Where Does Motivation Come From?

Where does motivation come from?  I can admit that mine ebbs and flows quite a bit.  I’m not even sure what I’m doing has a motivation behind it or just work ethic.  I know that I need to do the work to get where I want to be, my motivation is the end game, where my writing will end up being someday.  

The act is a motivation in itself.  Each day when I look at my average word count, and total word count, I get a feeling of accomplishment that feeds my motivation to get up and work the next morning.  But I’ll be the first to admit I’m not entirely sure where my initial motivation came from. 

My desire to write has also ebbed and flowed throughout the years.  I would write steadily for about a month, and then stop for whatever reason and not write for months.  The realization that I needed a routine, a system, to be successful writing rekindled my love for writing.  363 days as of today, without missing a single day.  I can’t credit that only to the dedication, there has to be some motivation to do the work in there somewhere, too.  I’ve been devouring books on writing this year, especially ones by famous authors.  Every single one speaks to a daily writing habit.

This last month I’ve been worried about my daily writing.  It’s been getting difficult to get to my daily target some days, and I think that’s because the ideas I’m choosing don’t have enough meat on their bones to get me there.  But I always push through. 

Which came first?

Is there a difference between dedication and motivation?  I think one breeds the other.  I’m just not sure which came first.  The dedication is my excuse for doing the work every single day, weekends included, sick days included, vacation days included.  You get the idea.  I don’t miss a single day, that’s dedication.  But where does motivation kick in?  At what point does it switch from “sit down and do this” to “I want to get this done?”  They’re linked at the hip, these two.  Dedication causes me to be motivated, and my motivation feeds my continued dedication because I see progress.  But where did that first motivation come from?  Was it my decades-long desire to write?  Was it because I’ve been reading a lot more the past few years and that feeds my desire?  I wish I could tell. 

First, it would be nice to know so I can tear it apart and explain it to you if you’re looking for how to be motivated.  Second, I would like to know in case I ever lose it, how to gain it back.  But let’s be honest, motivation is what comes and goes unpredictably, at least for me.  I wake up in a bad mood because of “the dream” and don’t even want to get out of bed.  It’s not motivation that gets my grumpy ass up every morning, not by a long shot.  It’s dedication.  It’s the belief that I will continue to get nowhere unless I work every single day. At some point in my morning routine, I definitely get motivated by the subject I’m working on.  Most days.  Usually.  But even on the ones I don’t I slog through to make sure I hit a minimum count.  Butt in the chair – do the work.

I can’t teach what I don’t understand

So how does one explain how to be dedicated?  It’s Nike – Just do it.  It’s discipline. But it’s also the promise of something better at the end of the line.  It’s the knowledge that if I continue to work, I will be rewarded. This all comes out of the basic worldview that I believe that hard work is rewarded rather than sloth and laziness.  If I didn’t believe that, I would never even get out of bed in the morning.  That worldview comes from my personal experiences where I have been rewarded because of my work.  I’m not saying I’ve always worked this hard, I can tell you I have not.  But I do have a capacity to sit down and burn through something to get it done.  I remember sitting down in a hotel lobby and editing a 30-page document we were delivering to a customer in Toronto one weekend.  I sat for two 10-hour stints to make sure the deliverable was clear, concise and professional.  The shape it was given to me was straight off a developer’s PC and was rife with language errors and omissions.  We won that deal in part because I couldn’t allow shoddy content to be shown to a customer.   

So is embarrassment my motivation?  That could very well be.  I do a lot to avoid embarrassment, I’ll admit. Probably more than I should, but it’s also just who I am.  I put being embarrassed up there with puking for things I never want to do again in my life.  This sounds awfully similar to operating from a fear of something.  My biggest challenge early on was the fear of how my work would be received.  Since I’m in confession mode today, I’ll admit I don’t handle criticism well, especially of my writing.  That’s something I have to work on and just get over. Intellectually, I know that.  But my emotions don’t like to be intellectual.  They like to get hurt or to be overjoyed, and generally, try to ruin my life. 

OK, let me summarize this before I get too far off track.  I am motivated by a fear of embarrassment and criticism to work hard.  I can live with that.  I honestly don’t care what my motivation is, I just want to understand it.  I can say that I don’t think either of those fears will ever go away.  I suffer quite frequently from “imposter syndrome” as many do, but it keeps me working hard.  It also keeps me from ever relaxing.  Plus, being in sales, you are constantly starting over.  Every month, every quarter, and every year, you have a new target to hit, and that target is tied to your compensation.  So you don’t have much time to celebrate or lament because you just have to move on to the next deal and try again.  You operate under the knowledge that “you can’t win them all.”  Yet you try to.  I think my motivation is similar, maybe even derived from my sales experience.  I know that life won’t be a steady stream of successes.  I have posted content that I personally enjoy that hasn’t received a single like.  It’s been read, but no one clicked on that one important button.  It’s disappointing on one level, but on another level, I want to know why.  Why did they come to the article only not to like it?  It was a light-hearted article.  Did my headline deceive? 

These are the things I deal with frequently.  I think it’s also what keeps me from releasing content that I really enjoy and like. If the stuff I really like isn’t enjoyed by my community, that’s bad, in my opinion.  It reminds me of my first marriage.  Attracted to her for the wrong reasons, and she the same to me.  That won’t end well.  Or, I’ve simply found a different niche that I need to reserve content for.  Maybe I just need to work more on headlines.  Maybe a simple tag of “Satire” would help.  Who knows.  Maybe the world just has no sense of humor these days. That could definitely be. 

No matter.  I will keep trying and noticing the posts that do well, and those that don’t and try to analyze why in both cases. From there, I’ve started to try to tweak articles to see if more whitespace helps, or if I need a better picture, a different headline, different tags, or just a re-write.  Either way, these things all conspire to keep my motivation fired up and keep me working towards something. 

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Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Where Does Motivation Come From?

  1. Very honest post! 🙂 I noticed in my life that overthinking an uncomfortable choice usually causes me to procrastinate it. So I changed strategy 😉 When I have an idea, I just do it and worry about the response later on (I normally have what Brene Brown calls a vulnerability hangover, but it is worth it 😉 ) That’s also how I started blogging 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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