Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Do you know what I love about reading? It expands the reach of your potential capacity.
Do you know what I dislike about reading? It is a temporary stoking of a motivational fire.
You cannot hedge your bets on a conscientious stream of continuous motivation. Think of something so simple, your new years resolutions. Really, if you were being honest with yourself, how many of them have you actually kept for over a month? Or even a single resolution you actually completed?! A new diet, a new habit, a new avoidance, a new commitment...it probably started with a spark of motivation. You had that motivation at its highest with the changing of a season or time, or circumstance. Motivation in itself isn't bad, it's a wonderful way to get you started. But anyone who has been successful in any aspect of their life will tell you the same thing, you will not always be motivated. Just with new years resolutions you can find studies with results that indicate 70-90 percent of people will not keep their resolutions. Then you have the non-resolution population of, 'never make them so they won't break them.'
I know I am harping on an already well known fact, that motivation does not work for producing real outcomes. It takes dedication, commitment, perseverance, support, and the willingness to fail without succumbing to failure. What motivation does do is pull your mind out of the daily tunneling of immediate focus. This idea of tunneling comes from the book Upstream, by Dan Heath. We know there are other things greater, grander that we could commit time and energy to, but we tunnel in our focus on our immediate needs and concerns. Most of the time those things we are honed in on are really really important. Immediate health, or kids, or school, or money, or career. The tunneling allows us to stay motivated in minor surges on things that keep us from crashing. It does not allow us to develop in those areas we really want to grow. It puts them off until later, until I have a lot of motivation and time and energy to stop tunneling and divert my focus.
Here is a list of the ideas I have been motivated to do in just this year:
Write a children's book series (I make up stories all the time for my nieces and nephews).
Start volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, or the North Texas Food Bank (both of which I have done in the past).
Create a donation pick-up system for my town to help reduce the amount of usable items going to the dump on "big item pick-up days".
Sign-up to assist with childcare on Sundays for my church.
Help develop a group to provide companionship, exercise assistance, and bring vitality to the lives of elderly in assisted or community living environments.
Go back to part-time teaching kids to swim (I really miss parts of this).
Start a YouTube series on healthcare revenue cycle.
Get into my ideal amazing shape, reaching my fitness and strength goals (this would also encompass things like sleep, water intake, hitting protein, and programmed workouts).
Develop a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program at my current employer.
Design a training educational program around healthcare revenue cycle that could become a high school or college course.
This is just the short list of items I have been motivated to do after reading a book, or listening to a podcast, or listening to a captivating speaker, or watching a video. None of these things have yet to come to fruition. Why? Because I lack the motivation. I love the idea of all these things (maybe just not all at once), but I am crippled in my ability to act on them due to the overwhelming sense of potential energy and failure. What if I put all that work into one of these things, and I do not succeed? What if the time and energy I put into these things take away from family and loved ones? What if I never finish? I need to get unmotivated.
The surest way for me to start a fire that is going to build and burn and last is to accept the failure of not doing anything. I could have done ANY of these things in the past two years. Yet, here I am rounding out 2022 with more dreams and less reality. I already failed. I accept that I have hit a low of non-success because of the focused tunnel vision I have refused to accept.
For two years in a row I have not volunteered, I have not written anything longer than one of these blog posts, I have not hit my health goals, and I have been selfish with my time and my gifts. Dan Heath said it best, "every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets." Suddenly, I am very aware of my system. In my personal life, social life, and work life I have designed a system that is about stability and comfort, not sacrifice or growth.
Let's go back to motivation vs getting unmotivated. The last time I felt like I was really moving forward was Summer 2016. I was dialed into continuous growth, but unmotivated. Why? I was the heaviest I had ever been, I was working a job I enjoyed but was burning me out and not challenging me in the right ways, and I felt stuck. The motivation was not someone or something telling me to get my butt up and start making change happen. I was unmotivated to risk change, I was burdened by my own ability to take a first step. Here is where planning and execution start building a flame of consistency. I just needed to take one step forward. The easiest one for me was my health, so I planned a three year strategy to help move me towards my health and fitness goals. Also, for me, I try to start new things on random days, not a Monday, or a new month, or a new year; just a random Thursday at noon is a perfect day to start.
Year One: Start calorie counting - This is not for everyone, but I literally forget what I've eaten in a day, so it helps me make better food choices. It is not so much about the actual amount of calories tracked, but where my calories are coming from daily.
Year Two: Start strength training - I mean go out and purchase a lifting program and follow it.
Year Three: Heal my body health - I went 90% plant-based for the next 2-3 years to help eliminate things out of my diet that were impacting my daily health. It also helped build a diet that I knew would keep me feeling my best.
That is it, my strategy was one item added for three years! And you know what, it worked. I came out of 2019 feeling my best. I was more acquainted with my body and the nutrition it needed and the strength it had. I just started. I was not motivated every day to eat well or lift, some days I just enjoyed cake for breakfast and laid around all day, other days were spend at family cookouts. The continued daily reminder was that I had already failed due to being unmotivated. I was waiting on something magical to get me up and spoon feed me the motivation to try each day.
After going through that three year plan, I can say with certainty, the best time to start something is when you are the most unmotivated. Ride the low, not the high. Do you know what I was doing before I started writing this blog? I was sitting in my PJs still in bed hours after I risen for the day. I blamed it on a bad night's sleep, and how I should rest before my workout later today. Like a deep breath, it hit me. For weeks I have been thinking about what to write next about healthcare revenue cycle. Nothing seemed pressing or interesting, I was looking for motivation, and without it I was planning to take a nap just so I didn't have to think about it. In that moment I was so unmotivated to do anything. So I got up, got dressed, and sat down at my computer. Even if I didn't write anything but that first paragraph, at least I got up, and least I wrote down a title for an idea, at least I tried today, instead of waiting for motivation tomorrow.
It may be months or years before I hit all the potential items on my list above. It may never happen. But I know if I start when I am unmotivated, I am going to have a way easier time of it all doing these things when those surges of motivation hit. In those moments, motivation won't be about getting started, it will be about taking it to the next level. I'm lethargic and tired, so unmotivated, I could go eat something or sleep now, but I also could just go to the gym, and while I am there between sets I could look up ways to volunteer, or anything else on my list. In the moments of being unmotivated, you'll find the strength you never knew existed, perseverance and dedication to goals that before were only just dreams.