“Hey Shola, how do you stay so motivated to make the world a more positive place?”
I get that question a lot for some reason.
Motivation is such an elusive thing for many people. Some people can find the motivation to create a million dollar business from scratch, to lose 200 lbs, or to become a Ph.D before they turn 30. Other people can’t find the motivation to shower on a daily basis or get out of bed in the morning.
Speaking of “weird,” here’s my answer to the question at the beginning of this blog post:
I’m really not motivated to make the world a more positive place.
Wait…what did he just say?
It looks like I have some explaining to do.
The Problem With Motivation
First of all, in case anyone was briefly concerned–my heart is into The Positivity Solution more than ever. I’m not going anywhere and I’ll keep bringing my passion and positivity to you for as long as you’ll have me. That’s not what this is about.
My issue is with the word “motivation.”
Don’t get me wrong, motivation isn’t a bad thing–I’ve actually been told that I’ve written some extremely motivational blog posts before (like this one, for instance.)
With that said, motivation does have its shortcomings–three of them, in fact.
1) Motivation is external.
Unfortunately, motivation relies on something/someone outside of ourselves to keep us going.
- If you’re about to be evicted from your apartment unless you come up with $500 in the next two weeks, that should serve as some pretty intense motivation to get your hands on some cash, quickly.
- If someone just told you that you are too stupid, too lazy, and too untalented to open up your own art studio, you might use that information as your motivation to work day and night to prove that person wrong.
- If I put a gun to your head and said, “look, you need to leave a thoughtful comment at the end of this blog post, or I’m going to blow your head off,” (side note: I don’t need to do that, do I?) I’m assuming that you’d be motivated to stop reading at this point and start typing something brilliant in the comment section.
That’s what motivation is all about: something or someone is figuratively pushing you to take action–whether you want to take action or not.
You could argue that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in most cases you’d be right. The problem is that you need something outside of yourself to get you to take action, and once you lose that thing, then you’ve lost your motivation too.
When the rent is paid, the naysayer has been proved wrong, and I stop threatening your life, what’s the motivation to get your finances in order, to work hard to build your art studio, or to leave a comment?
As bad as that is, here is where motivation takes a serious turn for the worse.
2) Motivation is usually ego-based.
Believe me, there’s nothing wrong with doing big things while we’re alive on this earth. The problem comes in when the motivation to do those big things are for reasons that won’t fulfill you.
- Being motivated to write a book/star in a TV show/be a platinum recording artist just so millions of people will be frantically screaming your name.
- Being motivated to buy a new Mercedes so that the single ladies in your neighborhood will be impressed with your new car.
- Spending 18 hours a day making sales calls, so that you’ll finally win that elusive “Salesperson of the Year” award.
- Being motivated to lose weight so that your ex-husband will find you more attractive.
Unfortunately, if you choose to let your ego be the sole source of your motivation, you’re in for disappointment.
Chances are that you’ll still be searching for fulfillment and happiness once you finally star in your TV show, buy the Mercedes, become Salesperson of the Year, and lose 70 lbs, because your ego is pushing you to do it for the wrong reasons.
And that leads us to the final, and most important point.
3) Motivation is temporary.
It is impossible to stay consistently motivated. I don’t care who the person is or what their goal is, their motivation will fade eventually.
That’s why you’ll see people who are literally motivation junkies, and will do anything to keep their motivation up.
Once they are low on motivation, they desperately search for the next book/blog, the next seminar, the next motivational Facebook page/Twitter feed, or the next guru who will motivate them to live their best lives.
And it works…temporarily.
But just like any addict, once the “motivation high” wears off, they’re compelled to search desperately for their next fix. And once they get high again, they’re fine for a while, until the high wears off, and they have to search for another fix.
On and on it goes. I’m speaking from experience on this one, because I used to be stuck in that cycle.
Thankfully, there is a better way.
Inspiration vs. Motivation
A lot of people use the words “inspiration” and “motivation” interchangeably.
I used to be one of those people, but I’ve stopped because the words are so dramatically different. Motivation pushes you toward your goals, while inspiration pulls you toward them.
This quote from my favorite author, explains it best:
If motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, inspiration is the reverse. An idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.” -Wayne Dyer
Unlike motivation, inspiration comes from within.
If you’ve ever been inspired (and I know that you have), it’s an incredible feeling. Instead of forcing yourself to take action to reach a goal (motivation), you are actually being moved forward by the vision that you’re creating.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- If you’re a parent, do you remember what it was like caring for your newborn baby? You were sleep-deprived, on-edge, and completely off your game–but somehow you were able to dip into an unknown source of energy to successfully care for your baby.
- If you’re doing soul-nourishing work that you absolutely love, you could happily string together multiple all-nighters working on your craft in a heartbeat.
- If you believe in a message or an idea so deeply that you can’t stop thinking about how to share it with the world.
That is what inspiration is all about.
So, How Do I Get Inspired?
So, here’s the million dollar question:
How can I live an inspired life?
I really wish that I could answer that, but I can’t.
Inspiration is an intensely personal thing, and I can’t answer that question for you any more than you could answer that question for me.
The good news is that since inspiration comes from within, you already have all of the answers waiting inside of you. It’s just about asking the right questions.
What brings you joy?
What makes you feel fully alive?
What is that quiet voice inside of you constantly nudging you to do?
Answering those three questions will definitely get you closer. It worked for me.
Speaking of questions, remember the question at the beginning of this post? The answer is that I’m not motivated to make the world a more positive place, I’m inspired to do it. It took a lot of thought and introspection to figure out what truly inspires me, but now that I’ve found it, I couldn’t be happier.
In my opinion, there’s only one way to be inspirational, and anyone can do it:
Shine as brightly as possible in hopes of encouraging others to find the light within them, so that they can do the same.
This post isn’t about trashing motivation. We can all agree that being motivated to improve our lives is a hell of a lot better than being unmotivated–and truthfully, I hope that many of you find these blog posts motivational.
What I am saying is that there’s another level that’s past motivation, if we can find it.
And if you’re looking for it here, you’ll probably be looking for a while.
There’s only one place that’s worth searching for your inspiration, and I hope that this blog post motivated you (see what I did there?) to look within to find it.
And finally, what about the kid in the picture above?
I can tell you that there’s no amount of motivation or pushing that’s going to get him to jump.
But once he feels that pull of inspiration, he’s officially one big step closer to taking flight in his life.
Are you ready to do the same?
Have you ever experienced what it’s like to be truly inspired? What do you do to live an inspired life? Has motivation worked well for you in the past? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!