I watched a motivational YouTube video last night. I’m tired of the way my life is going. I am going to make a change. I am going to wake up early tomorrow morning and go for a run, have a healthy breakfast and be a positive person throughout the day, despite any sort of objections I may face. Tomorrow comes, I think back to that moment of motivated thinking… and I actually do wake up early, go for a run, make myself a considered to be healthy breakfast, and act in a positive manner all day long. I think to myself, “yes, things are starting to change for the better, I can feel it”. The next day rolls around, I don’t run but I still make myself a considered to be healthy breakfast and act in a positive manner all day. The next day rolls around, I don’t run, I wake up late and therefore grab a breakfast sandwich at Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s, but I still act in a relatively positive manner all day. The next day rolls around, I don’t run, forget to even eat breakfast and some asshole cut me off driving to work. So, fuck him and everyone else. The next day rolls around, I’m right back where I started. Back to the same way I felt before I felt motivated.
Motivation… a release of dopamine before a reward is given, due to the expectation or visualization of receiving that reward. Most of us know that dopamine is the chemical released in our brain that makes us feel happy. Well, dopamine also makes us feel motivated. However, depending on whether or not we feel motivated or happy, the dopamine is released into different parts of the brain related to the corresponding emotion or feeling. The motivational and reward sections of the brain are the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. While the emotion and risk sections are located in the anterior insula. “A team of Vanderbilt scientists has demonstrated that dopamine has a strong impact on your willingness to work“, Sujan Patel, Forbes. Well, obviously dopamine helps our willingness to work since it is always easier to work toward our goals when we feel good and motivated but what about when we feel sad and low. How the hell are we supposed to work when we feel like crap? Well that is where will power and drive come into play, so they say.
In that same article by Sujan Patel from Forbes, he says that scientists discovered that people actually have a limit or a cap to how much willpower they can put forward before they reach ultimate fatigue. This article is geared towards business minded individuals. It goes into how decision making quickens fatigue and shows how to limit the number of decisions you make in a day but, still, do you really think that you truly know or judge your limit of how much effort you can put forward? If you think you do then great, you’ll probably be stuck in the same spot the rest of your life. If you don’t, then even better because you’re right. There is an analogy from some book I read, sorry but I forgot the title (either How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald or Relentless by Tim S. Grover), but the analogy goes like this… Your limits or lets say your willpower, in this case, are marked along a bed of coals by a brick wall. As you walk along this bed of hot coals, you feel the burn and the pain and are doing everything in your power to reach that wall so that you can stop the burning and put forth effort that is comparable to what you think you are capable of. As you touch the wall, it falls over and disappears, revealing another wall behind it, so on and so forth. There could always be another wall behind the illusive one you currently see.
So motivation is the spark to light the fire of drive and willpower, right? I guess, but there is something about the word motivation that makes me itch. I honestly don’t think motivation is even real, at least in the sense of how society defines it. Sure I love motivational videos on YouTube, motivating movies and stories, but that is really the only thing motivation is useful for; creating a good story (aka Hollywood). But that feeling of motivation is fleeting, just as happiness is. All of these fallacious books on keys to success, millionaire habits, the road to a better life, are great for a little pick me up but honestly, think of how many people read those books. I don’t see hundreds of Michael Jordans or Steve Jobs rising up, not that everyone is able to be the next Michael Jordan, I’m just trying to make a point. Some authors are really trying to share their knowledge, ex. Tim Ferris, but there is no road map to success, whatever success is to you. Nothing ever goes as plan, “life is suffering” (12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson) and only the strong survive. This does not mean that you have to viciously fight your way to the top with acts of cruelty. The typical masculine alpha male persona of success is a failing breed as real strength is kindness and sacrificial acts for others. Nevertheless, despite the lack of a map for success, or whatever, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Find out what the fuck you want and then work towards it. No matter how you feel, get better at it… every… single… day.
Last but not least, before you get too motivated, here is a piece of wisdom from the great book The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo. It is a short story ironically and a little hypocritically about the ‘secret of happiness’.
A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.
However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.
The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.
The Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.
He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.
“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”
The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.
“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”
Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.
“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”
Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls.
He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.
“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.
Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.
“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages.
“The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”
Resilience, drive, grit, strength, power, endurance, motivation are all words well put for someone feeling good. It’s great to be those things and I’m not saying your not any more or any less than those words, but what I am trying to say is that they just really do not matter. They are just words.
Practice being better, especially when you are not motivated.