Motivation and Purpose

I like to blog about what I am hearing each week from my clients. Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about “how do I get motivated?” This is not a new topic. But it’s a great question.

My first answer is this – what is motivation? Most people describe it as some sort of feeling that spurs them into action. The tough thing about it is that once you feel it, it’s a little like when you first started drinking coffee. It feels like, “Wow, I can do anything!” Then like with that caffeinated beverage, it starts to maybe not be so reliable and yet you keep waiting for it to happen again. “I got so much work done that last time I was motivated.” “When, oh when, will it happen again?”

And so we chase it, like a drug or that adrenaline-releasing cup of joe, but you already know that is not reliable. Some people even try medical drugs to boost motivation and they end up addicted and need Resurgence Recovery. And here you can find how marketing is being done in healthcare space.

I don’t really believe in motivational speakers as a useful tool to get you going. If, however, they are saying something that is moving you, maybe look at that – what is moving you?  Is it their big exciting voice and movements or is there some content that is speaking to you?

Back to the question – “How do I get motivated?”  I have two answers:  (1) You don’t wait for that feeling.  You commit and you work hard at that thing you said you wanted, and the feeling comes and goes.  I’ve blogged on this before – it may not be coming, and it may, but it will not serve you to wait.  And (2) There are many things that motivate us.  You can look for them, but don’t rely on them.

If you have a strong purpose, it can really support you.  It’s not always the answer and sometimes it won’t even matter to you, but it is the best foundation to go and keep going.  And as I will show below with my own example, your WHY can be large or very small.

Here’s my own example.  I get up between 4:30 and 5:30 to go to spin class in the mornings.  Why?  (“Why” is your key purpose word.)  Because it makes me feel good; it makes me more productive; it sustains my body through the day of sometimes sitting too much; it keeps me feeling strong; and it is fun.  But when I am laying there at 4:30am, like this morning, and my alarm is going off and going off and going off, I can think “Go!  It is fun and it is going to give you energy, etc.”  And guess what, that doesn’t get me up.  No magic motivational energy descends on me when I think about my WHY.  Some days (rarely) I just go back to sleep.  But 99% of the time I get up.  Why?  I believe it is because those purposes I have articulated above are now deeply engrained in me and support me in going on an unconscious level.  But there are a whole host of other reasons that I get up:

  1. I paid for the class and I don’t want to lose the money (financial accountability);
  2. I report to my coach on it every week (external personal accountability);
  3. I said I would (this is HUGE – once you get a good pattern of keeping agreements with yourself, your word TO YOURSELF will start to mean something);
  4. I know I will feel bad, both physically and mentally if I don’t (motivation is a combination of going toward the desired result and going away from something we don’t want); and
  5. It’s a habit (I cannot overstate the power of habit – one of my favorite expressions is “everything you do is either part of a new habit or part of an old habit”).


cup-of-coffeeLearn your WHYs – whether big or small.  Get someone to hold you accountable.  Put some money down.  Make a bet.  Put your butt on the line.  And do it!  I don’t care if you feel like it or not.

About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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