“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen
The definition of motivation is the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. I understand the desire and willingness to rest and relax or the desire and willingness to dine out and spend money. But desire and willingness for activities that require hard work and effort are not as readily available. Actions that demand work and effort call for us to fully show up and be present.
As humans, our brains are constantly trying to find the easy way out. In The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he explains why habits emerge. The brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit because habits allow our mind to ramp down more often. Our brain requires energy to learn something new, and it requires a great deal of processing to simply maintain the rest of the body functioning appropriately. When it can save energy, it does. It’s the reason that driving to a new place requires you to slow down, focus and perhaps turn down the music, as opposed to driving home from a familiar place and not recalling the drive because your brain has automated the behavior.
What is the last thing you were motivated to do? What do you WANT to be motivated to do? I can answer for myself: I am motivated to take a nap – although I cannot. I WANT to be motivated to write a book. Motivation for our wants requires work and planning. The planning is needed to overcome our already ingrained habits and the work required to put the plan to action – the part where you “show up.”
In Smarter Faster Better, also by Duhigg, motivation is analyzed, and he explains that we need to have choice in order to succeed. By giving ourselves choices, we feel in control, and the specific choice we make matters less than the assertion of control. It’s the feeling of self-determination that gets us going. Duhigg gives the example of fifth graders who were either told they were “smart” or they “worked hard.” The fifth graders who were told that they worked hard showed an active, internal locus of control because hard work is something we decide to do, where being smart is something out of our control. You can train your internal locus of control by placing yourself in situations where you practice feeling in control and reawaken your internal locus. Moreover, to teach ourselves to self-motivate more easily, we need to learn to see our choices not just as expressions of control but also as affirmations of our values and goals. Coming back to the question of what you WANT to be motivated to do gives your chosen actions larger meaning.
John Ruskin, author, critic and commentator, famously said, “What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.” This is when we show up; we show up with a present and open mind. We can be physically in a room sitting next to our partner, and our mind is busy worrying about a deadline that is approaching. That is not showing up. Show up to your life and recognize the actions you are choosing to take for the life that you want.
In The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, he says, “When you take action, you trigger all kinds of things that will inevitably carry you to success. Things that once seemed confusing begin to become clear. Things that once appeared difficult begin to be easier. All manner of good things begin to flow in your direction once you begin to take action.”
Motivation comes with practice. Don’t wait for perfection; don’t even wait for the perfect plan. Make a choice to move yourself forward in what you want and take action.