The Motivation Hack You Can Count On

Written by Mike Shapiro | | February 14, 2017

There are hundreds of books, videos and articles on motivation, but over the years I’ve noticed most of it leaves me cold. And then I thought about the reason why.

It’s because it’s mostly about talk. And over the years, I’ve found I can’t count on talk — self-talk, friend and family talk, mentor talk, coach talk, famous guru talk — to get me going. Most of what’s been written about motivation is really about exhortation — talking to yourself or getting someone else to tell you — about how valuable you are and why you ought to go do something.

But the meanings of the two words are quite different:

Motivation = A motivating force, stimulus, or influence.

Exhortation = Language intended to incite or encourage.

Somehow Exhortation has become synonymous with Motivation. Exhortation — language — can be one way to help us get motivated, but it’s the Motivation we want and need, however we get it.

And to be incite-able or encourage-able with talk, I’d first have to summon up a receptive state of mind and emotion:

  1. Grateful.
  2. Optimistic.
  3. Clear on my goals — near and long-term.
  4. Feeling energetic and ready to tackle something big.

Too much! I can’t always do all that. And my work is too important to allow it to be held hostage to my own ability to mobilize all these elusive states of mind and emotion to be receptive to an exhortation to get down to business.

Regardless of what I’m thinking or how I feel, I still have to do some work. Now.

Here’s something that can get you moving — year-in, and year-out, through good moods and bad moods, periods of great productivity and periods of abject, unredeemable slack-itude. It requires just two steps:

  1. Have a plan. Good news: It doesn’t have to be a good plan, a complete plan or a well thought-out plan.  It can be a plan you change or even scrap tomorrow. Tough news: You still have to have a plan. The important thing is that you are engaged in the process of planning. Constantly. Daily. Minute-by-minute. Refining. Adding. Subtracting. Learning as you go. Letting the plan adjust to reflect the benefits of what you’ve learned. You don’t have to love the plan as it exists at any point in time. But you do have to learn to love the planning process because you have to do it every day, all day.
  2. Take one step to move your plan forward. It doesn’t have to be a big step. Need to make a tough phone call? Give yourself credit for putting the person’s name and phone number on your calendar for a time certain. That’s a concrete step. Done. And when you do get around to making the call, it doesn’t have to be successful. What did you learn? What’s the next move? It’s probably a next action you would not have thought of before you made the call. Your plan just changed, even slightly. But you’re moving forward.

Don’t confuse motivation with exhortation. Exhortation is talk. Whether it’s positive talk or negative talk, self-talk or talk from others — it’s still talk. What you want is action. Make a plan. Do something — anything — to move it forward. Then see what’s next.