‘Motivation is Bullshit!’
This phrase popped into my mind sometime last year. I had been (and still continue to) aggressively interrogating my passions and desires. I was adamant at narrowing down and articulating what sort life I would like to live. I had to know what work I wanted to be involved in and where I was going. If I could just get a general grasp on that, I could go forth full steam ahead until I get there. I’ve learnt a lot…and I still do every day. One of the lessons I learned in 2010 was that ‘motivation is bullshit’
Rewind to 2002, I’m still in Secondary School (High School) back in Nigeria. Back then my Dad would give me books for my birthdays instead of actual gifts (you know, things like video games, cool stuff, etc). Fortunately I’ve been an avid reader since I was 5 and I didn’t mind. Most of them were motivational and inspirational books and soon I was hooked on the concept of success. To this very day, I still am. It’s all I think about. In 2002, I was reading books like Ben Carson’s ‘Gifted Hands’, and books by John Maxwell and Myles Munroe. Great books, they laid the initial foundation for my worldviews and provided the fuel to focus intensely and perform excellently in my academics at the time. Eventually I progressed to other books. Motivational books were my favourite, books with lots of cliché quotes like John Mason’s ‘The Enemy called Average’.
I was fired up! Hungry after success, achievements, titles, cash, houses, and all the things society has us convinced we should want or have. Everyone said something along the same lines. You have to be motivated! It makes sense. When we are motivated, we have more energy, we put in more effort. We go harder. Motivation is great that way, its like a shot of adrenaline or like downing a six pack of Redbull.
You see, motivation works well in a system where you are subjugated. Most things are outside your control, you are told what to do. Social and power hierarchies are stable. Your choices are generally limited and everyone has their place. A system of punishment and reward, approval and disapproval is used to condition your behaviour, make you do what you are supposed to do. Motivation is great here.
Since the power in this system lies outside you, the motivation also comes from outside you. Motivation is extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation works like this, ‘I work hard because I want to have a big house, lots of money and stuff’. Or like this, ‘I am pursuing this degree to make my parents happy and proud of me’. You follow?…Okay let’s try this one, ‘I work my ass off at this job because the money is good and I would like to be promoted’. External motivation, It works…in a closed system.
But what happens when you are suddenly thrust into an open system. The rules are flipped. The power is in you, the responsibility is on you. You are responsible for delivering on results, for creating your own experience. You are simultaneously the creator, and the created. You are the observer and the observed.
Or maybe you still exist within the context of the afore-mentioned ‘closed system’. This time however, you realised you do not need to obey the system. There are an infinite worlds and experiences outside the one you were locked into before. The carrot all of a sudden is no longer worth the stick, and your motivation begins to wane.
It happens to a lot of us. It happened to me. This unplugging, so to speak happens unconsciously, and we don’t understand it. One day you are skipping merrily along and minding your duties, the next you are plunged into an existentialist crisis. Nothing seems worth it anymore. You are tired of ploughing at the same dead end job over and over and over again. The degree you pursue seems worthless in contrast to the talents you possess and the present opportunities available on the outside. Motivation can’t save you. Now you can pretend this isn’t happening and keep skipping. Your results are now determined largely by your determination, grit and capacity for self delusion.
What you really need is PASSION. Passion is intrinsic. It comes from the inside. You need self awareness for this. You need to reconnect with the forgotten and lost parts of yourself. You need to touch the inner spark and fan the flame until it becomes a raging fire. Passion, that feeling of being truly alive, of being possessed, compelled, on fire. You are taken by an idea, by a pursuit, by a desire and you will do anything to have it. Passion is motivation to the factor of a thousand. Nothing can stand in your way and survive; You will get the result you are after at whatever cost. This is the real energy source. This is longer lasting and more powerful than mere motivation.
Your momentum is from within spilling outwards in your actions and decisions. You engage in the field of study or work first for the sheer pleasure of the activity itself and then you exult in the final product/result. Your reward doesn’t come after the gruelling punishment of the task. The task IS your reward. The end success is the cherry on top. This is the carrot no stick scenario.
With passion, you fly past previous limitations. You explore and create new worlds. You become alive, powerful, wise, and fearless. You contribute to our world and you leave a worthy legacy. So stop looking around for external rewards, and fill your life with passion. If you dare, build your life around it and not only will you tap into a more powerful and rewarding way to live and work, you will have a far more enjoyable ride along the way.
Drop the candle, wake up and set yourself on fire!