Why Motivation is Useless

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The thing about setting goals is it’s easy to write challenging ones that require a certain level of discomfort at the beginning.

The thing about developing new habits is it’s easier to write them down than actually put them into practice. They are new information the brain needs to get used to hopefully after 21days.

The thing about motivation is you feel all juiced up, but for a moment. Motivation dictates to you when you should or shouldn’t work. 

What if I told you, you don’t need motivation to be great?

What if I told you, writing down/having goals isn’t enough recipe for success? 

Deadlines vs. Schedules

We’ve all heard & know about setting time bound goals, so we set goals like:

  • I need to lose 30kg in a month,
  • I need read 4 books this month,
  • I need to enroll for financial classes before December 31st,
  • I want to make 1 million by August 26th and so on.

These deadlines don’t work for me either, and a lot of us. Here’s  why:

The days I wake up with zero motivation, I  do zero work. Without that jolt in my body, I won’t movean inch (The spirit is willing,  the body’s weak). I relied on motivation to work before now. The days it goes on holiday, I declare it a lazy day until it decides to come back.

Photocredit: GIPHY

What if we’re going about it the wrong way. What if it’s a mindset problem?

Let me explain..

GOAL: I want to lose 30KG this month

What do I need to do?

  • Adopt a healthy diet
  • Join a gym or fitness center and attend regular workout classes well suited for my body type
  • Get someone to keep me accountable 
  • Read on how to build and maintain a healthy lifestyle 
  • Reward myself for every milestone achieved
  • On days where life gets too busy and i can’t go to the gym, I can work out at home or go for a 30minutes run. 
  • Bottom line, keep at it & never miss a workout and gradually eliminate my unhealthy diet. 

What I do instead

  • Day 1: I’m all fired up ready to bury the fat. I workout like my life depends on it. Get my detox juices for the day and I’m on track
  • Day 2: My body hurts like crazy, I’m hungry I can’t do this juice life. I won’t kill myself.  I’d sleep in and head to the gym tomorrow. Just a little more rice
  • Day 3-6: snooze and back to normal diet 
  • Day 10:Yay! back to the gym

Month end, you’ve lost just 5KG and you think you’re a failure.

Why? You were more obsessed with your deadline and failed to realise that in achieving a goal, what you need to create is a schedule that works, not a deadline. 

Photocredit: Wedding Bee

Using the same fitness example:

GOAL: I want to lose 30KG by month end. 

Why? Rolake lost 30KG and she looked so good so I want to do it too. 


It’s high time I develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. From my BMI calculation, I need to lose 30KG and maintain it from then on. 

Two different reasons for weight loss. Who do you think will likely go through with it? 

I found a schedule that worked for my fitness journey HERE  and HERE.

If you plant the right seed in the right spot, it will grow without further coaxing. I believe this is the best metaphor for creating habits.

The “right seed” is the tiny behavior that you choose. The “right spot” is the sequencing— what it comes after. The “coaxing” part is amping up motivation, which I think has nothing to do with creating habits. In fact, focusing on motivation as the key to habits is exactly wrong.

Let me be more explicit: If you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot.

—BJ Fogg

Goals vs Systems

“New year, new goals”

“New week, new goals, fresh fire”

Tell yourself the truth: “Same shit, different day”.

My problem with how we set goals is we focus more on performance and not the process of getting that performance right (system). The worse thing is, some people write down their goals and forget about it. Writing it down isn’t enough, a  constant review is essential

So how do I create a system that works?

  1. Start with Why

You may think this is insignificant, but it is the backbone to the development of new habits in my opinion. Take it or leave it.

GOAL: I want to become a better writer

Why? David writes better than I do. I am not satisfied with my current capacity

It’s important to set this straight from the onset because on those days when “motivation” fails you, you’d remember why you started.

2. Create a System that Works

James Clear gives the best solution to this. Make a list

List: The things you do daily without fail

Pray, brush your teeth, flush the toilet, take a shower, do some chores, read or listen to the news, etc. Now fix those new habits into your daily routines (before or after) to help them stick. Make sure you keep at it.

  • I  will do 100 jumping jacks before I pray
  • I will write my gratitude list for the day after I take a shower
  • Everytime I flush the toilet, I will do 20 push ups
  • I will read 20 pages of a book once I wake up in the morning before anything else

It took me two months to write this post because I needed to experiment with the system I created. Here’s mine and I can tell you now that it works. 

My morning routine: Wake up, pray, do some chores, brush, eat, catch up on social media gossip,  take a shower, and head out.

I needed to find some time to workout since my schedule isn’t flexible enough for going to the gym to keep up with my fitness journey, I needed to start reading more because I had become lackadaisical and brushing twice a day, stops me from eating late. 

  • I started waking up 30 minutes earlier than my usual time to workout before I pray,
  • I do 50 push-ups before I take a shower andmaybe a few squats if time permits,
  • At nights, I brush right before I jump on my bed. 

Now I’m trying to add reading 20 pages of a book everyday but I need to find where to fix it. (which brings me to the 3Rs of habit formation. Next blog post

The reason why this has worked for me is because i found a way to fix my new habits (which aren’t so new anymore) into my daily life.

3. Stick to your Schedule, not a Deadline 

I can’t stress enough the importance of this. You don’t start swimming from 9ft. You learn the basics from 3ft then you progress. If you’re thinking of how to stay consistent, I got you covered HERE

4. Get Someone to Keep You Accountable 

Someone to make sure you stay consistent. It could be a friend, family member, teacher, someone in your niche. Find someone to keep you accountable.

5. Always Reward Yourself.

There’s nothing sweeter than rewards. I got a life planner  HERE that helps you breakdown your objectives  for the year into monthly goals. My favourite part of the planner is writing down the rewards for accomplishing my goals. I don’t know about you but when I’m about to give up, I remember the reward waiting for me on the other side.

6. Make it Incredibly Easy to Start

Focus on the process not the performance. Often times, we make it so hard to start that we fall by the wayside before we get anywhere. Remember it’s something new you’re introducting to your life. It’s still strange to your brain and body. You’d get stronger with time

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

-James Clear

Try it and let meknow how it pans out. x.o

5 thoughts on “Why Motivation is Useless

  1. This read was worth it (as usual). I am not sure I have had a personal problem with motivation till I read this.
    Now I do see motivation in an entirely new perspective leading me to be very cautious about how I use it.
    If given the opportunity, I would also like to add to ways to get things done.
    Thank you Alicia.

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