When I have my off days, I certainly don't sit on the sofa watching motivational fitness videos thinking that I'm growing stronger. I go to the gym, and I work as hard as I can, even if it's not my best performance, it still progresses me towards my goal, or at the very least – prevents me from going backwards.

The same goes for building a business, creating a new piece of art, writing a book or learning a new language. Watching motivational videos isn't going to contribute anything towards these goals.

Not all motivational content is pointless; if you consume a short video and then take action; it may help you. However, if all you're doing is watching videos in place of doing any work, then this is a deadly habit.

So, the next time you feel like you're not on track, resist the urge to consume motivational content because it's the easy way out and you will achieve nothing.

Instead, take immediate action – do just one minute of work, and you'll be amazed at how far you can go from there.