The Myth of Self-Motivation

It seems like the only time you hear about self-motivation is when you’re reading resumes, cover letters, or job descriptions. Why is that? It’s because self-motivation, in a general sense, doesn’t exist.

If you’ve ever cruised Craigslist or Monster, you’ve probably noticed that job posters really want to find someone who is “success driven” and “self-motivated.” But, let’s take a moment and think about what that actually means.

Driven, by definition, is to be moved by a specific person or source of power. Success, on the other hand, is one of our language’s most vague of words—there’s nothing specific about it.

To motivate is to stimulate (someone’s) interest in or enthusiasm for doing something. There’s only one way to stimulate your own interest, and 4% of the internet is dedicated to you doing just that. Get down with your bad self.

When it comes to motivation, there has to be a spark. Say you want to go for a run, but need to motivate yourself. What do you do? Envisioning the future may work from time to time, but other times you need to pull for the big guns. You tell your friends about your goals, so you can follow through with their expectations, or you’ll pull up motivational videos and read quotes, both of which were created by other people. You’ll look at photos of other people’s bodies you’d like to have, you sign up for races that are created by other people.

On the outside, it seems like you’re self-motivated. There’s a lot of situations that result in this mirage. What is masked as self-motivation in the workplace, for example, is often fear of failure, a need for money, or an attachment to a lifestyle. Not to get all philosophical on you, but those things are far from ‘the self’.

I worked from home for over a year, and I totally sucked at it. I spent the entire time beating myself up over why I wasn’t motivated and was continuously researching articles that suggested new ways of allocating time, articles that suggested to meditate, articles that suggested brain games, articles that suggested I have a less exciting life outside of work, articles that suggested that I stop reading crap on the internet and GET SHIT DONE. I just kept looking for the missing piece-what I was doing wrong that was leading me to fail, week after week, at showing up and being the employee I signed up to be. I wasn’t motivated.

I see now that the only thing that creates sustainable motivation within a person is to appeal to their intrinsic values. Have a value statement, and practice it. Every. Single. Day. You can’t create a business and have its goal be to make you a lot of money, and have your lesser-paid employees enthusiastically clock in every day. When you create or manage a business, it’s your responsibility to ignite a spark within another human being, and keep that sucker burnin’.

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