Feeling Motivated is Over-rated

More than 20 years ago I heard what is still my favorite definition of commitment: the ability to carry through with a worthy decision once the emotion of making the decision has passed. Emotion is what we tend to think of as motivation. We think we should “feel” like doing something in order to do it. But is that how you experience it?

For most of us, the answer is no. For instance, I never feel like doing the dishes, but I do them. I’m committed to a clean, cockroach-free kitchen.

Psychology Today defines motivation as “literally the desire to do things.” The desire to do something does not mean you will feel like it. Our human tendency is the path of least resistance (you know, burn as few calories as necessary) and our feelings keep us stuck there. We have to want the outcome enough to overcome our lack of “feeling” motivated.

I saw a recent interview with Admiral William H. McRaven, author of the new book Make Your Bed, in which he shares successful life principles learned during Navy Seal training. The title comes from the habit of making one’s bed first thing in the morning. And when we accomplish one thing, it sets us up to do the next. And the next. We can’t wait to feel like making the bed, we just have to make it.

Considering your health goals, what is one small thing you could do in the morning that would make a difference the rest of the day? For many, I suspect that thing is eating a balanced breakfast. If you regularly skip breakfast, and lunch is the first time food makes it past your lips, then waiting to feel like eating will not work. Your body’s metabolism has adapted by slowing down and you will not feel hungry in the morning.

Our human tendency is the path of least resistance. We have to want the outcome enough to overcome our lack of “feeling” motivated.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Maybe for you it’s drinking 8oz of water first thing, meditation, prayer, or 10 minutes of stretching. Decide and do it. Then notice how the next step becomes easier. In essence, your initial step helps provide the “feeling” of motivation, the feeling that being successful at one thing can lead to the next.

Our lives are the sum total of mostly small decisions like this. Sure from time to time we make big decisions, but day-in and day-out we are formed by the millions of small choices we make each moment.

This is good news! Instead of thinking we have to take quantum-leap actions, we can focus on small daily habits that produce significant results.

So, what small step would (ultimately) make a huge impact in your life?

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