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Why You Don't Need Motivation?

Mudassir Mustafa
Mudassir Mustafa
6 min read
Why You Don't Need Motivation?
Photo by Kristopher Roller / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Let me start today by making a confession. This post, yes the one where I will act as a guru who knows a lot about motivation and all, has procrastinated this post for more than a month. Yes, more than a month. Why? Because I thought I need to feel motivated before I can start writing and for a week or so since I last wrote here, I was not getting that 'Feeling.'

I am sure you have felt the same - more often than you care to admit. I did, too. After reading this post, your opinion and thought the process will change, a little in the start but big time later on.

When do we need motivation?

When we analyze our lives we tend to do a few types of work, regularly. There is work or job, personal stuff like groceries or dinner or anything that you are doing to meet your self's need, and then there is a type of work that you would love to do that has some benefits attached to it - could be monetary, personal satisfaction, health, etc. But, you're not really good at doing this kind of task or you are not proficient enough to execute that task to get the maximum benefit. That's when you need Motivation. You need strong mental strength that we call 'Willpower'.

That's what you need when you need to write a blog, go to the gym, eat healthy food, go for a run, learn something new, etc. All of these tasks look daunting and that's when you need to have maximum focus. We compensate for our ability to not do focused work with a lack of Willpower. The belief that willpower is a finite resource that you either have or don’t can lead to defeatist practices.

Lack of willpower” mindset creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: You think you don’t have the willpower to improve a skill, so you don’t practice because there’s no use in trying, so you never improve
- Anders Ericsson, Peak,

In Indistractable, Nir Eyal says that when you think of willpower as finite, you use this knowledge as an excuse to give up on overwhelming or cognitively demanding tasks in favor of low-effort activities like watching Netflix.

What is the problem with Motivation?


Motivation is not lasting and we do tend to link motivation with our emotions. Like I had for over a month. Every time I thought about writing this article used to think if I have enough time left on the day, is there anything better I could be doing? do I feel motivated enough to write today? should I even continue writing? I could go on and on...

I was stuck in the Procrastination Doom's Loop where at the start of the day I thought I'm gonna write this post, then midway through I thought I was supposed to be doing something else, and eventually took off by thinking ugh I'm not feeling like writing today and that loop was one vicious cycle to break.    

You don't go to the gym because you don't feel like going. You tell yourself that you lack motivation so you start putting pressure on yourself, and start listening to high-frequency music to feel more focused and motivated, but that too doesn't last long. You go for a run when the sun is shining and the sky is clear. You stay at home when it's raining outside. Even the music doesn't help then. Do you see where I am going with that?

What you are doing is associating emotions with a task and when those emotions are gone, so it is your motivation to do that task. When the going gets tough you stop.  

You Don’t Need Motivation, You Need Discipline - Breaking Muscle
Motivation is a tricky subject. People are motivated by different things—money, good grades, material objects, and adoration from peers. Motivational images, videos, and quotes are put on social media sites in the millions. At the time of writing this article, my search for #motivation on Instagram…

What do I need?

Now you are asking the right question. What you need is a system and discipline to follow that system. You need to build a system and processes that will help you get any task done, regardless if you are feeling like doing it or not. It's about building a habit. As James Clear said in Atomic Habits "Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations."

Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results - Atomic Habits by James Clear

Okay, cool. Where did I get this idea from?

I started building a habit of reading daily for 30 mins to an hour depending on my workload (If you are a co-founder of a newly formed tech company you know what your schedule looks like) and I come across this article that opened my eyes.

Screw motivation, what you need is discipline.
If you want to get anything done, there are two basic ways to get yourself to do it. The first, more popular and devastatingly wrong option is to try to motivate yourself. The second, somewhat unpo…

I dived in because I found this topic very interesting and a little thought-provoking as well. That's when I come across 'TheThe Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden." And this changed the way I think. It will also change the way you think.

Discipline is what you need

What you need is discipline. You feel motivated because you took action. Motivation is a result, not a precondition. You don’t need motivation to break a sweat. Break a sweat and you’ll feel motivated.

Success is a process. Success is repeatable and predictable. Success has less to do with hoping and praying and strategizing than with diligently doing (after a little strategizing, sure): doing the right things, the right way, over and over and over. Jeff Haden.

What is discipline then? Discipline is separating out the emotions with the task at hand. If I were disciplined, instead of thinking I am not in the right mood or I didn't like the coffee today so I am not going to finish this article, I would have had a system to follow. That could have helped me in writing this piece of article - maybe twice a week to finish it. It wouldn't be attached with how I was feeling or how my coffee tasted but only to the fact that I have to write, regardless of what I am feeling.

If you look around the high achievers, and I'll let you watch Jeff's Ted talk where he talks more about them, what separates them is not the motivation. But, discipline. Look at Michael Phelps, you think he was motivated enough to train for thousands of hours? Do you think Kobe Bryant was just feeling like becoming the best player that got him to that point? No, they were extraordinarily focused and committed people. They had discipline. They went to the trainings regardless of the weather, mood, feelings, coffee, etc.

What you should do now?

I know this article will get you a little overwhelmed - I was too. But what changed is the way I was getting things done. So, I used the productivity techniques that I know, which I am more than happy to share with you as well over a cup of tea, I built a system. From reading every day, taking awful lots of notes, time blocking for everything, cutting down meetings, and writing everyday, I can see myself writing regularly without stressing myself out.

Btw, coffee was good. I just like black.  

Mudassir Mustafa Twitter

I help entrepreneurs and business leaders launch their products and reduce the chaos through building high performance teams and proven product management techniques.