Motivation is a tricky sucker. I need all my fingers and some of my toes to count the number of projects that I was highly motivated to start, but never got around to finishing. Sure, I can make excuses. I didn’t have enough time. I wasn’t making any money. I changed my mind. But I’m sure as you’re well aware, excuses are like asshole. Everyone has one and they all stink.

When it comes to motivation, actually making stuff happen is easier said than done. You might be gung-ho about a decision today, but what happens when the motivation fades, as motivation tends to do when you get past the “puppy-love” stage? Will you still want to get married to that thing you were so motivated to do?

Let me tell you a personal story to illustrate what I mean. I promise that it won’t be too long and boring if you promise to humor me!

About 8 months into full-time freelance writing, I had a devastating blow financially when a major client of mine found a loophole in our contract and decided not to pay me. I was out over $3000, lost a client without having any others lined up, and was feeling low. It was an emotionally exhausting time for me, and I decided that it might be best to get a non-freelance job, at least part-time.

I got super motivated to find a job, especially when I noticed a writing position open with a local college. I was motivated enough to write a kick-ass cover letter. I was motivated enough to pull my resume together. I was motivated enough to do a great job at the interview I subsequently was offered.

Then, the motivation faded. I was disenchanted suddenly, and couldn’t stop thinking about all the disadvantages to getting a part-time job. The motivation lost, I ultimately said, “No thanks” to the second interview I was offered. My story has a happy ending, because I went back to a career I loved - freelancing. But losing motivation often does not lead to such a positive outcome.

No, often we get stuck, revving our engines but never actually speeding off. Do you want to spin your wheels? Or do you want to make things happen?

Because motivation is easier said than done, I’ve come up with a mini checklist that I use whenever I get excited about an idea. Rather than wasting time on a project I’ll never complete, like I did with the part-time job interviewing, I can focus my attention on things that will actually make a difference in my life. No matter how motivated you are today, if you can’t check off all of these items, it may not be the right path for you:

  • I have the time and money to complete the project without putting it on the back burner half-way through.
  • The project will help me meet an overall career goal (like money, fame, moving to a certain area, etc.).
  • If I achieve my goal, I won’t regret the changes I’ve made in life to make it possible.
  • I’ve evaluated my other choices I have, and this is the best route.
  • I’ve talked to my significant other about it and he/she supports me - or if not, it is worth splitting up.
  • This career move will allow me to enjoy my work more than I do now.

If you can check off all of these points, when the motivation fades, you’ll likely find that you want to keep going anyway. If not, it’s easy to come up with excuses and just go back to whatever you were doing, be it a 9-to-5 your hate or applying for jobs you don’t want or whatever. Whenever you feel highly motivated about a great idea you have, take some time to think it through, rather than just starting in, full steam ahead. Sometimes a great idea when you’re drunk on motivation doesn’t look so good when she rolls over in the morning, and none of us need more career one night stands.

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  1. bet365 (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

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  2. Archan Mehta (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010


    Nice post, once again.

    I think sometimes there is intrinsic motivation and sometimes there is extrinsic motivation.

    If both are in alignment, that’s good news. If you want to be a movie star and suddenly Steven Spielberg asks you to audition for a new movie, well, you have alignment right there.

    By contrast, if your dream is to work as a cowboy on a dude ranch in Montana, but you live in another part of the country, well, you may have to take your dream out into the world and see what happens.

    I find your posts interesting and it is always a pleasure to read your work. So, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to keep on writing. We gain so much from your talent and guidance. Cheers.

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