Every day my Facebook feed is filled to the brim with spam. I see the same friends, day-in and day-out, sharing motivational videos for all to enjoy. Occasionally, I'll watch one. Sometimes they're actually pretty good (lately they've even had little plots and characters associated with them). But EVERY day, it's the same people sharing more and more videos. And in their 'share' description, it's always the same story. This time they're more motivated than ever before! The next day they're SO MOTIVATED! The day after that, they now understand (through the lessons learned in their video) what's been holding them back on accomplishing their goals! The NEXT day their video has shown them the way they now have a great understanding of the world.... and THEY'RE REALLY MOTIVATED!
Motivational Videos Are Bull Sh*t!
But every time they update their status, it isn't with an update on what they've gotten done - it's always with another motivational video! There's never any progress on the work they're getting themselves so hyped up for! How could something even get done when they're too busy getting themselves motivated!? This is why motivational videos are bull sh*t! The motivation they inspire lasts about as long as it takes to close the video and get to their project! I'm sure the videos are entertaining, but that's all they are. They don't help you get anything done. If you never act, you never accomplish! Motivational videos are just one more way of convincing yourself that you've made progress when really you've done nothing but idle!
The worst part is that these victims of social propaganda don't even realize it. They really think they're doing themselves a service by watching these videos! They truly believe that getting excited is the way to make something happen so every day they get themselves excited. But, really, they just use the time that otherwise could have been spent on developing their website, writing their book, cleaning up the house, or really performing any other constructive task!
"But it's just one video!" Let's be for real, it's NEVER just one video.
One motivational video always leads to another and before they even realize it, their night is almost over! Maybe a couple of words get changed around or they "prepare" for tomorrow, but has anything that took a determined effort been finished? Not that night. Not the next night. Not even the one after that. The procrastinator never even realizes just how much time is passing because, in their eyes, they're getting a lot done! "Maybe it's not going as fast as I'd like, but I've been using all my time productively - you can't ask for more than that!" And this isn't just an excuse - they really believe it!
Regardless of the work getting done (or more likely NOT) after watching these videos, there's still a danger hidden in viewing them so frequently.
A Little On Brain Development
Our brains are the driving factor behind everything we do. And they're CONSTANTLY rewiring themselves in an attempt to form habits. That's because the brain wants to help us as much as it can. When we try something new, it's generally hard. I know my first swing at linear algebra was! But after we've done something a couple of times, that's enough for the brain to start figuring it out. And having the good intent that the brain has, it starts to construct these fast-travel pathways (dendrites) in our heads to make the data it sends out travel faster - making the task at hand easier and more enjoyable!
This sounds great! Our brain really does want us to succeed!
But when we start getting ourselves into a bad habit, the brain doesn't know to differentiate. It's still trying to be helpful and builds these dendrites thicker and faster to make that habit second-nature. Within a couple of days of Facebooking and YouTubing, you start developing a habit of watching motivational videos. Soon, like a drug, you're reliant on them without even realizing it! Now you're really in trouble. Not only have you wasted your time, but now you don't even feel like working if you haven't just watched a motivational video! After all, those bursts of energy and passion only come from motivation, right? And now that the brain keeps you feeling rewarded when watching, you really want to watch a TED Talk to get pumped up!
See how this can be detrimental if you actually want to accomplish something?
Even tonight, as I write this article it happened to me! I decided that instead of typing at my desk (which my brain associates with work), I would type in my bed. During the FIRST 'long' wait for my new post draft to load (maybe over 2 seconds?), I pulled up another tab and opened up the latest comic chapters! After finishing that chapter, I almost started another one before realizing, "What am I doing?! I still have so much to do tonight and I'm wasting time reading comics?!" Snapping myself out of my 'time-wasting bed mentality', I came back to the post where I've been writing ever since.
And, thanks to my brain, I'm having a good time.
We can see that the brain works against us when we procrastinate and get caught in time traps. But it works equally hard for us when we give it material to help us get work done.
The brain WANTS to develop these habits so we should let it do it's thing! Instead of absorbing this propaganda, we need to be giving the brain the building blocks to get our goals finished. If you want to write, get your brain to form the habit of writing! Each time you do it, the writing will become easier and more enjoyable until you no longer need motivation to write! The brain's done it enough times to say it's fun. Why would you need motivation to do something fun?
To conclude, I'd like to raise a final thinking point. What is the point of those motivational videos? At first glance, it seems like they're created to help out. But motivational videos are bull sh*t and their creators are fully aware! They didn't make these cookie-cutter videos to provide you with a lasting knowledge or drive! They were produced to get attention and traffic. The maker of that video doesn't want you to succeed, they want you to REWATCH the video later when you "need" some motivation!
As for both initial and lasting motivation, should we really be deriving our motivation from others? Do we really want to relinquish control of our own paths by relying on someone or something else to get us to where we want to be? I don't want to! Healthy motivation comes from our own personal goals, the thoughts of how good it will feel to get something worthwhile accomplished, and the support networks of people who care about us! In fact, if you need an initial source of motivation to develop you habits, after reading this article just get motivated thinking about how much you'll get done AVOIDING the external sources of motivation that pop up on your own Facebook feed!
Readers, what are some healthy and unhealthy sources of motivation you find yourself falling into? Do these get you lasting results?