Jack is a filmmaker who volunteered to make a music video for his friend’s band. He thought it would be a fun project to work on and wanted to help out the band.

Jack is a big-picture guy and enjoys fleshing out the vision for large projects. He’s always excited to ask questions like “Why are we making this video?” or “What are the goals?” or “What is the feel or vibe we’re going for?”

Making films is an opportunity for Jack to use his directing expertise. He gets to bring together and work with great people. It’s fun to find cast members and do location scouting.

The song for this particular music video talks about revisiting memories. One of the scenes is set in a campground with a wooded area next to a field. They’ll need several shots in this environment during that golden hour when the sun is setting.

With the big picture in mind, Jack sets out to turn his vision into reality. It’s difficult to find the perfect place and coordinate schedules with everyone, but Jack knows the result is worth it when everything all comes together.

After visiting half-a-dozen locations, Jack finds the perfect site. Everything is just as he imagined it and he can picture the shots. After contacting everyone in the group to confirm their availability, he schedules a shooting date. The sun will set at 7:30 p.m., so he asks everyone to arrive several hours early.

Jack shows up to the campground at 3:00 p.m. on the day of the shoot. He’s early because he wants to respect everyone’s time and make sure things run smoothly. The actors and the film crew arrived shortly after. Good, Jack thinks. Everyone is on time.

The weather was supposed to be clear this evening, but instead there are thick clouds. The sky could not be overcast in any of the shots they needed. It simply wouldn’t work.

There was no sun, so there was no sunset. The gray sky simply turned darker gray and the people were restless.

Jack finally called the shoot off.

Everyone went home and had nothing to show for their efforts. It was all a big waste of time.

To make matters worse, the sky at every single one of the next three reschedules was consistently overcast—except for one, which led to a flat-out downpour.

Everyone was discouraged, but no one more than Jack. What are we even doing anymore? Jack had lost his fire for the project.

When he went to reschedule the shoot for a fifth time, schedule conflicts between the actors made progress impossible.

Jack told everyone they’d take a break and revisit the shoot in a few weeks.

I’ll start it when I have the motivation, Jack thought.

That was four months ago. The motivation never came. Every time he saw the bright-green sticky note on his desk that read “Schedule video shoot,” he winced a little. The whole project brought up feelings of dread. It was easier not to think about it at all.

Sustain Your Enthusiasm

When you decide to make a change, set a goal, or commit to doing something new in your life, you will be excited at first. Setting a new goal is intoxicating. You feel invigorated, motivated, and excited to take action.

But without fail, you’ll reach a point where it’s no longer fun to do the work required to achieve your goal. You’ll feel stuck. You will feel a lack of motivation when it comes to taking action, and this is often where you’ll burn out.

One of the hardest things to do when it comes to pursuing your passion is sustaining your enthusiasm and drive. When you hit an obstacle, you simply lose heart and shelve your idea. You may even start believing your goals are beyond your ability to accomplish.

Why does this happen? Why do we stop enjoying the process? Why do we lose motivation along the way? Does motivation seem to elude you? Can you never find it when you need it?

Don’t Wait for Motivation

A common misconception is believing you have to start with motivation. Motivation isn’t a source; motivation is a result of doing. Motivation comes after you show up. If you look to motivation as your source of energy for taking action, you’re never going to show up.

Motivation isn’t always going to be there. The people who are motivated know it doesn’t start with motivation. It always starts with doing.

Start with a commitment to show up. What have you committed to? How have you made yourself accountable? If your goal is to wake up early and write every day, you must know that you won’t be motivated every morning. If you base your actions on whether you feel motivated, you’re going to fail.

Put on your running shoes. Open the writing app. Sit down at the piano. Break the process of taking action into tiny steps. You don’t have to be motivated to take the first step. Once you take the first step, the next step becomes easier. At some point after the first few steps, motivation will come.

Motivation is the result, not the source, of action.

When you’re unmotivated, you’ve lost the context of your end goal. You’ve forgotten why you set out to do whatever you wanted to do. You have to rediscover that reason for doing what you do. Find your “Why?”

Hitting a roadblock can’t be a reason to stop. You have to keep going. You must push through it. A roadblock is just a hurdle in your way, but you’re going to get past it because you have a bigger vision and you know where you’re going.

When you wake up in the cold darkness of the early morning, your bed is going to be warm. It’s cold outside of your blankets. You’re not going to want to leave.

But you will also not find motivation under your blankets. You will not find motivation before you get out of your warm bed. You’ll find motivation after you’ve gotten up because you’re proud of who you are.

The Three-Step, One-Step Solution for Lack of Motivation

  1. Start with a commitment.
  2. Make yourself accountable.
  3. Take the first step.

First, commit to taking action on a schedule. Then make yourself accountable to someone: tell them what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. Set up a regular meeting to make sure you stay on track.

In this manner, you can schedule your motivation. One quote of disputed origin drives the point home: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”

The secret great achievers have discovered is that you don’t have to be motivated. You just have to show up.

It’s not always going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it. You’re going to have days when you don’t feel like it, but don’t let that stop you.

Remember your goal. Zoom out from where you are right now on your timeline and envision the point where you eventually achieve that goal. It may be months from now, or it may be years. Whenever that is, visualize the point at which you will achieve your goal. See it. Actualize it. Internalize the belief that it will happen.

Now, getting there is a matter of reality aligning with your mindset.

Think of your life as a movie you’ve seen before. You know the movie has a happy ending, but in the middle the main character goes through some troubles. Of course, there are twists in the story too. You’re emotionally invested in the story, so it’s difficult to watch the character experience those setbacks and challenges, but you never lose hope. You’re excited. You know they’re going to find a way to overcome those challenges, get out of the trouble they’re in, and come out triumphantly on the other side. It’s only a matter of time.

You must envision your future to contextualize your “now.” You’re in the part of the story where the main character (you) is experiencing a setback. Things are challenging and it’s not easy. Embrace the struggle! If there were no ups and downs to your journey, it wouldn’t make for a compelling story. Go create your interesting story!

So what if you fall off your habit? Who cares if you lose motivation? That’s just part of the journey. When you encounter setbacks, don’t let them be the end of your story. Keep going. True failure is never starting at all.

Stick with it, start again, and give yourself permission to treat every day as an opportunity to make a fresh start.

It’s okay if you’re not where you want to be yet. Don’t fixate on how far behind you feel. Rather, remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Focus on consistency and showing up every day.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld emphasizes the importance of consistency: “The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes. The way to create better jokes is to write every day.”

Seinfeld would get a big wall calendar with a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. Then he got a big red marker.

“For each day I do my task of writing,” he said, “I get to put a big red X over that day. After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”

You have one job: don’t break your chain.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t wait for motivation. Motivation isn’t a source; motivation is a result of doing.
  • Motivation comes after you show up. If you look to motivation as your source of energy for taking action, you’re never going to show up.
  • If you’re feeling a lack of motivation, follow this simple three-step formula:
    1. Start with a commitment.
    2. Make yourself accountable.
    3. Take the first step.
  • Purchase a wall calendar with a whole year’s worth of days on it and a red marker and start putting X’s on the calendar for every day you take an action that will get you closer to your goal.