I really dislike the word motivation. I try never to use it. In writing Better Than Before, my book about habit change, and in talking to people about their desired habits, the term motivation came up a lot. Oh, sure. People often tell me that they’re highly motivated to achieve a certain aim, but when I press, it turns out that while they passionately wish they could achieve an outcome, they aren’t doing anything about it.
In fact, people aren’t motivated by motivation.
Expert advice often focuses on motivation, by telling people that they just need more motivation to follow through. This may work in a certain way, for certain people (see below), but not for everyone.
The bad result of this advice is that some people spend a lot of time whipping themselves into a frenzy of thinking how much they want a certain outcome, as if desire will drive behavior. And it rarely does.
Instead of thinking about motivation, I argue that we should think about aims, and then concrete, practical, realistic steps to take us closer to our aims.
Instead of thinking, I want to lose weight so badly, think instead about the concrete steps to take, I’ll bring lunch from home, I won’t use the vending machine, I won’t eat fast food, I’ll quit sugar, I’ll cook dinner at home at least four nights a week, I’ll go to the farmers market on Saturdays, to load up on great produce.