What makes someone successful? The answer might seem simple: motivated people do well in life, and unmotivated people fail. Motivation seems to be the key to so much, yet most people know so little about where it truly comes from. We often assume that some people are just born with more talent, willpower, and most importantly, motivation, than their less lucky counterparts. However, motivation is not a matter of good fortune, nor does it arbitrarily come and go. Rather, motivation is a part of an established process that we can understand and consequently control.
Summer Vacation often drains my motivation, and last summer was no exception. Trapped within the confines of my house, it became harder to roll out of bed with each passing day. But sometimes, random bursts of motivation would strike, and I would suddenly become more productive than I’d been in weeks. I loved the sense of accomplishment after a productive day, and when motivated, my goals and objectives, as well as the path to achieving them, seemed so clear. But this motivation would inescapably dissipate, and I would find myself caught back in the dreaded drought just as fast as I’d escaped. Motivation became like a drug, giving me the rush to be productive and accomplish the tasks necessary to bring my hopes to fruition. Except, I didn’t know where this supposed drug came from, and more importantly, where I could find more of it.
One day, I came across motivational speeches on YouTube, and as cliche and cheesy as they are, I enjoyed watching because I believed that perhaps I’d find my answer within them. To my surprise, the videos themselves tricked my brain back into motivation. Whenever I wanted to get work done, I would watch one of these motivational videos, which would get me in the right mindset to work for a couple of hours. Just like the countless strategies I’d already tried, my newfound tactic didn’t work for long. No matter what I did, nothing seemed to make my motivation last.
The solution, however, was not the perfect YouTube video, nor was it waiting patiently for the chance another spark might arrive. I didn’t understand the true nature of motivation, and my confusion stemmed from overlooking its underlying principles. First, the bursts of “motivation” that I had found were nothing but an external force pushing me in the right direction. It wasn’t really motivating me to do anything, only nudging me in the right direction. I was missing something from within myself, not some random YouTube video. But where does genuine, internal motivation come from?
Lasting motivation only comes as a byproduct of working on things you’re truly interested in. It may seem illogical that motivation comes after you accomplish something, but that’s only because we’re used to thinking of motivation as an ingredient, not a final product. Pursuing your genuine interests, regardless of whether you know what exactly those interests are, is the only thing that can spawn lasting motivation. Once you start doing something you love, motivation becomes one of the many fruits of your labor. Motivation is not the spark that gets the fire started; it is the wood that keeps it going. If you understand and trust in this idea, many issues surrounding motivation seem much less complex. It is easier to take a risk and start a difficult task when you have the confidence that somewhere along your journey, you’ll find the motivation to fuel you through the rest. When you truly shift your mindset to think of motivation as a dose of extra fuel, not the starting engine, then the search for motivation suddenly becomes much, much easier to navigate.