Why I stopped reading motivational stuff

Mar 28th, 2017 | By | Category: Commentary

Jeff Hough

By Jeff Hough

This week I came across an interesting account by entrepreneur Noah Kagen. He shared the experience of walking out of a Tony Robbins seminar. Kagen’s comments were honest and heartfelt. They were a mixture of applause and shock which gave rise to a nagging thought.

I have never been one to partake self-help or motivational material. Yet I find the writing interesting and I enjoy their observations. I enjoy studying it, looking for the magic pill to make inspiration or motivation grow.

What motivates one, may have a different effect on another. The same goes for inspiration. While reading a new book recently, I shared a couple of passages I thought were motivating with my wife. To my dismay, her response was the polar opposite of mine.

These experiences caused me to look at motivation differently. I started looking at the motivation industry and how big it is. There are thousands of motivational speakers, books, tapes and videos. While reviewing many of the titles, I found there were few really new ideas.

Themes like hope, overcoming fear or breaking bad habits were consistent in every search result. These results caused me to question if any of this stuff works, and if not, why not.

I decided to talk to some friends who chase the latest fad diets or motivational talks. I asked them why they keep consuming the material when they don’t seem to apply the information. The answer was always the same—it makes them feel better. While they might not have done much with the information, it gave hope that change was possible.

I began to wonder why we consume this stuff, when in reality we aren’t going to do anything with it. This bothered me. Is all this motivational stuff like a drug that makes you feel better for a minute, but never gets you anywhere? Is it a placebo to make us think we are improving our lives when actually we aren’t? Could it be that we misuse the terms motivation and inspiration?

Generally, outside forces drive motivation. Something in the environment pulls us towards a certain behavior. When you say you aren’t motivated to work out, that means external stimulus isn’t enough to get you off the couch. Motivation is more like a momentary spark, triggering an action.

Unlike motivation, inspiration comes from within. Inspiration is like a fire burning inside of you that pushes you forward. It is a connection inside of you that stimulates and heightens your sense of being and drive. Inspiration makes you come alive.

Therein lies the problem with much of the self-help stuff available. Often, we ask ourselves the wrong question before start. The wrong question causes us to look for the wrong stimulus.

Consider the parable of the young man who climbed a high mountain to visit with a wise monk to learn the secret to success. The monk asked the young man to follow him back down the mountain. When they came to a stream, the monk waded in and asked the man to join him. The monk then grabbed him and held him underwater for what seemed like an eternity. Finally he let the struggling young man up.

When the young man was able to speak, he screamed at the monk, “Why did you do that?” The monk replied, “When you want success as badly as you wanted air, you will find it.”

Start the journey to self-improvement by asking what it is you want. Then ask if you want it as badly as you want to breathe. Once you understand that, finding inspiration is easy. This helps you avoid the motivational “junk food” that only provides momentary motivation.

Jeff Hough is a business writer, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.

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