I grew up most of my life as what most would call as an “unmotivated person.”

At my gymnasium I got bad grades, basically because I was considered a „revolutionary rebel“ by many professors, who didn’t like the way how I was challenging them and the status quo of the school system in the high school.

But …at my medical school I graduated with the highest score – SUMMA CUM LAUDE, because I started to become ambitious and because I WANTED TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

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I’m now more motivated than ever in my life! Waking up early in the mornings daily without much pain, accomplishing my habits and goals, and feeling this internal sense of power, vitality, and trust in my abilities in life.

This particular sense of energy that implicitly screams “no matter what happens on the outside today, I will have a grounded powerful beautiful happy internal experience of the world.”

What I learned is motivation is a multiple-part beast. If you don’t understand this then the concept of motivating yourself becomes either impossible or too audacious of a goal to accomplish or to even try to aim for consistently.

What’s your motive or inspiration?

Motive, your motif, your theme, of your life.

Motivation is why you act the way you act or why you don’t.

Motivation doesn’t always look like getting good grades, getting promoted, and obeying all the rules. In fact, a major source of motivation for many is breaking the rules, hopefully carefully.

Or in other words, growing up in a system or society that incentives certain actions, and being in the percentage of the population that isn’t motivated by those things; i.e. the counter culture.

Why would I work towards getting a mansion if I’m not motivated by wanting a mansion?

What if I’m not particularly motivated by the sheer purpose of my life being about paying bills until I die? 

You must find your own unique island of motivation. You can try to outsource it from the world, but you will most likely not be motivated in the long term and just utilize sheer discipline.

Discipline is great and everything but you can’t wake up every morning and do things you don’t want to do just because you’re disciplined. You can do that for a week, maybe a month, but solely relying on your self-control will leave you burned out and empty over the years.

In this article, I will highlight 5 main pieces of the motivational beast, so you can learn about what motivates you and how to create the effective processes daily to make it happen.

PS. My favorite is the last one, number 5.

1. Commitment to Your Story / Who You Are: 

Self-Authoring

It’s hard to know what motivates you if you don’t know who you are. Most people think knowing who you are should be common sense. Right? Wrong.

Maybe if you were born lucky, but for the rest of us…we must go down into our past and find out what happened, why, and reframe it in our minds. Simply going back and trying to recount your past. Giving yourself the space to sit down for 15 minutes uninterrupted with a few critical questions can be magical and surprising.

One of the best ways to think about this is to write down your story as if it was in a book. What would be in Chapter 1? How would you frame the transitions in your life? Is your character on the heroes journey fighting for a bigger cause?

Death

If you happen to have been born in a high socio-economic position in life, odds are you have no sense of urgency. When you are removed from the basic challenges and sense of survival, your mind shifts. It gets harder to realize what life is even worth living and dying for. Please forgive my generalizations but even for someone like me who grew up poor, I still faced this issue. Coming to terms that you will die one day, and then realizing, I could die today…

Am I living a life that’s congruent with who I want to be by the time I’m dead? Realizing you are going to die one day, teaches you why you should be alive and what’s worth dying for, which is important to overall motivation.

Truth

You can’t lie to yourself. You can lie to yourself for a short time. But, if you have a strong soul, it will come out screaming and make life unbearable for you.

Find your truth. For example, when I first started my journey I was at the end of my medical school and I wanted to become a neurosurgeon.

I realized this was not what I wanted to do, but what I thought I had to do to make myself successful. Neurosurgery was not the true path I wanted to follow. I could have continued to lie to myself and bear it out, or I could do the much scarier and rewarding thing, switch and follow your truth, which is exactly what I did, and why you are reading this article from me. You can’t be motivated to live a life that’s not yours. 

A final note on your story: You need a higher destiny to step into… You need a higher calling that will be greater when people make fun of you for being different. Find it, define it, create it, use it.

2. Motivating yourself without external pressure to a realistic degree. 

It’s “easy” to be motivated when you have no other choice.

It’s “easy” to be motivated when you are forced on a life path.

It’s “easy” to be motivated when you are surrounded by 100 other motivational people.

But, how do you motivate yourself without that external pressure?

You motivate yourself with internal intrinsic motivation. Who you naturally are, because of your story and ups and downs in life. It may not always be the most motivating aspect of your life…

However, having a baseline of internal motivation independent of outside forces, to a realistic degree is so important when discussing the lifespan of a motivated individual.

3. A Desire to Keep Learning

Without learning there is no motivation.

Without learning there is no journey.

Without the journey, there is no sense of motivation.

Whether you are just starting or a seasoned veteran. Regardless of your age or level of success, you must learn as consistently as possible.

It may not look the same for everyone. It could be surrounding yourself with 5 other people with similar interests and goals, once a week. It could be deciding to listen to a podcast or educational video over watching the 3rd Netflix episode. It could be reading a book before you go to sleep at night.

Whatever the method, you’ll notice a similar trend.

Once you stop learning, you stop feeling motivated.

Why? When we don’t learn, we are only bound to our internal world which has many limits. Learning teaches and shows us there is a way to break out of that and into better and better possibilities that lead us to a better future…and that is very motivating.

4. Take Advantage of Motivated Transient States and Past Successes.

We often think “I’m not a motivated person” or “I am a motivated person” when the reality is much greyer. We are all people, who experience moments of motivation and then other moments..

I say this because, throughout my career, I’ve learned to never underestimate 5 seconds of motivation. Don’t underestimate what 2 minutes of motivation can do.

We often think, we have to be motivated all day, or else what’s the point?

This is black and white, 100 or 0 thinking, that often isn’t accurate or helpful most of the time.

A single moment of pure motivation can set you up for the day. A single moment of motivation can subtly teach your brain to look forward to the future and a sense of you can do it.

Try your best to engineer these moments of motivation. Personally, for me, I feel the most energy and motivation when I am moving, walking, running, at the gym, doing breathwork, writing creatively, or an article like this…

Understand what can produce a motivational moment, and design your day to be filled with them.

Additionally, when we are in low moments, it’s helpful to look back.

“Don’t look back, unless it’s to see how far you’ve come.”

When I think back to my past successes, either internally or externally where I had to show who I was to the world and struggle… I look back at those moments with such joy and an implicit understanding of, oh if I did that in the past, I can do it again and much harder issues in the future!

When you are in low moments, use your past successes you are personally proud of as a reminder of who you are, what you can do, and how you can overcome the next set of challenges and obstacles.

5. Your Biochemistry

Last, but certainly not least. Your biochemical brain cocktail.

Depending on who you are, this may be the most important. You may already be doing 1-4 flawlessly. Or, incapable of doing them due to your biological hardware & software operating together. I know this from my life as someone who never really understood what mental health was growing up..

You can be a great person. Skilled, motivated, kind, empathetic, and hard-working.

All great traits but, if your brain doesn’t have the biochemical requirements to function properly, you will live a hard life and it won’t be your fault.

We often forget that life’s experience itself on a moment-to-moment basis is a biological experience. Trillions of cells interacting throughout our brain, body, and gut microbiome expressing, messaging, genetics, neuro- transmitting, processing, our life every single second of every day.

This is a complicated topic but to make it as simple as possible.

What you put in your mouth – nutrition.

How you move your body – movement.

How you rest and shut down – sleep.

How often you are outside nature in the sun, every single day.

Are the primary categories that our brain requires to be healthy and functioning properly. I have created tools, and resources for each one of these topics you can find by searching my name and the subsequent topic on Google.

Conclusion

I wrote this article because I’m tired of people saying “no excuses” as an answer to people facing underlying mental health, chronic stress, and energy issues.

Enjoyed this article? Please consider sharing it with your friends, forwarding it to a co-worker.

Marco Giannecchini, MD