Consider this a budding of a new way to look at the world.

I read a lot of other blogs on self-improvement, entrepreneurship, personal development and motivation to keep abreast of other writers’ ideas and approaches to the issues I cover here.  An issue I see covered quite often is the issue of motivation.  I wasn’t going to write about this topic because I feel that all of my other articles allude to it.  But I realized it’s an important topic to talk about specifically, and one that, like many other self-improvement topics out there, is approached from the wrong angle.

I think of true motivation as the intrinsic desire to accomplish a task combined with actually doing it.  So you want to do something because you want to do it (rather than someone else making you do it), and then you acutally do it.

But that’s not what usually motivates us.  Our primary motivating factor is fear: fear of loss, fear of losing our jobs, fear of getting a bad grade in a class…  so we’re used to other people or things ”forcing” us to do things and calling the shots for us.  So we are usually exclusively motivated by other people or things–such as our bosses, teachers and money– ”forcing” us to do things.

So in the off-chance we try to motivate ourselves to do something (like starting a business, going on a diet, or wasting less time), we fall flat, because we’re not used to forcing ourselves to do things: we need someone else there to tell us what to do.

It’s actually pretty sad.  We let others tell us what to do, but we can’t tell ourselves what to do?

A lot of people who write about motivation really miss the mark.  Most writers, while well-intentioned, turn the issue of motivation into espousing platitudes.  They write articles about “how to get out of bed in the morning”, “how to boost your confidence”, “keep your energy high!”; one I saw even talked about a ”motivation clinic”.  Then they list out 5 to 7 “tips” on increasing motivation.

Platitudes are not helpful.  If overused “tips” really worked, there wouldn’t be an unmotivated soul left on the planet.  Unless you’ve never tried to motivate yourself to do something before, I think we’ve all heard “tips” like the ones I listed above.  Platitudes address symptoms rather than problems: so telling you how to manage your time better or    motivational quotes don’t actually address why you don’t feel motivated in the first place (i.e. the actual problem).  That’s why I call this article “Motivation- A method for intelligent people”, because I don’t reduce this issue to pretending to know your situation and giving you a list.  Rather, I  talk about a mindset that, since you are smart, you can relate directly to your situation, and choose the actions necessary to make it happen.

So what is your problem then?

The problem is that you don’t care.

That’s it.  Period.

The true key to movitation can be stated in one sentence: If you really cared more about your goals, you would find a way to get them done.  Since you can’t, you just don’t care enough.

-Too “busy” to learn how to play an instrument?  I bet you watched TV last night.

-Want to start your own business, but “don’t know how”?  I bet you haven’t done any research…and you watched TV last night.

-Want to find a new job, but “can’t find one” because the “economy is bad”?  I bet you didn’t even apply; and if you did, I bet it was only on

Come on now.  If you truly and sincerely decided “I want to play the piano”, you’d find some time in your day to practice.  If you really wanted to start a company, you’d actually research the idea rather than making excuses.  If you cared more about getting up early than sleeping in, you would just wake up when your alarm goes off.

This stuff isn’t rocket science, but you feel like it is.  That’s because you’re not used to motivating yourself.

And the first step to motivating yourself is to care more about your goals than other things. 

I use my free time write this blog, rather than watching TV or using Facebook.  That’s because I value writing and helping people more than TV or Facebook.  And mind you, I’m busy.  I’m usually working on classes and other projects for 10-12 hours per day during the weekday, and at least 5 hours per day on most weekends.  But I make it all work because I want to make it work.

Do you want to make it work?

What helps us care more about our goals than other things?

  • Get angry

Isn’t it pretty sad that the only thing holding you back is actually just you and your excuses?  It made me mad when I figured it out.  But use that anger to make you disdain the laziness and lack of accomplishment, and yearn for something better.

  • Give your goal a high priority

This sounds fluffy, but it’s a simple, profound, and often-missed truth.  Be willing to work on your goal rather than being distracted by other things.  How many times have you wanted to do something, but wound up playing video games instead?  I personally recommend automatically eliminating things from your day that add no value (such as watching TV, going out all of the time, and playing on Facebook).  Read my article Jettison activities from your life that waste your time for some thoughts on how to do this.

  • Care more about your goals than short-term pain or failure.

Dealing with failure is easy (and go read my article on failure): just don’t care, and don’t take unreasonable risks so that failure causes huge problems (scale your efforts).  Like with this blog: I care so much about it being successful that I won’t quit because I had a day of low traffic or complaints about an article.  It’s more fun to be successful than it is to feel “comfortable” by not trying.

So understand failure for what it is, and realize that most people fail–a lot–before having breakout success.  Read my article referenced above for an in-depth analysis.

  • After you start caring more about your goals, then go read the specific “how-to” advice.

This is the time to start looking at things like “the best way to organize your time” and “the best way to set your goals”.  Remember that knowing how to set goals and organize your time only works if you actually stick with your goals.  Otherwise it’s pointless.

Some articles I have written that I think will help:

-The Main Idea (an overarching look at the main concept behind my blog).

-Setting goals

-Unwavering desire to improve oneself

-Challenging assumptions

Final note

This article is short intentionally: motivating yourself is not hard, as long as you realize why you’ve had trouble doing so in the past (because you’ve spent most of your life being motivated by fear), and the right mindset required to motivate yourself (the basic points listed above).

I don’t go into many specfics here (“what should my goal be?”  “how much should I value it compared to my family life?”  “what’s the best way to make myself angry about not meeting goals?”) because I can’t answer those questions for you, and frankly I’m not sure I would listen to anyone who says they can answer them.  My focus is on instilling in you the mindset necessary to accomplish your goals.  Other than that, I recommend doing what you are now: read different blogs, read some other articles here, and most importantly, actually do thingsto practice and accomplish your goals!

You can do it.



  • Guest

     How to start caring about accomplishing goals?

    • rcthornton

      I think that one of the biggest problems with accomplishing goals is that people often don’t make them specific enough to be useful. So if your goal is “I want to lose weight”, you can’t really judge your success.  I used to get discouraged when I would set these types of goals and not succeed; I realized my lack of success was simply because my goal wasn’t specific enough.  So instead of saying “I want to start a business”, I developed very specific short term and long term goals.  Now, I know what’s needed for success, and I feel good when I achieve them.