Why You Don’t Need Motivation

The alarm goes off from my bedside table and I blindly slap at it with my eyes still closed. My husband sleeps peacefully, blissfully. I pry my eyes open but snuggle deeper under the warm covers. I don’t see how it’s possible to get myself up and out the door to exercise before work – not when it’s so cold outside and this bed is so warm and soft. Nope. I just don’t feel like it. But tomorrow! Tomorrow I will leap gracefully out of bed, lace my running shoes up and be out the door with a flourish.

And here is where we find the problem. It’s something we all struggle to find and hold onto. It’s something that is often elusive and tricky to come by. This problem? Motivation. Do we really need it?

Motivation, by definition, means that we are eager, that we desire to do something. But, let’s face it: We aren’t always eager to exercise. We aren’t always chomping at the bit to sit down and write or work on our projects. We hardly ever feel like taking the time each day to floss. And, honestly, if we waited to do anything until we felt absolutely motivated we would end up accomplishing very little.

In his article “The Myth of Creative Inspiration,” James Clear writes “If you’re serious about creating something compelling, you need to stop waiting for motivation and inspiration to strike you…”

So, if motivation isn’t the key to making progress and reaching goals, what is? Mr. Clear goes on to explain how instead of waiting for motivation to knock at your door, you must develop your own consistent schedule by which you perform your work or tasks. It requires discipline, consistency, and it’s all about showing up.

Turning out great work requires that we become okay with producing some junk along the way. What you paint today may not be your masterpiece.

Some days we won’t feel like we have anything to offer. We won’t feel inspired or creative, and it will take all our power just to sit down at the computer, get out the door, or clock in. But the greatest accomplishments rarely happen overnight or in one sitting. Turning out great work requires that we become okay with producing some junk along the way. What you paint today may not be your masterpiece. But when you show up to work, day after day, you learn new things every step of the way that will enable you to eventually accomplish something truly wonderful.

What is it that you know you want to do, but rarely feel motivated to do it? Take some time to daydream about how it would feel to take some steps forward in that area. Imagine the feeling of accomplishment that will come from just … beginning.

Now, make your schedule. Perhaps you are most productive in the morning. Start by setting your alarm just 20 minutes earlier tomorrow. Or, maybe evening is your sweet spot. Set aside time right after dinner, before you turn the TV on or crack open your favorite book and do something to begin.

Maybe you only write ten words. Maybe you only jog for five minutes. That’s okay. You showed up. Now hold yourself accountable to your schedule and show up again tomorrow.

You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish whether or not motivation shows up, too.

What do you need discipline for right now? Write it below in the comments, along with your one action to make it happen!

Image via Christin Rose


A lover of sloths, the sea, and a stellar latte, Janelle currently resides in the great city of Los Angeles. She and her husband are always exploring, and you can read about their quest to discover beauty, truth, and goodness through the ups and downs of their journey at These Two Go Exploring.

4 COMMENTS
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  • Karsten November 16, 2015

    I think the acceptance that you’ll produce some junk along the way comes very hard for perfectionists especially. However, that’s a live-and-learn and in the pursuit of a great contribution, you’ll have to overcome some obstacles.

    I’m with you on the need for consistency and discipline. Relying on something as fickle as motivation is risky when you’re trying to achieve something – be it a morning run or a great work of writing. I tend to liken motivation to sunshine. In other words, asking for more motivation is like sitting in a solar-powered car, asking the sun to shine more.

    You could add that it’s also about the desired result. If you just go for a run because you think it’ll shed a little bit of weight, it’s hard to make the necessary sacrifices to maintain that discipline. However, if you can visualize yourself really getting into shape, that’s a whole different level of incentive.

  • Chelsea April 27, 2015

    ” Imagine the feeling of accomplishment that will come from just … beginning.” After years of being an avid yoga lover I always find myself going months without doing it, simply because I don’t have the time to finish a full session because my husband works often, or I have a deadline or my toddler decided not to nap more than 15 min. Recently I have dropped the attitude of not enough time and embraced that even as little as 5 minutes is progress and it takes away that lingering feeling of inadequacy in something I truly love. I remind myself daily to just ask for help, it may not be the full amount of time in the beginning but I won’t have any time if I don’t ask for it. Thanks for the very inspiring post!

    • Janelle Whitaker April 28, 2015

      Chelsea – so awesome! And so true! It’s ok if we can’t do it all, what’s important is just starting and doing as much as we can with what we have. Thank you for sharing!

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