A lot of people ask me, “how do I get motivated?” And I tell them all the same thing: motivation follows action. Motivation always follows action. Motivation only follows action.
Motivation vs. Inspiration
Many people use the terms inspiration and motivation interchangeably when they’re not the same thing at all. All those cute little kids singing on America’s Got Talent every week? Inspirational as all get out. The blind long snapper who played at USC a few years ago? So inspiring, he makes everybody love football. Me, I can inspire you till I’m blue in the face. But I can’t motivate you one single, solitary bit.
The only person who can motivate you is you. And you can only do it by taking action.
Let me give you an example.
I remember reading a few years ago that the largest engine in the New York City subway system could be prevented from moving by putting a one-inch wood block in front of its right drive wheel. It is completely prevented from moving. That same train, when going at its normal speed, can punch through a six-foot thick stainless steel wall. But it has to act first before it can break through that wall.
Acting to write a book:
Let’s say you read a book that inspired you to write a book of your own. You don’t just put “write a book” on your to-do list, then get it done all in one fell swoop. You need to break it down into smaller pieces, and those into smaller pieces, and those into smaller pieces, before you can even think about writing the first word.
Books are comprised of chapters. Chapters of subsections. Subsections are made of paragraphs and paragraphs of sentences. But before you even reach that step, you need an outline, and you need to brainstorm to get to that outline. So the first thing to do on your to-do list is to brainstorm about your book.
But do you have to brainstorm about the entire thing all at once? Of course not! You can brainstorm a chapter at a time or even a subsection at a time. All you have to do is break things down far enough to get to that first small action to take – which will then motivate you to take the next small step and the next after that.
Acting to run an Ironman:
Or say you wake up one morning with the overwhelming desire to run an Ironman triathlon. That’s not a race you just suit up and show up for! First off, do you know how to swim, ride a bike, and run? If not, that’s where you start prepping for your first Ironman.
Then, before you can start working on distance, you have to make sure you have the right form. Long summers playing Marco Polo as a child hardly prepare you to swim 2.4 miles. Riding a bike for 112 miles is a little different than tooling around your driveway with training wheels on. And jogging out to your roadside mailbox every day is no way to get ready for a marathon at the end.
With the right form, you can start working on distance. Keeping the right form for 200 yards in a pool is far different from two miles in open water. Riding your bicycle around town is nowhere near riding it for more than 100 miles. And a couple of miles on the track at the gym doesn’t prepare you for your 26.2 miles at the end of the race.
But it all goes back to that first tiny step you take, the one that gives you the motivation to take the next step and the next after that. That first step, almost inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, is where your motivation truly lies. When you take that step, though, motivation will surely follow.