The Secret to Sustainable Motivation

The Secret to Sustainable Motivation feature image

“I would do it but I’m not feeling motivated right now”. How often do you feel like that?

We think of motivation as this arcane magical power of unknown origin, one that comes and goes as it pleases and often eludes us when we need it the most. Yet we tend to treat it as a prerequisite for putting any real effort on anything and, in extend, achieving any kind of result.

Misconception: Motivation leads to Action which leads to Result

This typical way of thinking can easily muddle our action plans, overshadow our long-term goals, and impede our chances for success and growth. We can do better.

The secret to finding motivation lays in pinpointing its true origin: Action!

When we act, we produce results, and it’s those results that spark motivation. Once we take action, we can feed this initial motivation back to our next actions, producing even stronger results and higher motivation levels.

Action leads to Results, which in turn spark Motivation. Motivation feeds back to and fuels our next actions.

Notice how a slight change in our mental model completely shifts the power dynamic, moving us from a position of dependency and powerlessness to one of freedom and self-reliance.

This also means that we become solely responsible for kickstarting and maintaining this upward spiral of progress. To reword a famous quote by Jack London:

You can’t wait for motivation. You have to go after it with a club.

It is easy to visualize this feedback loop working well once there is enough momentum, but what about getting started?

Start by doing

Image source: Shen Comix

Any attempt to tackle a high-level goal involves a huge amount of work; it may feel like pushing a boulder up to the top of a tall mountain.

Pushing a boulder up to a tall mountain

After making the first few steps, we might look upwards and realize that the top is not even visible. Then we get disheartened, we tell ourselves “why even try pushing the boulder if the top is unreachable?”, and our motivation plummets.

The good news is that the size of the mountain is up to us.

Especially when setting out to do something unfamiliar, it is important that we start small and steady. We can reduce our mountain into a nice manageable hill, so that the top stays visible and we don’t get discouraged.

Broken down to manageable chunks, work can then feel like pushing the boulder to a hill, and it's more manageable

Every hill we climb makes us stronger and more determined for the next, slightly taller hill, and eventually our original tall mountain.

This is not just a recipe for organic personal growth, but also the secret to sustainable motivation.

Until next time, stay safe and go conquer them hills!

Anastasios Piotopoulos
Written by Tasos Piotopoulos
Software Engineering Lead, Technical Architect, M.Sc.