The Myth of Motivation

One of the things that motivational speakers, self-help gurus, and ordinary well-meaning individuals always seem to espouse is this notion that motivation springs from a place of positivity.

But the simple truth is, motivation can come from anywhere. Good, bad, dark, light, a well-spring of happiness or a font of misery. Motivation can be all unicorns and rainbows or it can be the deepest, darkest part of your soul filled with rage and bitterness.

And problems arise when people hear only about it coming from the positive and thereby think that if they aren’t always happy or upbeat, there must be something wrong with them. That is not necessarily true. Although extended periods of darkness and depression can definitely be a sign that you may want to look into talking to someone, darkness – like light – can also be useful.

Imagine bumping into an old high school friend and they happen to look fit, trim, and happy. Maybe you’ve been slacking on the workout front so seeing them fills you with jealousy or resentment. Instead of tamping that down and chastising yourself for being “bad,” use it to motivate you to get back to your fitness regimen. Take the so-called “bad” and use it to create something “good.”

Frankly, as we’ve discussed before, negative energy is always easier to generate than positive. All biological systems left to their own devices without some form of discipline will naturally devolve into chaos. It’s always easier to go negative than positive, so if generating positive energy is too hard, i.e., “Brenda looks great! Good for her. I want to look like that, too, so I’ll get back to working out.” then simply use negative energy to drive you forward, i.e., “Ugh, That bitch looks good. I hate her for looking so good so I’m gonna show her. I’ll look even better once I start getting back to the gym.”

Using the negative to generate something positive is an intriguing idea that you can use in any area of your life.

The key to motivation is knowing how to handle it and direct it once you have it in-hand. Being truthful about where your motivation is coming from is also key. If you lie to yourself about its source, then that simply sets you up for failure. There will be plenty of times throughout the course of your life when anger motivates you to do something; resentment, jealousy, bitterness – all of these are inherent and natural aspects of our mood and spirit. True power comes from being honest with yourself and recognizing these aspects just as readily as you recognize all the positive: happiness, pride, joy, ecstasy, satisfaction, etc.

Too many self-help gurus like to only focus on the positive and for good reason: a lot of them have never been honest about admitting that humans are made up of every emotion on the entire spectrum, just not the happy go-lucky side. Denying one side in favor of the other is a recipe for disaster, because when those darker emotions hit, the person who has spent too much time denying them will be ill-prepared to deal with their presence and influence. Whereas someone who acknowledges the complexities of their entire psyche in an honest, forthright fashion will always have a better idea of how to deal with any and all aspects of their being.

Even when it seems like there is nothing within you to help motivate, there is always something. The key is simply acknowledging that some of the parts of yourself that society tells you not to employ, are, in fact, things you can use to help.

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