Last week I asked the question, which comes first, action or motivation? The results of the poll show that most people feel that motivation comes before action. I totally get that this is an ‘it depends’ topic and some readers will only be able to act after they find motivation. My own experiences and observations are that the most successful people, in any field, are action takers.
In this post, I’m going to offer an alternative perspective based on the action before motivation principle.
Action often comes before motivation, not the other way around
We can spend a lot of time looking for motivation. Maybe it’s listening to some pumped-up music or watching an inspirational YouTube video. This may or may not happen. In almost all circumstances when you act first, you feel satisfied and motivation will then follow. As an example of how this might work: Most successful entrepreneurs are action takers. If they have a business idea, they get rolling very quickly and then tweak it as they go along to make it better. In the meantime, those that are (still) searching for motivation haven’t even gotten started and end up miles behind.
Just get started
Even the smallest action (less than 5 minutes) can help you break out of that feeling stuck mood. If you can’t find a way to start that run, how about just a brisk walk? Once you get going and you’re out, then it’s easier to start jogging. You may say you need the motivation of signing up for a race before you start training. But isn’t the very act of signing up for a race an example of taking action, which then provides you with the motivation to start training?
Small actions create momentum
Once you’re back from that short run, chances are you’ll be feeling pretty happy with yourself, and feeling good from the endorphins that you’ve generated – which will motivate you to start the next workout the day after. Think of it like a snowball.
Action is empowering and satisfying
When we take action we feel energised. The more workouts we complete or the more good food we consume, the better we feel and it’s only natural to want to keep that going.
Action is evidence
Actions can be measured. If you finish a run and your smartwatch is connected to Strava you’ll have data to prove your work. Others will give you kudos and combined with the evidence it will increase your motivation.
Motivation is unreliable. Sometimes you have it in bucket loads and other days you have none. How much you have can change with how good your sleep was, the food you ate, changes in weather, and your mood. If you’re waiting for motivation before you take action, you could be waiting a long time.
Here’s a quick tip. Make a list of easy 3-5 minute actions that you can take. Some yoga exercises, press-ups, burpees or squats, visualisation. When you have a moment get started on one and see what happens. More often than not you’ll find that you gain some momentum and that leads to other things.