My name is Maxim Cherniavskyi. I am just like anybody else. An average person prone to doubts, regrets and downfalls. And as pretty much everyone I am searching for happiness and answers. It may look like an overkill, but I investigated motivation in my Master's thesis. To be honest, after it was done, I didn't feel like I was way closer to any solution, but still I have managed to dot some i's and cross some t's for myself in regards to motivation.
Some time ago I stumbled upon the subreddit /r/GetMotivated. The great community, helpful 'wolves'. Materials posted there are inspiring indeed. I felt like /r/GetMotivated must help people in most genuine way, but instead it might unintentionally misguide them. What really started to bug me is the post Introduction to Motivation, placed in the "Points of Interest" section. The article is inconsistent in a way. Speaking emotionally about how to stop being controlled by emotions is like the superstar Brad Pitt in Fight Club speaking about how sorry he is for
"guys packed into gyms, trying to look like how Calvin Klein or Tommy Hilfiger said they should". That is not a big of a deal. The big deal is the statement
"Motivation is an emotion". For Christ sakes, no! It is not. Well, to be clear motivation is a word, like any other word, and human can put any meaning into it. That is why there is no point in arguing about the meaning of it. But believing that motivation is an emotion experienced after seeing
"a post on /r/getmotivated that pumps you up" can hurt.
The emotion the author of the above-mentioned post points to is not motivation. It is inspiration. Huge amount of /r/GetMotivated materials, which pumps you up, is not technically motivational, but inspirational. Motivation is reasoning behind your actions. Like
"I workout hard to have a huge biceps",
"I study hard to become a president" etc. Inspiration is
"Holly shit, he's done like bigillion push-ups, I'm gonna do better!" or
"This quote is so true, I will stick to it and achieve much more". It is easy to see a difference. Motivation is quality, inspiration is quantity.
When you go to the reddit which is entitled GetMotivated, you expect to become motivated. And the irony is you think you are, but you are not! You just get inspired, you get your drive to act, though you still lack "quality" component. Well, it is cool if you know what you are doing, but if you don't? I take /r/GetMotivated as a good example to illustrate a fundamental problem of motivation — finding the right reasoning behind your actions.
Unmotivated students are proper material for studying motivation. I used to believe that in order to motivate students to learn Japanese, a teacher needs to form interest by introducing challenging, yet simple tasks, group activities, outdoor classes and so on. On paper these statements were spick and span. On practice nothing really changed. There was always a group of students not willing to do anything. Why? Because again, I mixed up motivation and inspiration, reasoning and drive. In this situation everything is clear: motivation is
"I am learning Japanese to become a translator", inspiration is
"Translators get lots of money",
"Translators travel a lot",
"Translators get plenty of opportunities". Abovementioned techniques are aimed at improving drive to study, not motivation itself. But if you ask any of those students a question 'Why do you study Japanese?', their answers may be the same statements! They already know everything so far about the reason why they study. So...
To introduce the real problem I would use several examples, which I experienced on my own skin.
I am an avid fan of StarCraft II. It is a competitive, dynamic, graphically and socially appealing multiplayer game. Compare it to real-time chess (chess is turn-based) to get a general idea. There is a so called ladder system, where players are statistically matched according to their skill to fight each other, so that every match is challenging for each gamer. The better your win rate is, the higher your ladder league and score is. Simple as that. Here comes motivation —
"I play hard to get higher rank". Tournaments are organized. Professional gamers compete on the international scene. Pro-gamers are obviously better than casual players, who get inspired by professional play. Here comes inspiration —
"I'm gonna play hard and win tournaments like pro-gamers do". Eventually an interesting phenomenon emerged - Ladder fear. To put it in two words, people are procrastinating to play ladder games. Longing to win tournaments, they for some reason do not simply play to train their skill! It sounds insane. If you lose a game, you like literally do not lose anything at all, except some points. No risk at all. No one will punish you, you won't lose any money, no one will criticize you. Still there is a huge amount of people who are afraid to play.
At last, the real problem is that people has their motivation set by their environment. Beautiful, popular game with its own celebrities-progamers, tournaments, where thousands of dollars are won by champions. Players are blinded by success of progamers, hardware companies offer sponsorship for teams and players with high salaries. That is how you lose yourself in dreams of becoming successful. It is obvious that each individual has different speed of reaction, different mindset. Some people learn easily, some harder. Someone wins, someone loses. Frustration is inevitable, because high expectations are not met. People are afraid to play, because they are afraid to lose. And what is more important they are afraid to admit that they will never become progamers, because they are not gamers in first place. These people are lured by illusive glamour of gaming world.
Coming back from virtual reality to reality, I had a conversation with my friend. She has been talking about how she wants to be a designer of interiors. When she was asked if she wanted to devote her life to designing, she started to talk about competition on the market of designing studios, about how it is hard to start a business, about how much money you need to start it, about lacking skill to be a prominent designer, about how it is hard to find space to practice on... That made me think she didn't want to be a designer, she just wanted to have a success of a famous designer. Probably, once she saw a magazine article with a name of a designer and thought how it would be cool to be in his place. But if she had been a true designer, our conversation would have gone the other direction. I imagine it would be much like:
"Do you want to be a designer in the future? - Yeah, check out my new room design! Do you like the colour of the curtains I've chosen? I think I will persuade my granny to renovate one room of her house to be like this!" The same is for gamers. If you are a true gamer, you don't even need to watch tournaments to get any inspiration, you don't think about any points you might lose or even that you lose. You think about smart moves you made to trick your opponent, about how gracefully you arranged your troops to attack. That way you express yourself with your activity, with the love to your mission.
Now, if you doubt your motivation, think if it is really true motivation. Has it anything to do with such words as 'success', 'money', 'fame'? If it does, then it is the first sign of the fact that you are cheating yourself or something else is. Unfortunately, our world is our enemy in this task. Think of the day you saw a super-cool (read super-expensive) car on a street, that made you think you wanted it. You saw it once, you saw it twice and you've got your motivation —
"I will work day and night to get it". Even sometimes our parents are unintentionally our enemies. Parents usually have their expectations on their children. Maybe a mother wants her child to be a president, and she sends her son to a law school. And the child suffers the "lack of motivation" to study law. To be short the task is
"Man, know thyself ... and thou shalt know the gods".
You get to know yourself by not thinking about yourself! If you are in state of full of despair, depressed and lack motivation, you just won't get any answers. The first step is to forget everything you know about yourself. Clear your mind. This includes your ambitions, preconceptions about success, fame. Though it sounds selfish, if you did something in sake of your loved ones, and you found yourself demotivated, give it up! It is not helping either of you. Remember that there is nothing eternal, including life. Your money, your fame, your stuff will not matter for you in ten decades. All you have got is NOW, the exact moment. It is the only thing you can control. You can't control your past, you can't control your future. You act and think just right now.
Being involved in Japanese culture for a while, I took me 7 years to realize the purpose of Japanese traditional arts, like tea ceremony, calligraphy, martial arts. This happened at the tea ceremony event that took place in Kyiv. Sen Genshitsu was the host. He spoke about the actions you make during a tea ceremony, while a group of people were performing. These actions looked like some magical passes, sometimes not making any logical sense. Once he said
"And now guests one by one are enjoying the form of a cup", while the guest was holding the cup in front of him and literally just looking at it. The audience burst out laughing. What a non-sense — enjoying a cup! However, think for a while, what is your mind concentrated on while you are drinking or eating? Is that food you eat, is it taste of tea you drink? Ask yourself what you had on dinner yesterday? There is a chance you might not even remember at all. Or maybe at the dinner table you think about your further working day, about your future, about your ambitions? Or maybe you are chewing over a date you had on weekends and how it would be cool to meet again? The right exact moment is slipping away from you if you dream all the time. By giving up your ambitions you leave room for your present. There is nothing to think about except the thing you are doing right now if you don't have success, money or fear in mind to concentrate on. If you are making a design and not thinking about how much money you will get of it, you will immediately know if it is your thing. If you are playing the game and you don't expect to become rich with it, you will definitely know if you like the game itself.
The next step is acceptance. Nothing is permanent, everything is frail and perishable. If you don't feel you are a gamer, you don't enjoy the game, give it up! Be honest with yourself, admit it and accept it. By accepting these facts you eventually accept yourself. If you don't enjoy designing, give it up! Most importantly don't be frustrated because of it. This is the ground point. Until you found your thing, inspiration won't work. You may get things done, but this won't last forever and frustration is inevitable. Yes, one can achieve anything, but is it worth fighting for someone else's dream?
As we previously discussed, know thyself. No one except you can decide what it is worth fighting for. For myself I have worked out some regularities which could be helpful.
1. Judge and make decisions only after a good sleep, in the morning. This includes choosing own motivation. Sometimes bad mood comes with fatigue. You may think you are tired but able to make clear judgments. The truth is you can't judge clearly unless your mind isn't clear and refreshed. An organism is saving energy in the state of fatigue, thus its motivation is defensive. Often tired mind brings negative emotions, that do not help at choosing motivation at all.
2. As stated above, your true motivation will come only within yourself. That is why it is very, very important to give up unhealthy motivational symptoms like doing something
"to prove anything to someone else",
"to prove yourself you can do better, than somebody else",
"to be famous, rich, successful",
"because you envy somebody his success, position or other stuff" and even
"to get a car, a house or other material stuff".
3. Signs of good motivation are
I am doing something, because I love it; because I think it is beautiful; because it is my mission to do it; because this can't be done the other way; because I can express myself with it.
"Untrue" motivation differs from true motivation in two ways. Untrue motivation is unlikely to make you happy, it will only be able to enlarge your ego, self-esteem. In the best scenario it will make you rich. Untrue motivation needs constant outer stimulus. Like constant inspiration, constant exposure to an object of envy, constant pressure.
At last I have come to the problem of /r/GetMotivated. When a redditor comes to the page with erroneous motivation and sees inspirational pictures, these pictures will just make him envy of the persistence and success of others. Maybe even make him feel depressed of inability to fulfill his dream. I believe the process of motivation is the process of finding oneself. Motivation is not a matter of courage to fight, but courage to accept. These motivational pictures should help people find themselves, help people find and give up wrong motivational choices. It is good to be inspired, but without proper motivation it is worth nothing. As long as you have found your true motivation, you will no longer need any inspiration! You will not get depressed as you are not expecting vague long-term results of your activity. The process itself is what brings joy. The possibility of being able to do your thing, the thing you believe in with every bone of your body the right exact moment is what will make your happy.