The Motivation Secret

When you’ve got the right goals in your training (and life), all the little things take care of themselves.

Here’s what you need to know…

  1. Motivation is something that causes you to take action. Lack of action is essentially the result of insufficient motivation.
  2. You can’t claim to be motivated if you’re not involved in daily hard work toward your stated goals.
  3. Your goals must be meaningful. If you find yourself lacking motivation to pursue a goal, that’s proof that the goal lacks meaning for you.

Motivation = Action

I find the topic of motivation endlessly fascinating, and at times, quite frustrating. If you ask Wikipedia about the definition of “motivation,” it’ll tell you that it “is a psychological feature that induces an organism to act towards a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal-directed behaviors.”

In other words, motivation is something that causes you to take action. If we reverse engineer things, we could further suppose that lack of action is the result of insufficient motivation.

Now, if we take a look at the natural world, we see that adult animals generally try to burn as few calories as possible, and only move if they really need to. In fact, when an animal has everything it needs for survival, it’ll stay right where it is until the situation changes. That animal has found its “niche.”

People are different – they’re not satisfied with mere survival. They seek higher planes of existence. Some people seek greatness. And mark my words, greatness never happens by accident. It’s the exclusive result of years of hard work, and that hard work requires fuel in the form of motivation.

Before I move forward, let me further underscore the direct, unquestionable causal relationship between motivation and hard work – you can’t claim to be motivated if you’re not involved in daily hard work toward your stated goals.

Incidentally, it’s not a crime to lack motivation toward a particular goal. I owned up to my own lack of motivation toward power cleaning 315 pounds in a previous T Nation article.

The next logical step in the discussion is to examine our own commitment to our goals, and then to ask if that commitment is being adequately fueled. I hope you won’t mind my using myself as an example, since I’m more familiar with my own goals than I am with yours.

My overriding training goal for this year is to total 1200 pounds in official competition as a raw (unequipped) powerlifter in the 198-pound class. At the time of this writing I’ve got a bit more than 11 months to make this goal a reality.

As I ponder the reality of achieving this goal, I find myself looking inward, and more specifically, at the quality and quantity of work I’m performing in order to advance myself toward my stated objective. For clarification, by quality of work, I’m referring to whether I’m doing the right things. By quantity of work, I’m talking about how hard I’m working.

As I analyze my behaviors, I’m frequently struck by the observation that I’m not really working as hard as I could be. The next inevitable question is “why?” In nearly every instance, the answer is that I lack sufficient motivation.

Goals That Compel

Now we arrive at the central premise, which is:

If you lack sufficient motivation, perhaps your goal isn’t compelling enough.

Some goals are so compelling we don’t even think of them as goals. After all, is it your goal to pay your rent next month, or is it a flat-out necessity? Few people have any difficulty motivating themselves to pay their rent.

The truth is, we all have limited resources, and some of our “goals” are deemed more important than others. To that end, we devote more resources to some goals than we do to others. Guess what? It is more important to pay your rent than it is to have 20-inch arms. If you disagree with that statement, I’m betting that gym motivation isn’t your biggest problem.

How Do We Pick Compelling Goals?

The bottom line is that your goals must be meaningful. Such meaning can take two forms. First, the failure to meet said goal may have significant negative consequences (i.e., not paying your rent). Failure to achieve 20-inch arms won’t have significant negative consequences, unless you’re psychologically impaired in some way.

Second, failure to achieve the stated goal may result in the denial of significant benefits. In the case of not paying your rent, you’ll be denied the benefit of having a roof over your head.

Only you can determine if a goal is meaningful, but in every case where you find yourself lacking motivation to pursue a goal, that fact alone is proof that the goal lacks meaning for you. Put another way, there’s nothing wrong with you, there’s something wrong with your goal.

Meaningful goals create their own motivation. You won’t find that you need to push yourself – instead, the goal will compel you to act.

Motivation Isn’t Your Problem

Are your training goals as vitally important as paying the rent? If not, your lack of motivation to pursue them should be taken as a sign of their insignificance. If they’re vitally important to you, well, you don’t really need this article then, do you? Because you’ve already got all the motivation you need.