Why Motivation Is Overrated and What You Need Instead

I’m all about extracting the lessons out of life. Fortunately, motherhood comes with automatic enrollment in the school of lifelong learning, so I’m learning something new on the regular, as I try not to mess up raise my daughter to be a decent human being and productive member of society.

Everyday, I strive to keep my Nugget safe while also teaching her to be brave, think for herself, and trust her gut. It turns out that as I teach her, I am teaching myself.  She taught me one particularly memorable lesson a few weeks ago, when she showed me how overrated motivation can be.

A Ruined Routine

On this fateful night, I interrupted Nugget’s Netflix cartoon binge to announce that it was bathtime, triggering a full-out tantrum. It’s partly my fault because I didn’t follow the protocol—usually I give her a heads up before bathtime, so she has a few minutes to get her mind right, but this time I just sprung it on her. My bad. The bubble bath itself also offended her because apparently she wanted to take a shower instead. (Seriously, folks. This is a true story.)

Normally, she loves bathtime, but this night she was overtired and unprepared. The nighttime routine had been disrupted, and as a result: she was BIG MAD.

So there we were, squaring off in the middle of the bathroom with me trying to coax her into the tub. (Have you ever tried reasoning with an unreasonable toddler? I don’t recommend it.) I wasn’t making any progress, so I began to consider my options.

I could give in an let her watch another episode of cartoons, but that would only delay the bathtime bedlam. Or I could counter her tantrum with one of my own. You know—raise my voice, call her by her entire government name, and try to mom-look her into submission. Neither seemed promising, so I went for an entirely different option. One that didn’t require her agreement, just her cooperation. I just needed to get her into. the. tub. After that, she’d remember how much she loves baths and the struggle would be over.

Going through the Motions

So, as she carried on with her antics, I quieted myself and took a few deep breaths. I calmly took her through the motions of undressing, using the potty, and placing her into the tub, which took about two minutes. A minute after that, the tears stopped and she relaxed as the warm water washed over her. Another 2 minutes later, she was smiling and telling me that she felt better. After that, it was all giggles and bubbles as usual. A full 10 minutes after being placed into the tub against her will, she was happy, clean and asking to go to bed.

As I dried her off and helped her brush her teeth, it occurred to me that this was the perfect metaphor for life: we waste a bunch of time watching Netflix and throwing tantrums instead of just getting on with it already.

We sabotage our own success not because we don't know what to do, but because we don't feel like doing what we know to be necessary. Share on X

Forget About Your Feelings

We get caught up in our feelings instead of staying focused on working our way through the process.  We know what needs to be done. We’ve mapped out every step and know how long each one will take. All that’s left is to execute.

But then at some point, when we find ourselves feeling unmotivated (read: angry, depressed, stressed out, etc.), we throw away the plan, and get off track. We take the long way around an otherwise straightforward path and we end up postponing our greatness.

We sabotage our own success, not because we don’t know what to do, but because we don’t feel like doing what we know to be necessary.

But here’s the good news: motivation is overrated. You don’t need to feel motivated in order to follow through on an action. I can’t remember ever feeling like getting out of bed before sunrise, but I do it all the time.

If you know the process that will get you the results you want, don’t tell yourself you need to feel motivated to act. Just get started now. Build up some momentum and your feelings will eventually catch up.

Motivation is overrated. You don't have to feel like taking action in order to act. Share on X

Some days, it will be necessary to go through the motions while you throw a temper tantrum in your head. (That’s basically the definition of adulting, right?) But going through the motions can still be productive if those motions help you build momentum. And momentum that’s consistently maintained is powerful.

Chase Momentum Not Motivation

At the end of the day, we’re human beings—emotional creatures that can’t always escape or prevent the onset of negative feelings. We will inevitably get tired or bored or angry or sad. And while our feelings can influence our actions, they don’t have to control them. We can choose to override them.

One of the best ways to override a lack of motivation is to take action. If you make a habit of chasing momentum, motivation becomes a whole lot less relevant.

P.S. — Be sure to sign up for your FREE COPY of our Morning Momentum Checklist. It offers simple, actionable steps you can take each morning to build the momentum you need sooner. Mornings full of momentum lead to more powerful, productive days. And we could all use some of that!

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