Gerd Altmann
Source: Pexels: Gerd Altmann

True or false? In order to get anything done, you have to feel motivated to do it first? FALSE.

However, if you’re like most people out there, you answered true and are more likely to fall into the motivation trap!

What is the motivation trap? The motivation trap, as stated by Dr. Russ Harris states that we wait to feel motivated before we take any action. Now you might be asking, what’s the problem with that?

The problem is that if you’re always waiting for motivation to hit, you may be waiting your whole. While you’re waiting on motivation, motivation is waiting on you. Because committed action comes first and motivation comes second.

Let me give you a basic example. Have you ever felt like just staying at home and watching TV and not motivated at all to go to the gym? Yeah, me too. BUT, have you also ever noticed that you sometimes went to the gym and not only felt better about yourself but were more motivated to go back again later. That is because motivation does not precede action, action precedes motivation.

I don’t just mean any action. I mean committed action. Valued action. What is valued action? Valued actions are actions that are consistent with your values in life. These are actions that are consistent with the type of person you want to be. I value staying healthy, so I set a goal for myself to go to exercise at least 4 days a week. My valued action is getting my butt up and going to the gym regardless of whether I am in the mood or not.

What’s the alternative? I sit at home and wait for motivation to strike. I don’t know about you but when I do this, it seems that watching TV begets watching TV.  Using drugs begets using more drugs.

I’ve worked with so many clients who were waiting for the motivation to do things that would make them happier, whether it was exercising more, studying more, using less drugs, etc. And what I tell them is that you just have to start. Just start and see what happens. You may not be motivated all the time, but see what happens to your motivation when you start acting in ways that are consistent with your values.

Your mind will constantly try to steer you away from committed action by saying things like “I’ll do it later”, “I’ll have more time tomorrow” or your mind will try to tell you “I can’t do it” or “you’re not good enough.” However, those are all tricks. The funny thing about the mind is that it doesn’t stop talking. Making actions may seem impossible until you actually do them.

So let’s recap, what are the steps to gain motivation? Well, in some ways, it’s just one step. TAKE ACTION. Take committed valued action. Figure out what you value in your life (e.g. close relationships with family and friends, staying healthy, productive career, etc) and start doing whatever it is you value. If you focus on action and not on motivation, you may notice that the idea of motivation was all a myth. 

Rubin Khoddam is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Southern California whose research and clinical work focuses on substance use issues and resilience. He founded Psych Connection with the goal of connecting ideas, people, research, and self-help to better connect you to yourself and those around you. You can follow Rubin on Twitter by clicking here!

About the Author

Rubin Khoddam

Rubin Khoddam is a clinical psychology Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California.

You are reading

The Addiction Connection

The Myth of Motivation

Stop searching for motivation and start taking massive action.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Want to Change

Find out which 4 questions to ask yourself or others if you want to see change

44 Billion Reasons to Stop Drinking

Learn why your hard-earned tax money is going towards substance use research.