How to Avoid the Motivational Trap

When you lack motivation you feel lost, insecure, and uncertain about your goals. On top of this, you find yourself waiting for motivation. However, according to Russ Harris, you're confused. In this article, you'll learn why and how to stop waiting for motivation.

Last update: 22 January, 2020

Who doesn’t enjoy feeling motivated? It’s a rush that keeps you going forward. Motivation makes you feel like you can accomplish your dreams and helps you keep fighting for what you want. The inspiration you feel when motivated can be fascinating. When you’re motivated, everything seems possible. However, many people fall into the motivational trap when they don’t feel as strong and illusioned as before. When you lack motivation, you start doubting yourself and when you try to do something, you realize you don’t know where to begin.

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”

-Og Mandino-

Running with your partner can be motivation enough to lose weight.

What’s motivation?

According to British psychotherapist and doctor Russ Harris, a lack of motivation is impossible because everything you do requires motivation. In a way, you do things to get something or somewhere.

Having a conversation, eating a cupcake, driving, telling someone you feel ill, talking to someone on the phone, sitting on a sofa, reading a book, or talking about anything with anyone carry a purpose and a motivation, even if you don’t realize it.

What’s motivation? According to Harris, it’s the desire to do something. Feeling motivated isn’t a magical thing that makes you do things nor is it divine inspiration. Motivation is simply wanting to do something.

Let’s say you’ve been writing a novel for months now, but you now lack the motivation to do it. You can’t find the time to write and are always tired after you get home from work. Thus, you spend your free time online, talking, or just lying on the couch.

In this situation, your desire to just lie on the couch is bigger than your desire to write. The first thing you’ll think about is that you want to continue writing your novel but you don’t have the time or the desire. You’re just tired. But you should ask yourself this: what’s the purpose of lying in on the couch or just spending time online?

Maybe it’s about relaxing, feeling comfortable, and feeling good in the short term because you don’t have to worry about writing. In the long term, this won’t help you achieve your dreams. Therefore, when you say you’re not motivated to do something, you mean you want to do something important for yourself, but you lack the energy, confidence, and happiness to. Thus, if you think you’re tired, insecure, or lazy, you won’t start working on things.

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… These are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”


A woman looking at herself representing the motivational trap.

What’s the motivational trap?

If you think of motivation as a feeling, you’ll feel stuck. When you’re feeling lighthearted and cheerful, you’ll say you’re motivated. If you don’t feel like this, you’ll say you’re unmotivated. Why?

The answer is simple. The feeling of motivation leads you to a trap of trying to experience the right feelings before you start anything. This can make you feel stuck, waiting to feel those emotions. This is known as the motivational trap. 

If you think of motivation as a desire, instead of a feeling, you’ll be able to change your behavior. You can acknowledge what your heart desires and understand what motivates you. Besides, you’ll differentiate between desires that’ll do you wrong and those that’ll help you achieve your goals.

It’s up to you if you want to live life avoiding things or a life ruled by your values. Don’t forget that one of the basic instincts of the human race is the desire to feel happy, so this may be tricky to overcome. But you can choose to act upon what you believe in. You don’t have to feel motivated, just committed to what you’re doing.

According to Harris, commitment is the main thing, as motivation comes later. Thus, first comes the actions and then the feelings. It’s much more satisfying and enriching to act according to your values and principles. It’s worth noting that the emotions or feelings don’t always have to appear because feelings carry no guarantees.

A woman looking at the window.

What your mind keeps telling you

The motivational trap comes with all the messages in social media, some books, and people who are always coming up with strategies to feel motivated. There are two concepts you’ll hear often: discipline and willpower. If you believe that, you’ve fallen into the motivational trap.

You’ll try to find that magic formula to feel motivated, instead of being committed to the act. When you don’t find it, you’ll stop doing what matters to you because you lack the discipline to do it.

If you think about that, you’ll realize that being disciplined and having willpower are ways to commit to your values. It’s about doing what it takes to get what you want, even when you don’t always feel like it.

You need to throw away that belief that motivation will come all of a sudden. Cultivate the commitment to your goals. Don’t forget that you need to be coherent with what you believe in, no matter how you feel at that moment. Once you’ve cultivated the habit, you’ll always have the discipline or willpower to do it.

Therefore, it’s time to stop waiting for motivation and commit to your goals. Only then you’ll feel the desire to go forward and work hard to achieve your dreams.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Harris, Russ (2012). Cuestión de confianza. Del miedo a la libertad. Sal Terrae.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.