Subscribe via RSS or e-mail      

Which Comes First: Motivation or Action?

Strategies and goals

The only seemingly logical way to think about self-motivation is that it’s something we need to have to be able to act the way we desire, yet the two can really come in either order. The exciting thing about this (at least if, like me, you get excited about ideas that can give you a leg up on improving your life) is the realization that it’s sometimes possible to do the right thing, even if it’s difficult, without being motivated first. The accomplishment then often produces a sense of satisfaction or well-being that creates motivation for doing more going forward.

Action before motivation
Here are some examples of ways to act before being motivated:

  • Focus on the moment-to-moment steps without thinking too much about the overall intent. For instance, if you want to go out running but are having trouble getting motivated, think about changing into your running clothes, tying your shoes, opening the door, etc. rather than starting a conversation with yourself about whether or not you feel like running.
  • Take part in a group where following along means you’re doing something you want to do. Go to a group study party instead of procrastinating that paper you need to research (but don’t let yourself be a distraction to your friends or vice-versa); join a support group; or get the whole family doing chores at once.
  • Make a bridge to what you want to do by tackling easy preliminaries. For instance, you may not like filing but be fine with sorting papers. If so, you can start with the painless task of sorting. When your office is full of piles of carefully-sorted papers, filing becomes both easier and kind of necessary. (Better yet, adopt a system that lets you keep control of your paperwork all the time. I’d particularly recommend the one described in Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done.)

Motivation before action
As useful as the “action before motivation” approach can be, motivation before action also works well, and is sometimes the a more useful way to go. The key with this is to focus at first not on the task you want to accomplish, but on the much simpler task of getting yourself motivated. Here are some articles that can help provide that initial motivational boost:

Photo by kaneda99

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Martin  •  Feb 23, 2014 @1:59 pm

    Thanks for your article Luc!
    I never thought of seeing things this way. It is true that motivation and action are complementary and ultimately come together. It’s just like the law of inertia: once you get things rolling after the initial challenges, it becomes a lot easier to remain in that forward motion.
    Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: