How to Motivate Yourself without Motivation

This article will take an unusual approach to the issue of motivation. I will try to expose some misconceptions concerning this issue.

Many articles about motivation presented in books and on the Internet speak about the importance of finding constantly incentive, setting goals, rewarding yourself for tasks’ performance, of being optimistic and eliminating doubts on the way.

Many authors believe that these are the main components of a successful human motivation. Of course, I agree that these things are very important for your motivation.

But, in my opinion, you should not cling to them too much and make them the basis of any of your activities. You should not be attached to the idea of being motivated in order to achieve a good motivation! What does this mean?

What People Want to Get from Motivation?

Let’s try to put ourselves in the place of the person who is looking for methods, which will allow him to motivate himself. Perhaps, this person lacks discipline and self-organization; he cannot start any important work, blaming his laziness and lack of motivation. Or he wants to quit smoking or drinking, begin to go in for sports, but considers that he has insufficient incentives.

Stop! After all, you can be this person as well, once you read this article! In this case, you are already in his place.

What desire, in this case, directs such person?

He wants to be kicked by someone and he will set to the work, which has been long put off. He looks for a method, which will allow him to go to the gym three times a week with enthusiasm and with a great desire. He wants to learn some simple way to stop eating tons of sweets every day.

In other words, people want motivation to make the hard and boring work easy and fascinating, to relieve them of laziness, procrastination, bad habits and to fill with endless enthusiasm and desire to work.

The authors of numerous sources of motivation try to respond to this desire by offering a variety of ways by mean of which a person can motivate himself. These methods may include various trainings, courses, encouragement that will stimulate human activity and reward the person for his actions, just as well as a piece of cheese encourages a laboratory mouse.

I would like to consider this issue from a little bit different perspective. I know that it is impossible to find always a powerful incentive for your actions, because that’s life. And the real moral strength of a person is to work and act in the absence of any incentive.

And if we constantly look for motivation and incentive for our actions, then we are doomed to languish in inaction in the absence of these things, which naturally occurs from time to time.
Further, I will reveal this idea in more detail.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is a call to action and basis of all your actions. I divide motivation into natural and artificial.

Natural motivation is such a motivation, which comes in a natural way without any compulsion from the outside. This is, for example, the desire to be healthy, happy, attractive, smart, successful…

These are natural desires and they accompany almost every person.

Artificial motivation represents the instant incentives that allow you to achieve your goals with less effort.

For example, we all want to be healthy and attractive. But we will find it difficult to feed our enthusiasm only with these desires (natural motivation). Therefore we hire a coach, who will make us do the exercises in the gym and will encourage us.

We watch all sorts of motivational videos that tell us: “Come on! You can do it! This is what you want!”

At home we hang posters of beautiful and athletic people and look at them every time we want to eat another burger.

All this refers to artificial motivation and instant incentives. As a rule, when people say: “I do not have enough motivation to lose weight / stop drinking / start going in for sports / learn a new profession,” they mean the artificial motivation. Because every person possesses the natural desire to be healthy or to live better life.

But not everyone is able to find support only in this desire, in the natural motivation. Many people want something to make them do the things they find difficulties in doing. They look for incentives to act. They look for rewards to encourage themselves for a completed action.

Dependence on Incentives

When I said that you should not get attached to the idea of being motivated, I meant the artificial motivation. Also, in the paradoxical title of this article – “How to Motivate Yourself without Motivation”, I meant – “without artificial motivation.”

Of course, I do not call to abandon the external incentives. I think that it is important to learn to act without them, when there is no (artificial) motivation.

Each of you knows examples, when your activity stopped as soon as the incentive disappeared. For example, you went to the gym with a friend. But when this friend stopped going to the gym, you also gave up because you got bored of going by yourself, and if you miss the training, nobody can catch you being lazy.

Your friend was your incentive. Once the incentive disappeared, your activity disappeared as well. If you become attached to an incentive and to artificial motivation, then you become dependent on them. You can do nothing without them.

That is why many people cannot work, if their chief is not staying nearby and does not adjust them. That is why someone gives up sports, when the instant reward for their efforts ceases to loom in front of him.

If you start depending on being constantly motivated and on having a constant external incentive, then you get used to it and you lose the ability to do something in the absence of the stick, which adjusts you!

Unfortunately, – though, perhaps, even fortunately, – our life develops in such a way that not everything will always come easily and without resistance. Enthusiasm cannot always accompany you. Motivation will not constantly nourish your desire to work hard and achieve your goals. It is a fact that you should accept.

Therefore, you should learn to overcome the laziness resistance in the absence of any incentives, and do what you have to do!

What Differentiates Disciplined People from Lazy Ones?

Someone may think that lazy people differ from non-lazy ones, because the second ones do everything easier than the first ones. There is a false belief that disciplined people supposedly do not feel lazy (I thought so earlier as well). But it is not so. In fact, the disciplined people have learned to overcome their laziness, while the lazy ones got used to obey it.

The life fact is that people force themselves to do the majority of actions without desire and enthusiasm. You will always achieve your purposes and satisfy your objectives, only when you stop becoming obsessed with the fact that everything should always come easily and you should always have some “motivation”. It is a false idea, get rid of it. Otherwise, you will become dependent on incentives and will be unable to do anything without them!

Every day, I write articles for this blog and for its Russian version. I’m working on website optimization. Many people may think that writing articles for the website is an activity, which is accompanied by a constant inspiration and a flight of thought. In fact, it is not so.

Of course, I like to write articles, I want to develop this website and help people. This is my long-term goal. But this goal cannot charge me with enthusiasm every day.

In order to write an article, I have to get all my thoughts together, get rid of all irritants, overcome the desire of idling or going online, and write until a certain part of the work is completed. Moreover, besides the articles’ writing, I have to check them for errors and do a heap of other work.

Sometimes, the work is easily and enthusiastically. But on other days, no thoughts come into my head and every new sentence is a struggle. At such moments, I have to strain myself to be able to continue writing. In some cases, the work starts going easier, when I overcome myself. In other cases, it does not get easier, and I can even give it up.

But I am not trying to create for myself some kind of artificial motivation. I do not want to depend on my current mood and condition. I want to be free from it and work when I have to work, not only when I have the needed mood and motivation for doing this! I have to develop and fill this website with content (this is my natural motivation) and I will do this, despite my momentary laziness!

If I had given up my work each time when I have lost the desire to move on, or when I have had some doubt and uncertainty, then you would not see even 1/10 part of the content presented on this website and on its Russian version!

I am jogging every week, but I cannot say that I start jogging with some great desire. Quite often I experience laziness. Despite this, I am jogging. But then I feel satisfaction over the completed task and pleasure from jogging.

I trained myself to meditate regularly, to do exercises, to work on the website, and to attend yoga classes. But I cannot say that I take these activities enthusiastically every time. Often I have no “instant motivation” and I have to think about my long-term goals and do something simply because it is “necessary”.

Therefore, the first thing you should do, if you want to be motivated:

Forget about Motivation!

Stop thinking about that something should constantly inspire you and energize you for work. This is impossible in reality! And if you believe in it, then you will get nothing done!

Lazy people are accustomed to the fact that any activity has to be easily and effortlessly done, so that they would be able to do this. Namely this is the reason why they are lazy, but not because they have more laziness than other people.

You should break this habit and accept the fact that not everything will always go easily, and you should accustom yourself to the possibility of applying force and willpower in regard to any activity.

Human resources are limited and even doing the most beloved and interesting work, you will be accompanied by enthusiasm not all the time. You will have to overcome yourself constantly. No need to look for incentives. Sometimes, you have to grit your teeth and remember the slogan of a famous sportswear company – Just do it! Just do it, in spite of laziness and lack of confidence.

Only then you will no longer depend on your mood and will decide for yourself when you need to work, train, do important things, not allowing the external factors decide it for you! Willpower is strengthened only when you have to make an effort in regard to something. When someone makes you do something, constantly stimulates and adjusts you, then the muscle of willpower atrophies, because it does not have to work!

Anyone can work, when he is full of energy and desire to act, or when he is forced to. But not everyone is able to act, when he is restrained by laziness and doubt. The last one requires much more moral strength, but leads to a better result!

Once, a person e-mailed me and asked for help in finding a self-discipline coach. I replied that I could not help him find such a person, because the concept of “self-discipline coach” is nonsense!
How could a coach help, when it comes to self-discipline, ability to make yourself work independently and stick to a certain mode?

Of course, I have nothing against the use of incentives in your work. There is nothing wrong in making your work easier and more fascinating. Moreover, my personal development program is an example of artificial incentive, which is designed to facilitate your implementation of my recommendations.

I agree that many people need something that will move them off the dead center. But any method of motivation should initially include the opportunity of further independent work without any instruction from the outside. A self-discipline coach can be useful to you, only if he sets such an opportunity in his technique. But if you expect that someone will always watch you, inspire, motivate and adjust, then forget about self-discipline!

When I say “forget about motivation,” I urge you to learn how to act independently, not on external compulsion! Just act, without seeking incentives, without becoming attached to them and without making them the basis of your activities.

Enthusiasm and incentives are transient phenomena, which depends on chance. Willpower is a constant thing and it depends on you only! Therefore, draw on your internal resource of willpower, not on external incentive!

This ability will create a strong-willed basis of your actions. However, there is something else that will help you achieve your goals.

Know What Do You Want

Why should you motivate yourself in doing what you don’t want to? For example, you do not like your job and you see no point in going to office until retirement. Instead of thinking about how to motivate yourself, think about whether it is really what you want?

You need a very strong incentive in order to do something that does not correspond to your desires, your natural motivation. There is nothing surprising in the fact that you find difficulties in doing what you don’t want to.

Therefore, try to understand what you really want from life. Find your calling. Set a goal and move towards this goal. Let your genuine and sincere desire to develop and be happy, your natural motivation, be the fuel that fires your actions!

Know the Benefits

The desire to be healthy and happy is a natural human motivation. Encourage this desire and find out more information about the benefits of sport, training, freedom from harmful habits, relaxation techniques, meditation, and about all the things that you plan to do, but you think that you lack the required motivation.

Of course, it is difficult to make yourself go in for sports for the sake of some distant longevity and disease risk reduction in old age. But sport is much more than this. It produces a result that you can observe almost immediately.

It will make you not only healthy, but also more cheerful, energetic and attractive. It will help you develop your willpower and many other personal qualities. It will even increase your intelligence and ability to learn (Scientists have proved it. Read an article on Wikipedia called BDNF)!

Is it not the sufficient incentive to get off the couch and start jogging?

Therefore, before you put something on the back burner or put something off, find out about all the benefits that will bring you the activity, which you have been planning to do.

Simply Start

When you think of some large-scale goal, do not think about how much you have to do. Simply start doing it.

Thoughts of global task can provoke laziness and unwillingness to work. But you don’t have to do something right now all the time. Do it gradually, but regularly.

Take a thick book, which you wanted to read long ago. Weigh it on your hand and feel how heavy it is. You will be overtaken by the desire to put it aside and never touch it again, because you will have to read it a long while!

Instead, give yourself a promise to read it during half an hour per day! This is not so much. You can read on your way home or work! But if you do it daily, then soon you will reach the last pages and realize how ridiculous your fear of this book’s volume was!

If you regularly start carrying out the problem little by little, instead of thinking how much you have to do and instead of being afraid of difficulties, then you will do a great job taking no notice of it.

Do you want to start your business? Spend an hour a day to study the market prospects. Do not put this task off, using the excuse that you have no time.

Do you want to learn a new profession? Study the training materials during your spare time little by little, but regularly!

With such approach, you’ll have time to do much more things, than you do now because of the alleged lack of time. You think that you have little time, but it is not so! If you daily take only half an hour, then it will be more than 180 hours per year! Imagine how many books you can read during this time, how much information you can come to know, how much skills you can master and how many things you can do!

The second reason for not putting the things off, but starting their implementation, is that enthusiasm and energy often occur in the course of work. The hardest thing to do is to start, to proceed to something special, when you are frightened by the amount of work. Simply start and you will see how easy the work will proceed.

Give Yourself a Promise

Instead of thinking: “I have to do something,” “I have to fix the TV,” “I have to go to the gym,” think: “I promise to fix the TV until the end of this week,” “I give myself a promise to go to the gym as of Monday.”

Give yourself promises and follow their implementation. If you are too lazy to do what you promised yourself, remember that you gave yourself a promise and keep it.
Read more information about this in the article – “The Power of Promises Made to Yourself

Organize Your Work Schedule

The preconceived work and rest schedule will help you be more productive. Determine in advance the time of your work and the time of your going in for sports. Set some temporary standards and follow them.

Observe the Pleasure You Get from What You Are Doing

Notice how good you feel when you go to the gym after work and when you jog. The evening fatigue will pass; you will cheer up and improve your physical condition.
Remember these feelings! Let the desire of getting rid of fatigue and cheer you up stimulates your sports activities! Remember the condition you experience, when you perform an important thing: the burden of care will be taken down; you will feel satisfaction concerning the fact that you overcame yourself and made some useful thing; you will get the pleasure of knowing the result of your activities.

Let these feelings become your incentives for bringing cases to the end.

Observe how good you feel in the morning, if you hadn’t got drunk on the previous night. Observe how deep breathe your lungs, if you had refrained from smoking. Observe how well feels your stomach, if you hadn’t abused fatty food this day.

Let these feelings help you in dealing with your bad habits.

Develop Independence

In conclusion, I would like to point this moment once again. Try to find strength to work independently, and not to make your activity dependent on external circumstances. It will be much better, if you pay no money to coaches, start going in for sports and refine yourself without any compulsion from the outside. Use the resources of your willpower, instead of counting on a person, who will be constantly able to make you do something.

The strong attachment to the current mood and momentary desires is the reason why many people fail to overcome their laziness. If you make yourself be regularly guided by the long-term goal, instead of the short-term desires and laziness, then you will break off this attachment!

This is the only way to strengthen your willpower and always find strength and motivation for your activities in every situation.


  • jil,

    well, yes, this is partly based on personal experience, partly on my observation of other people, partly on reading different literature.

  • I agree with you, as society we somehow ended up relying on motivation as a cause, rather than a natural booster, which it is, so we fail many, many times, until we learn that the base is totally different structure, also today’s reward oriented culturing, lose the ability to continue, and all mental disabilities appear (though bad diet if a big factor), yet we are not motivated to change, funny right?
    I myself still in that dreaded cycle, yet hope for the best. Nice article!

  • I am currently facing serious trauma of anxiety. Cant sleep without pill. Not eating well. Please guide me.

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