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  • Arjun Khemani

Action leads to motivation (Not the other way around)

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

We typically think motivation works something like this:

Emotional Inspiration → Motivation → Desirable Action

Most people only commit to action if they feel a certain level of motivation. And they only feel motivated when they feel inspired. For example, students only become motivated to study for the exam when they’re afraid of the consequences. We only learn a new skill or an instrument when we feel inspired to do so, whatever the cause it leads to us being inspired. We have this common misconception that motivation arrives as a result of passively consuming a motivational video on YouTube or reading an inspirational book.

But here’s the problem: consuming the ideas and successful behaviour of others is something that the best-selling author of the book Atomic Habits, James Clear calls passive inspiration. Every time you watch a video, read an article or listen to an interview, you’re practising passive inspiration. You might learn something, but you don’t actually have to do anything. Hearing about other people’s success isn’t the same thing as creating your own.

Instead, it is through the process of active inspiration, James continues - the act of creating things, applying new ideas to our goals, and making mistakes - we discover who we are and what is important to us. Furthermore, active inspiration is what results in long-term passion and enthusiasm. Watching someone else’s success might leave you feeling excited for a few minutes, but taking action and applying a new idea to your life will inspire you more than anything someone else could say.

Taking advantage of this knowledge, we can actually re-orient our mindset in the

following way:

Action → Inspiration → Motivation

The conclusion is that getting started and doing something is the most important step of achieving any goal and for the most part is the hardest. However, now that you know you don’t need any motivation to do something, and that doing something (action) will ultimately lead to you being motivated, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start doing something. Never wait or even ever look for any motivation, rather start and do something you want (or need to) to be motivated about it.

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