Last week, I read a quote that reminded me why I quit career coaching almost as fast as I started career coaching: 

“If you wait until you’re motivated, you’ve already lost.”  

The piece goes on to highlight some examples, like “Surgeons don’t always feel like doing surgery. Teachers don’t always feel like teaching. Parents don’t always feel like cooking. Firemen don’t always feel like rushing into a burning building.”

If you are a parent, I am sure it resonates when I lament or say, “I really don’t feel like getting up at 7 AM on Saturday morning to make another soccer game.” And truthfully, I just don’t. I don’t feel motivated. Or by now, many are thinking or saying, “I don’t feel motivated to continue going to the gym.” They are three weeks into their resolution to FINALLY slay that extra fifteen pounds or beat a thirty-year sugar craving, and now, they aren’t motivated to continue. 

Does this sound familiar? 

When I read the quote, it was really familiar and even more relevant to me. I’ve never woken up and said, “Oh, I feel motivated to go to the gym at 6:30.” But the aftermath of that action is actually very motivating. 

When I started coaching, people were always asking me if I could help them figure out what they should do next in their careers. Clients would come to me for career coaching, and from the outset, they were usually looking for what would motivate them or feel good. Mostly, they only knew how their current career or job didn’t feel good or inspire them. 

My coaching clients would often complain of feeling stuck. Early on, this made sense; I could relate. They weren’t motivated by their existing jobs, so they were trying to find a job they would feel motivated to do. But I found that many didn’t know what would motivate them in or outside their career path. I didn’t, either. 

I would often work with them on what actions they could take to learn more about what would motivate them. They would agree to take steps, but in our next coaching session, I would find out they hadn’t taken any steps forward, and they’d say, “Well, I wasn’t very, I just, I don’t know. I just can’t get motivated. I got busy. Maybe I need to focus on something else.” 

So my approach in helping people uncover what was interesting to them wasn’t wrong per se, but it wasn’t addressing the root issue. The root issue was the absence of something bigger. In most cases, my coachees were looking for their career to motivate them to get out of bed in the morning but in truth, motivation doesn’t work that way.

“If you let motivation dictate your actions, inertia conspires to keep you in place. Action creates progress. Progress creates momentum. Momentum creates motivation.”

Like the wind, motivation comes and goes. It’s the very nature of it. It isn’t constant because, by itself, it just can’t. Motivation must be tethered to a desired outcome, or it will become an energy orphan. Again, if you have started and stopped the “gym thing,” you know this is true.

So, here are two questions for you:

  1. Can you see where you’ve taken action that has left you feeling motivated as a result?
  2. And if so, what actions do you need to take next (even if you aren’t feeling motivated to take them)?

If you can’t even get motivated to do that, reach for that paper and pen and begin drawing some backward and forward lines. I encourage you to connect your actions to your goals to your motivation. Don’t allow inconsistent waves of motivation to determine your next steps. 

The Big Whipp – Motivation happens as a result of action. Relying on motivation before taking action is a recipe for feeling stuck.

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