The Little Engine That Couldn’t…

Have you ever noticed how finding the motivation to do something is usually difficult, if not all-out impossible? Why do you believe that is? If it’s something one WANTS to do, it would stand to reason that motivation should almost be self-fulfilling, right? But it never is. And there’s a genuine reason for that, that most of us don’t think about. You see, most people go through life assuming that motivation comes first. You’ll often hear one saying, “I need to get motivated to do this…” But that isn’t the way motivation works.

Loosely defined, because I LOVE to loosely define things, motivation means the general desire or willingness to do something. An easy example would be to say that I am motivated to learn karate or motivated to lose some weight and get in better shape. However, contrary to what the average person believes, motivation will almost assuredly never come first. Motivation comes as a result of success, and one can’t have success unless they make a start. Only then will one be motivated by their goals and achievements.

If I use myself as an example, I started karate at a tender young age at what feels like an eternity ago. When I first walked into the dojo, I wasn’t motivated. I wanted to be there, don’t get me wrong. I had goals and ambitions to achieve by starting in it, but I couldn’t rightly say I was motivated by karate. As I started to train and began to see some change brought on by my efforts and started achieving goals, I became motivated to continue, motivated to train harder, motivated to pop my clutch and study like a man possessed, which came about as a result of my success in learning some of the art and becoming proficient.

Had I not experienced that success, I likely would not have been motivated to continue with my training, which is what frequently happens to many people who join. I use this an my example because it’s an easy one, and one that I’ve experienced myself. But this concept applies to just about anything one does in life. Let’s say you decide to want to cycle 55 kilometres in the coming summer. You won’t be “motivated” to reach 500 kilometres; you’ll set the goal for yourself and become motivated to reach your goal once you’ve started to gain mileage and start seeing how your cardio and overall health is starting to increase.

It’s important to think of motivation a bit like momentum. If you try to run, you can’t leave your starting point at full speed. You need to get yourself moving and build up your speed through your own strength. The product of the runner’s mass and speed is what is considered momentum. Much like momentum, motivation can’t be achieved from a starting point; it needs to be fed and grown, and will only be experienced once you’ve reached a certain momentum in your goals and achievements.

Hopefully that makes sense and I haven’t muddied the waters. Too often, I’ve spoken to people who have said, “I’m just not motivated to do it, anymore…” Of course, you’re not! Because you haven’t achieved any of your goals or seen any progress. You won’t be motivated until you do. So if you feel yourself “unmotivated” in any particular thing you’ve undertaken, don’t believe that this is a reason why you should be determined to stop or walk away. A shout out to my friend, Ricky, for the idea to write about this! ☯️

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I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

One thought on “The Little Engine That Couldn’t…”

  1. Good one Shawn! I like your take on this topic. Plus it’s relevant in one way or the other for us all.


    Linking these three aspects together in the spirit of the Golden Ratio stresses the importance of keeping a balance between the body, mind and soul/drive. Knowing how and where to begin makes all the difference.

    “Well begun is half done. This is something that depends on the mind; so when one is willing to become good, goodness is in large part achieved.” – Seneca, Letters on Ethics 34.3


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