A common genesis of motivation is to find it in relation to another.
“I’m doing this for my wife.”
“I’m doing this for Mom.”
“I’m doing this for my son.”
While deriving motivation from any source isn’t a bad thing, in the long run it might not last. What people really need for long term motivation is to say to themselves
“I’m doing this for me.”
Long lasting motivation, the kind that gets you through those dark nights when you can’t sleep, comes from some unseen well deep inside of you. It doesn’t flow like a spring from some external source like the child you fear you won’t live to see their tenth birthday. They may be a reminder of why you’re doing this or a focal point for that motivation; that’s fine. Motivation is about the actual doing and your young child isn’t going to wake you at 5AM to go workout. They aren’t going to remind you not to eat processed food for lunch. They aren’t going to make you have a decent night’s sleep. It’s the petulant 8 year old inside of you that’s telling you it’s cool to do all those things in the first place.
When I look back at my failures, I realize there are two main reasons I did not succeed:
- I did not learn from my mistakes (see Failure).
- I was doing it for the wrong reason.
The motivational part of my current success is based in the notion that I’m doing all of this for myself. I love my wife and I love my children but none of them are going to remind me that I need to go running at lunch when I’d rather stay home. None of them are going to remind me to not order a burger when I eat out. None of them are going to remind me to be mindful in a moment enough to be thoughtful about my actions. All of this has to come from motivation and that motivation has to come from me.
I think a lot of people get caught up “dedicating” their actions to others in some act of love or devotion instead of feeling that drive to succeed inside themselves. I’m not sure why that is, I only took Psych 101 in university, but I think it gives them a sense of security and a sense of place. Like somehow the affection or devotion they feel for that other person or other thing or other institution will be their safe harbour in times of trouble. The problem is affection and devotion can wax and wane and institutions can come and go with a rapidity that is mind boggling. What happens when you decide to commit to a regime of bodily transformation for a partner and then you break up next week? More often than not the motivation goes out the door with your partner’s suitcase.
In the end, this is for you. It can’t be for anyone else. Doing something for you isn’t selfish, it isn’t unkind, it isn’t unloving. If your spouse asks you who you’re doing this for and you say “for me”, you may get a funny look. I’m lucky, my wife instantly got what I meant and even gave me an approving nod. You may not be so lucky. Explain to them that real motivation comes from inside of you. That you want to impress your spouse with your success but they aren’t the reason you’re doing it. They’ll get it eventually if they really think about it.
A book isn’t going to get you out running at 5AM, neither is a sleepy spouse. You have to get up, you have to do it. This is for you. The motivation is in you.