The Tyranny of Motivation

If I had to pick the one question I’m asked most frequently, it would almost certainly have to be this: How do I get motivated?

Well, get ready to be shocked by my answer:

You don’t need motivation.

Oh, sure, it’s nice to feel really gung ho about your new eating plan and about the exercise you’ve finally decided to start doing, but if you don’t feel that way, that’s fine too. The fact is, you don’t need motivation to make changes in your life.

As you catch your breath and nod your head in disbelief, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you why.

People who talk about “getting motivated” tend to have a conception of this thing called “motivation” as something outside themselves. They talk about “getting” motivation like it’s something you can go out and buy. They search for teachers and gurus who can “make” them get motivated. This particular way of looking as motivation, common as it is, actually turns out to be really self-defeating.

Look, suppose I ask you to stand up from your chair right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you do it. Ready? Stand up. Then come back and keep reading.

OK, so you either stood up, or you didn’t. If I had a video of you taken during the last few minutes, it would show you either standing up or not standing up. There would be nothing on the video about whether or not you “had motivation”. There would be nothing on the video about whether or not you felt like standing up.

There would only be the simple video evidence of whether you did or you didn’t. It would be entirely within the realm of possibility that you stood up and didn’t feel like it at all. You might have even thought it was a really dumb idea, but you did it just to see where I was going with this whole thing.

The point is this: “motivation” isn’t necessary for an action to take place. How you feel is not the same as what you do.

To get something done- whether it be standing up, exercising, eating certain foods (or not eating certain foods) you don’t need motivation- what you do need is an action plan.

You need a strategy.

I had one client who knew himself well enough to know that he’d find any excuse not to go to the gym in the morning. So he’d make sure to always leave something there “by accident” so he’d have to stop by the gym on the way to work whether he felt like it or not. He short circuited the whole question of motivation by simply developing a really good action plan.

You can too.

One of the reasons the question of “motivation” tends to derail us is that when it comes to weight, we set up goals that tend to be result oriented rather than action oriented. “Losing fifty pounds” is a result. “Walking ten minutes a day” is an action. It’s far easier to develop and implement a plan for taking one small action than it is to wait until you “feel” differently about exercise.

And speaking of “feeling” differently about exercise and diet,  here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on: The easiest way to change your feelings about it is to change your behavior.

Most folks think it’s the other way around. We wait to change our behavior- diet and exercise being prime examples- until we “feel” like it. Guess what. If you wait to “feel” like it, you gonna have a long wait. But if you realize you don’t have to “feel like it” in order to do it, you can sidestep the whole motivation issue in a cakewalk.

And once you see yourself actually taking an action, guess what else happens, (much more often than you might imagine)…

…You wind up “feeling” differently about it anyway!

There is virtually no better way to change how you feel about something than to change your behavior. And that’s a lot easier to do if you set small, reasonable, action oriented goals.

Try this at home.

As an exercise, try the following: First, pick a small doable goal in the area of diet or exercise: it can be as simple as doing one set of crunches, turning down one meal at McDonald’s (or one portion of French fries), walking around the block once before dinner, or adding one portion of fresh vegetables to the evening meal. Doesn’t matter.

Now here’s the exercise: Don’t try to change one thing about your feelings. Whatever you feel about the thing you picked to do, let it be the way it is.

Now figure out a plan for doing it.

If you’ve stayed with me so far, you’ve noticed something very important. How you feel about doing the action in question- whether you’ve got “motivation” or not- is really beside the point. You can come up with an action plan regardless of your feelings. You can invent a strategy.

And guess what? You didn’t even have to answer the question of how to get motivated. All you had to do was form an action plan.

Form an action plan for an action based goal, no matter how small. Rehearse it in your mind. Figure out a strategy to accomplish it. Then do it, regardless of how you feel about it.

You will have taken the first step towards changing your life.

And you will have released yourself from the tyranny of “motivation”.

For more information on how to create massive results by incorporating tiny lifestyle changes check out my weight loss program…

Unleash Your Thin »




  1. Barbra Y. Stark

    As a fun little exercise, try this when you actually walk down the street. Focus ahead at what you’ll have to pass and have in your mind a plan of action. You’ll be amazed how much quicker you get to your destination and you’ll be astounded how much more fun you’ll have getting there. The crowd will no longer be a sea of obstacles, and the journey will feel like a game.

  2. Lucie Chamberlain

    I’ve tried to get Unleash Your Thin, and none are available. Are more copies going to be available in the near future?

  3. Dr. Jonny Bowden

    it’s very much available and selling off the charts i’m thrilled to say. Please try the link on my website, and should you have ANY trouble write to and tell them i told you to write. They’re incredibly responsive and will fix whatever problems you may have had!