There are countless self-help books out there on motivation: what it is, why it’s important, how to keep it, how to get more, and how to give it to others. What if I told you it’s not the fact that you have too little of it that’s the problem, but the fact that the idea of motivation as we know it today exists at all.
Motivation: The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
I’m definitely not the first to write about this, but I think–as often as we’re told that motivation is the answer to all our problems–we need to be told that motivation is not the answer. You might have 99 problems, but motivation ain’t one of ’em. The real problem is thinking that motivation is the problem.
Your life shouldn’t be about fixing your “deficiencies.” It should be about doing what you do well and getting better at it everyday while surrounding yourself with people, systems, things, and processes that fill in the blanks and make the “deficiencies” a moot point. Now that that’s out there, let me tell you that there is not a single human on this planet that is self-motivated to do what they love or what they know they should do every single day without being held accountable. The laws of human nature just don’t work that way.
Being totally self-motivated all the time is like being an island. It’s being a pioneer in uncharted territory. It’s being an off-the-grid homesteader living in the North Pole , which is something most of us would never dare to do in our personal lives so why do we insist on and expect the equivalent in our professional lives? Motivation, and definitely self-motivation, isn’t your problem. Accountability is.
Artists and creators are already often isolated. We create work in our spare time or in our own homes where space is free and we can do what we want when we want . . . and do it alone. Making our own schedule, working on our own time and in our own space can be a great thing, but it lacks one very important element: accountability.
You might already have creative work or a job that’s holding you accountable. One that has deadlines and expectations with repercussion for meeting neither the deadlines nor expectations. That’s great. Hold on to that and if you ever find yourself without it, I hope you’ll know that if your “motivation” to make takes a dive, it’s not really motivation that’s the problem.
Now, maybe you don’t have a job or work that’s already holding you accountable but the goal is to find your way into that by making work and tackling projects on your own so that you’ll get hired. I’m going to go ahead and tell you that the first thing you should do is create an accountability network. Find people or things that will help you set deadlines and hold you to them, that will be a sounding board for your ideas, that will require you to work on a regular basis. It could be a mentor, a friend, signing on to host a TIP JAM, setting up a weekly or monthly coffee date with other artists who need accountability measures in their life (which would pretty much be everyone). By doing this you will be far more successful at completing the goals you’ve set, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to keep making work, you won’t question whether or not you’re cut out for this because you can’t self-motivate, etc. The list of positive outcomes when you create an accountability network is endless.
Accountability: the quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.
Motivation comes from accountability. It comes from being responsible. Maybe it’s just your bank account that’s holding you accountable. Maybe it’s a family to support. Maybe it’s not having a level of stability that you want in your life. Accountability takes many forms, but if you find yourself moping about your lack of motivation or inability to self-motivate, I suggest you look around and find ways to take on more responsibility and accountability.