This month, I made a promise to myself to intentionally move my body every day. I hesitate to say “work out daily” because my reason for this isn’t to lose a ton of weight and get super fit. I just know that I feel really good about myself when I am consistently exercising, and my workouts as of late have been lackluster. I wanted to feel better, so committing to daily intentional movement seemed like a good place to start.
I’m not working out hardcore. I’m not pushing my body to its limits. That’s not the point. The point is to intentionally move my body in a way that feels good once a day. That could mean spending 45 minutes on the spin bike or walking for a half-hour on the treadmill. It’s my decision, and it’s not tied to future results, and that feels incredibly empowering.
This past Friday, though, I was seriously unmotivated about my workout. I couldn’t even put a finger on why, but I just felt a bit overwhelmed by life. I felt overstimulated from the past few days. All I wanted to do was crawl into my bed for the entire day and not move, but I also knew that I had committed myself to daily workouts and that not being motivated to work out didn’t give me a free pass. I still had to get out there.
And I did. I went to the gym and did a workout. Was it my best workout? Absolutely not. Could I have pushed myself harder? Yes. But in the grand scheme of things, that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I forced myself to go to the gym when I didn’t want to. What mattered was that I didn’t let a little thing called “not being motivated” provide me with an excuse to quit on myself.
And isn’t it interesting how we’re always waiting for motivation to just… show up… to give us permission to do the thing we want to do? If we’re not feeling motivated to do that thing, oh well then! Guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
We buy into the lie that we must be motivated in order to work towards our goals. Motivation becomes this magical little word that can combat any sort of resistance we’ve faced in the past. The resistance to not wanting to work out or finish the novel or apply for that job. But when motivation shows up, then we are given new life! The resistance is gone! We can go after our goals and stop letting the excuses pile up!
But what happens when that motivation that previously felt so strong and so mighty… wanes? What happens when we feel unmotivated, when that resistance to doing the thing starts to build up strength again? What then?
The truth is that we don’t need motivation. It’s not this necessary piece of the puzzle, like we think it is. You don’t need motivation to get up in the morning and go to the gym. Or to spend your weekend working on your novel. Or to eat healthier or apply for jobs or write a blog post.
You just have to do it. You can be completely unmotivated and still get out there and do it.
And isn’t that a freeing thought? Motivation has no power over whether or not you do something. You hold sole power.
You can say to yourself, “It’s okay that today I am not motivated. It’s okay that I feel a little tired and overwhelmed and crabby. It’s okay that this isn’t how I want to spend this time.” And still do the thing you don’t want to do.
You aren’t lacking in anything because you don’t have motivation. Other people aren’t stronger or more dedicated or more committed than you are. You don’t need motivation in order to do the thing you told yourself you would do. You just have to get out there and do it.
And, look, sometimes we just need a day off. We just need to cut ourselves a break. That happens. That’s necessary. Some days, we do need to sleep in and forget about our workout. Or take a weekend to hang out with friends and let your writing and blog posts fall to the back burner. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the propensity for us to use motivation as the key that unlocks whether or not we do the thing we said we were going to do.
So, look, let’s stop quitting on ourselves. Let’s stop believing that motivation is necessary to achieve our goals. And let’s also stop thinking something is wrong with us or we’re just not as strong as other people because we lack motivation. Everyone lacks it at some point. It’s how you press forward when you are unmotivated and discouraged that means something.