The myth of motivation

What you are missing when you ask “how do you stay motivated?”

Gulistan Elidemir
7 min readMar 25, 2021


Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Motivation is something that is needed more than ever in our fast-paced society, however, it is commonly understood as something hard to garner.

With the rise of interest in productiveness, we are faced with more tasks amassing within our routines. ‘Productivity’ has become the “it” word at the moment, with people taking it to certain lengths to measure their self-worth.

But productivity is a harder state of mind to acquire than one would want it to be. There are stepping stones that allow us to reach this state, and the first step in doing so is to have motivation.

While many people have goals, at times they simultaneously lack the motivation to achieve them. The willingness is present, however, the spark to action is absent.

It is within this limbo of feelings where motivation becomes a misunderstood concept. When one says “I don’t have the motivation to do that,” they immediately sign themselves off from doing something about it. And thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Motivation is not something you lack. On the contrary, what you are missing is the understanding of the term and your needs behind the task at hand.

In order to overcome a problem, I find that learning about it is the first step in doing so. So if you have trouble with accumulating motivation and understanding how it works, you’ve come to the right place.

The common misconception of motivation

“A temporary wave of inspiration, or a mysterious entity that appears out of nowhere”

The everyday usage of motivation as a term has led to the loss of its true meaning.

Some people describe it as a temporary wave of inspiration, or a mysterious entity that is felt out of nowhere.

The reason for its appearance as a mystery is because it is believed to occur as a stimulant felt within the beginning stage of a commitment that creates the action.

Similarly, it appears as a form of inspiration because it tends to be triggered by something depending on one’s circumstances.

However, it is neither one of these things, and the more it is perceived in this way the more damage it can do.

Additionally, another reason for the misunderstanding behind the term is its subjective nature. The motivation behind an action is different for everybody, which can vary from our biological, personal, and social needs.

As people have different reasons for being motivated, it appears differently for everyone, and at times even to ourselves.

For example, person A may have the goal to lose weight (a personal need) and thus be motivated to start a work-out program. On the other hand, person B may be hungry and thus decide to feed themselves (a biological need).

Both people have motivation behind their actions, however, their expression of motivation wildly differs from the other.

This shows how present motivation is behind almost every action, and it is something that transcends the initial phase of it first being felt.

So, perceiving motivation as something fleeting, or not being able to see its presence already in our lives can delay the process of actually adopting it. Most importantly, motivation is not something you wait for, it is something you call upon, daily.

There is nothing special about someone who is motivated. It is all a process that begins with understanding one’s needs.

The actual definition of motivation

The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.” In this definition, it appears as a reason for carrying out a certain behaviour or action.

Similarly, Very Well Mind defines it as “the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviours.” Here, motivation is expressed to last beyond the initial phase of it being triggered. It is something you have throughout the completion of a goal.

Positive Psychology summarises it as the “rising and falling of needs, cognition, and emotions expressed through patterns of behaviour, levels of engagement and neural and psychophysiological activity directed toward realising essential life outcomes.” Within this definition, motivation is something that dominates a large part of human behaviour.

If this is the case, it goes to show that motivation is present in one area of our lives or another. It is hardwired into our being, and therefore it is something that is not inaccessible.

Knowing that we are always capable of it can give us hope about how to garner it moving forward.

This means the problem of inaction, or “lack of motivation,” may reside in the strength behind one’s need.

How to become motivated

As we have established, whether you are aware of it or not, everything you do is a product of your motivation to do so. When you feed yourself, clothe yourself, wash yourself, etc. it is all because you are motivated by your inner needs to do so.

So in garnering motivation for the tasks we don’t easily pick up, we must reassess the intentions behind what we want and why we want it.

Referring back to the losing weight example, in order to rise to action, you need to come to a solid understanding of why you want to do it.

Person A may feel more reluctance to start a work-out program because reaping the benefits of the reward is delayed, whereas person B will have an easier time having the motivation to eat food since there is an immediate resolution, as well as its link to satisfy their hunger for survival. This highlights the importance of the level of need behind something.

Although we feel more strongly to meet our biological needs, this does not mean we cannot feel the same way for our long-term goals. This is why analysing and rewording our intentions behind why you want to accomplish a goal is vital.

The more you show yourself how important it is for you to accomplish it, the more you will feel inclined to start taking action. On the contrary, if you find that your goal isn’t as important to you as you thought it was, this can help you relieve the pressure from not completing it.

Here are some ways to help you assess your need behind a goal and rise to action:

1. Journal and write about why you want to accomplish your goal

2. Get into the intricate details about the importance of it

3. Research about your goal as a way to prepare yourself mentally to carry it out

4. Break the goal into small tasks and work your way up from there

5. Give yourself space, time and compassion

In understanding why you want to do the thing that you want to do, you’ll be able to figure out how to do it.

Personally, I had been struggling with getting myself into a writing routine for years. I called myself a writer and wanted a job revolving around it. However, due to my struggles with anxiety, I had the hardest time incorporating it into my routine.

Over time, I was able to enhance the motivation to do something about it by trying out various methods and integrating them into my routine.

I spent time journaling my thoughts and creating mind-maps of why writing was important to me. This led me to the conclusion that it was something that I was talented in, it was a skill I can capitalise on, and it brought about a high level of satisfaction in my life.

Along with this, I read multiple books on writing by famous authors and those that I looked up to. This served as a way to increase interest and seek inspiration within it (rather than wait for it).

In order to get into the practice of writing consistently, I gave myself the lowest word count to hit on the days I set aside for writing, sometimes as low as 50 words. The point of this was to show myself that writing is not as daunting as my brain was making it out to be, and once I got started I would easily exceed the word count anyway.

On top of this, I kept a track of when I would complete the task by noting it down somewhere I could see. By seeing evidence of keeping up with the task daily, it helped me build self-trust and commitment to the goal.

Most of all, the space, time, and compassion I gave myself during this period were essential to make sure I have the endurance to keep going.

Motivation calls for persistence and is something to call upon constantly. It is a building block that calls for preparation. Likewise, you can’t run a marathon without training for it first.

Not really motivation, but devotion

The more I practiced and learned about motivation I realised that it manifested as something much more powerful in my life. It had the resemblance of devotion.

Perceiving myself as being devoted to a long-term goal helped me feel more strongly about it since the word ‘motivation’ had become tainted.

Contrastingly, devotion is defined as “love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity,” and this allowed me to approach my goal in the very same way.

Devotion reaffirms that your goal is a daily practice that needs tending to, like every other essential in our lives.

If the task is important to you, changing the way you view it to an ‘essential’ can help you rise to action rather than put it off.

Motivation manifests within our lives as a wave that carries us briefly from one spot to the next. Devotion, on the other hand, is the boat that sails the entire ocean — Me

Photo by Parker Ulry on Unsplash



Gulistan Elidemir

Journalist, poet, and photographer. I write about life, mental health, and more! London | UK