In our times, everybody is more or less familiar with the concept of motivation. Whether it is the lack of it, excess of it, or just the desire to stay motivated about something, motivation is considered a necessary virtue. We all have various goals dictated by career, studies, financial stability, family, self-improvement, etc., and these goals require motivation and a certain ambition.
More often than not, lack of motivation is considered as the problem. It is almost taken for granted that one should feel motivated. The lack of it would mean you are incapable, and you cannot achieve anything without being motivated to achieve—and achieve you must, says the society in so many ways gross and subtle.
We have internalised this framework, and it is obvious that something is wrong with our approach.
Acharya Prashant has given us the following pointers to understand the subject matter clearly.
At the root of the word ‘motivation’ is the word ‘motive’. What is meant by ‘motive’?
Motive means: “I want to get something.”
Which implies that you want to get something that you already don’t have.
In simple words: something is missing in you.
You have been continuously told that you are imperfect, inadequate. You have been compared to others, you have been told to become like somebody else, you have been told to get this and that achievement. And that kind of conditioning is coming from family, media, religion, everywhere.
“Look at uncle’s son, you are not good enough.”
“You characterless woman, you are always in hunt of a partner, you are not good enough.”
“Unless you have a good husband, you are incomplete.”
“After marriage, if you don’t become a mother, your life is incomplete.”
“Only one kid, you must have two kids, then your life is complete.”
“Oh! This small two-bedroom apartment is not good enough, go get a bigger house then life would be complete.”
These kinds of stupid comments have totally corrupted your mind and have made you believe that you are incomplete, that there is something missing in you, that there is something wrong in you, and you must make up for it by obtaining a particular degree, a particular job, a certain respectability.
So, all motivation and ambition (goals) are rooted in a sense of unworthiness, inferiority, and incompleteness.
What kind of a life does this lead to?
Motivation means that an external force, an external agency, an external stimulus is acting upon you and making you react in a certain way. Someone comes and says a few words to you, and those words have a certain impact on your mind, and you start acting and behaving in a particular manner. This is what all motivation is in reality.
All motivation is external.
If motivation can come from an outside factor, motivation can also disappear when that outside factor disappears. Any external factor cannot always stay with you. A person comes and makes a rousing speech, you are motivated. Will that person stay with you?
Not only that, one external factor comes and motivates you in one direction, and the other factor comes and motivates in another direction. What to do? Papa motivates you to do one thing, the media motivates you to do another thing, and a professional guru motivates you to do a third thing. Now, where to go? All these are externals pulling you towards themselves, pulling you in directions that ‘they’ determine.
That’s no way of living. That’s no way of living a conscious life. This is a great distraction. And the external mostly motivates you to go more and more into the external, outside of yourself, so life remains directionless, insipid, and confused.
Pulled to different directions by different motivators, these external agencies act upon your life—and you remain a slave. So, if one element of motivation is slavery, what will you say about making a habit of being motivated? You want habitual slavery?
One may ask, “But if all motivation is external, how could one do anything without it? Would there be any reason to live if one was not motivated to do something?”
The ego is so used to its littleness, to its familiar excuses of powerlessness and worthlessness, that it just cannot tolerate coming to a point where its usual excuses do not hold anymore. It does not understand that its ways are futile and it is afraid of moving out of them because it does not see an alternative; it does not have the faith to drop the external, which serves as its limitation and security both.
Because we are so accustomed to being externally motivated, we do not know that movement is possible without external motivation. Life must be lived, but you do not have to live it driven by a constant sense of smallness and inferiority.
You do not need to rid yourself of the various external motivations, they are just a symptom. You need to get rid of the idea that you are inherently incomplete, insufficient. And that belief is engrained deep into your system. That is the most fundamental influence that has been forced upon you.
It is alright to have goals and achieve provided that you are not seeking a fundamental inner fulfilment out of those goals. When you start from a point of completeness, all your actions and ambitions have a flavour of completeness to them. Now you do out of your joy of doing itself; the results become irrelevant.
There are failures only when there is ambition. There can be no failure when you start from a point of unreasonable sureness. You are already successful. Your welfare does not depend on any achievement or situation outside of yourself. Everything that you do becomes a success even when apparently you might be failing in the eyes of the world.
Now the external factors cannot seduce you or threaten you. Your own health is the driving force behind all your motivation, and now it cannot even be called motivation because the goal is just superficial. Now you are free to move as you like without taking any path too seriously.
Your boyfriend comes to you and says, “Let us sit across the table, there is something I want to talk to you,” and you start crying. He has not said anything. All that he has said is let us sit across the table, and you would think that he is breaking up. The poor fellow does not even have that in his mind but you will start crying, “Why are you doing this to me? Whom are you seeing these days?”
Isn’t that bad? Isn’t that horrible that anything can shake us up?
That incompleteness actually has no reason, that incompleteness is just an assumption. You have a conditioned assumption that there is something missing in me, that there is something to be obtained in the future, that is what is that incompleteness.
Want to get rid of incompleteness? You can’t. You are already complete.
Reject everything, everybody and every medium that tells you that there is something wrong with you. No, there is nothing wrong with you, there can be nothing wrong with you. You may be the worst sinner, you may have broken the law a thousand times, yet you are perfect.
Always, already, unconditionally—you are complete. Walk in that faith, live in that faith and laugh when somebody wants to give you some other message. That person may have some self-interest.
Before you love anybody else, love yourself unconditionally. You are beautiful! Fall in love with yourself. Go buy a card and two weeks later give it to yourself.
Tell yourself, “I am complete, already, always”.
If you have a fracture in your leg and you have to come to me by climbing up a staircase, then you will require motivation. If you are all right, will you require motivation to come up to me and climb the staircase?
So, don’t ask how do I get motivation; ask how to have clarity, how to be clear.
Again let me ask you, when you have to study throughout the night, what do you require?
But when you have to watch a movie beginning at one in the night till four in the morning, do you require motivation?
You don’t even know when the clock has struck four, time just flies away. So when do you require motivation? When you do something which puts you in conflict. Where there is no love, only then you will require motivation. When you love something, no motivation is required, then it’s always spontaneous.
You do not need motivation; all you need is clarity.
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Acharya Prashant is an emerging champion of socio-spiritual awakening in the world today. An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, and a former Civil Services officer, Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed Speaker, Vedanta Teacher and author of over 50 books. Apart from that he wears various hats: a veganism promoter, an environmental activist, a science activist, a campaigner against superstition, and a champion of essential human freedom. Know More