Motivation is only a temporary fix

We are constantly attempting to motivate ourselves both at work and at home. The problem with the state of being motivated is that motivation is only a temporary fix.  The traditional drivers to motivation are “away” motivation or “towards” motivation.  When we are away motivated, we are trying to get away from something, someone or a situation.  When we are towards motivated, we are drawn to something we want.  We might want to be motivated to:

  • Get the chores out of the way
  • Meet the milestones on some big project
  • Do a better job
  • Get some weight off and be healthier
  • Earn more money

Away motivation

Marketers and politicians use “away” motivation because it gets immediate attention when people relate to the worst scenario, and the marketers and politicians use this as leverage and promise us they can find a way out or a solution.  Although powerful, it is an ego-based tactic because it preys on people’s fears and problems.  Away motivation is only a temporary fix which will only last as long as the fear and problem remain in place.

Towards motivation

Towards motivation can be powerful for people who are aware they are experiencing what they don’t want and want to move to something they think they want.  Once the goal has been achieved, motivation is lost.  A new goal is usually required to reconfigure a sense of motivation. Equally towards motivation is only a temporary fix.

A word about Maslow

We are constantly being motivated by differing factors linked to our experiences in the world.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a powerful much-used theory which maps out the stages of motivation:

  1. Physiological – basic survival needs
  2. Safety – Feeling secure
  3. Social – The ability to experience positive relationships
  4. Esteem – Thinking well of oneself and others
  5. Self-Actualisation – Coming into one’s own power

Maslow’s hierarchy is linked to external circumstances and, therefore, motivation is only a temporary fix,  while external influences are in place.  Some people can climb up and down the ladder of motivation depending on what stage their life is currently at.  So, for example, someone who has held a good job for a number of years may be pretty much up to the scale, but when the job goes, suddenly they are down at the bottom of the ladder battling for survival once more.

The problem with motivation

Being self-motivated is based on putting the world to rights, or making the world look like we want it to.  However, if we don’t succeed easily we often find ourselves seeking new motivation, or more commonly finding our motivation doesn’t last. As a result, the project doesn’t get done on time. Or we lose the love, lose the money, or whatever other external circumstance we place our sense of self on.

Finding motivation is often a double-edged sword.  Motivation can come and go.  It can desert us without warning.  Here are some of the pitfalls of seeking and using motivation.

1. Inconsistent self-worth

     When relying on being motivated, self-worth is based on external factors and if external factors change, our sense of self-worth can change

2.  Experiencing gaps

      Gaps in motivation can make us feel disconnected and can tap into our fears, any length of a gap can lead to more fearful ideas and thoughts

3. Encourages reactionary responses

     Away Motivation isn’t designed to help us learn something about ourselves, it is reactionary.  By definition is encouraging a focus on something unwanted.

4. Putting our ladder on the wrong wall

     Towards Motivation can often lead to us putting our ladder against the wrong wall. How many people think they want that job, partnership, the situation only to find out they are in                 personal hell?

5. Being driven by others

    Opinions and values of others can drive motivation. This means we may be jumping to the tune of other people’s needs, not our own.

6. Experiencing a lack of motivation

     We can feel like failures if we can’t seem to find motivation instead of accepting there is sometimes just a need to reflect.

It’s not all bad

Being motivated is a positive state.  It can get the juices flowing and will compel you to take action.  It’s a brilliant state to be in.  Enjoy the leverage it gives you and make the most of it.

A better way

Once we recognise we all have internal guidance, then the need for motivation falls away. It is the intrinsic collective consciousness which every single being possesses, but many of us deny.  Dan Pink in his book “Drive”  identifies 3 characteristics of intrinsic motivation:  autonomy, mastery and purpose.   These characteristics are similar to Maslow’s final layer of motivation: Self Actualisation.  All of these characteristics are consistent with (but not always exclusively) those of people who are actually inspired by their internal guidance rather than motivated by external influences.

When we act with the guidance of our intuition, then we no longer need to feel motivated or find motivation. We feel inspired.  Inspired action comes from within.  When we act on our inner guidance we are in touch with our collective consciousness.

Inspired action beats motivated action

The characteristics of inspired action speak for themselves:  Inspired action:

  • Always comes from a win/win premise
  • Comes from a place of healthy self-worth and love
  • Is internally based on values and love
  • Detached from outcomes
  • Respects your desires
  • Wants the best for you
  • Wants the best for others
  • Brings together heart and mind and so brings clarity
  • Creates states of enthusiasm, gratitude and appreciation
  • Is joyful and loving
  • Keeps us in the present
  • Helps us to reach for better thoughts and feelings
  • Helps us to uncover who we really are

If you want to experience something different in your life, you should ask for inspiration.


This post was updated in January 2020

I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

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