Does motivation actually exist? If you’re looking for motivation, you might want to stop. I know that sounds strange, but bear with me for a moment.
The root word of motivation is motive, meaning something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act. The Latin origin of the word is movere, meaning “to act”. The suffix of “ation” means action or process (hibernation); the result of an action or process (accumulation); or state or quality (exhilaration). That means that motivation is the reason for action. This all seems pretty simple and straightforward.
But the problem is that we can have a million reasons to act, and yet we don’t. I would know because I’m the former master of this problem. Motivation is the reason to act, but not the action itself. What’s holding you back?
In psychology, there is the concept of static and dynamic ideas. Static ideas are those ideas that occur like, “I should go work out.” However, if there is a contradictory idea or many contradictory ideas, then we will not act on the idea. This can be a good thing and is an innate process in our brain’s limbic system. If I think I should punch someone who is annoying me, the limbic system has a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t do that. Since the limbic system controls our peripheral nervous system, we don’t punch that annoying person in the face. We use our neocortex to come up with a different solution.
But this process can sabotage us and ironically that’s sort of a good thing. Humans are animals governed by negative feedback. We don’t not touch the hot stove because there is any positive reason. We don’t touch it because we did that once and the pain and injury was negative enough to convince us that is not in our best interest so we’re never doing that again. This way we protect ourselves and we survive.
But in the modern age, we have altered our environment significantly and created a reality where we are very much divorced from the harsh realities of natural living. For example, in the modern world, being inactive, and sedentary is a non-life-threatening choice you get to make, and then double down on. You can crawl into your own hole of depression, avoidance and so on and not die within 1-2 weeks. Why? Because nothing is going to kill you and you’re not going to starve or freeze to death because of your inaction. In the old days, you had to keep acting or you died. Work out? Hell, have you ever hunted for your food and if you didn’t succeed you went hungry? That is the reality our brain is adapted to and it was still a reality less than a hundred years ago.
Back then humans were ruled by dynamic ideas. Dynamic ideas are those ideas that have no inhibitory counter-ideas. One hundred years ago, the thought “I need to eat” was a five-alarm fire warning, an absolute priority, and nothing trumped it in importance. When you had that idea, people in my neck of the woods grabbed their gun and in desperation took to the woods to kill something to eat and feed their families. But today, things are so damn easy that we don’t feel that sense of urgency. Nothing is a personal crisis and so, meh, it can wait.
The depths to this are truly astonishing and I am a victim of my own inaction. I know this issue all too well. I have procrastinated just about everything for far too long simply because I could. And we humans have this amazing idiot streak where we will take everything literally to the edge of death and complete destruction before we wake the hell up! When we get into that downward spiral we literally have to be taken to the edge where the pain and threat of death are so great that we snap out of it and take action!
Tony Robbins notes that people can change in a heartbeat. But only if the stimulus is great enough. Sometimes friends or family have to die. Sometimes you have to almost die. And sometimes people just wake up because they hit a point where they can’t stand to live that way any longer. That is what is happening to me, but I think it’s interesting to discuss why this happened to me.
In my case, I found my rock bottom because everything in life kept coming up short. My career, my fitness, my relationships and so on. I did what I was indoctrinated to do and it never worked the way I was told it would. The way it always turned out was negative and caused profound personal pain, suffering, and loss. On top of that, as I researched why this might be happening, I discovered that the majority of the foundational knowledge I used to operate from was wrong. Not just wrong, but deeply immoral. And oh, by the way, I discovered that I didn’t know what morality actually was and that neither do you. All of this is like touching the stove, but thousands of times over again. When you get shut down enough times, you shut down. And as I think about it, the big problem in society today is that everyone is shutting down everyone else. Everyone is acting to destroy, not to create. Everyone is acting from a position of selfishness, not a position of love and cooperation.
This past week a monster hurricane hit Houston, Texas. Immediately, thousands of people all over the South looked West and realized that people were going to die and that they had the means to act. Many of these people are poor but they have a boat. They drove to Texas and started pulling people out of death’s watery grasp and saving countless lives in a collective outpouring of love called the Cajun Navy. Those marvelous bastards are showing the world that love really does trump hate and their dynamic ideas spurred them to an act of love and selfless devotion to life. But when it’s all over, they will go home and continue to drink beer, eat fried foods and tons of junk food. Their lives will not get better and they will take no action to improve their lives.
I have noticed the same thing in myself. It’s easy for me to get up and be early to work and do the right thing when it’s for someone else. But left to my own devices, I feel adrift and lost. I don’t have any idea what to do and I can’t seem to figure out why I ought to do anything other than watch reruns and generally destroy my health, my productivity, and my life. Why does this happen?
Throughout our lives, we are constantly given extrinsic motivation, i.e. external reasons to do things. We are taught not to be selfish, taught to share and to give. But there is no balance. We are not taught what our true value is, nor our reason for living. We are trainable animals and we have been conditioned to loathe ourselves. This isn’t the whole, “I was abused as a child” thing. This is far worse. This is a societal, cultural, religious and government mental beat down that devalues us and human life. Only this way can you create a situation where people actually believe that entire classes of humans are bad. Only under such a massive system of psychological conditioning could thousands of people accuse complete strangers of imaginary crimes like racism, sexism, bigotry and the like based solely on their own racism, sexism, and bigotry. None of it’s true but “they” believe it with all their heart and we’re not sure enough to the contrary to muster even a half-hearted defense. That means we the accused lose despite our innocence.
I woke up when I realized my purpose in life is to live life to its fullest potential and to use all my natural powers to make propagate the species and improve the general quality of life for the species. I do no good to anyone when I am not taking positive, moral action that places me in a state of optimum health and performance so that I can be of the greatest benefit to my children, my clan, and my community. My duties and responsibilities are to take moral action because life itself is action and movement. Moral action improves everything, immoral action destroys it. It is my duty to mother nature herself to do the right thing for myself, but also that which is good for my family, my community, my state, and my nation. But I must never sacrifice what is best for me, for what is best for another, or I am acting immorally, which is against my own self-preservation.
We are weak because we have been conditioned to believe a lie about ourselves. That we have no intrinsic value and that we have a duty to act on behalf of others first, before ourselves regardless of the personal cost. This is, for the religious out there, the core of Satanism. It is morality turned on its head. It is destructive and evil. The great experiment that was the United States of America was that individual liberty (self-preservation) must always come first but not at the expense of others so that we can then help others.
But what if you do not know what to do? What if you are surrounded by personal failure and suffering? What then? What action should you take?
The answer is simple. Do the best you know how while seeking truth and wisdom from those who obviously have it. The very least you can do is eat better, live on a rational schedule, reduce personal stress, walk a lot, move and climb a lot, lift some weights, meditate, and get back to nature. Start there and the rest will come to you. Do those things no matter how inhibited you feel or how many reasons you have not to right now. The great secret is that movement is life. If you are not moving you are dying. But let your movement by no purely physical. The true purpose of life, aside from propagation of the species is personal improvement and mastery. We are meant to improve our minds with knowledge, our bodies with movement, and our spirit with truth. Let that be your compass and may the critics be damned. As Dennis Leary said, “Life sucks, get a f-ing helmet!” and as the French Foreign Legion says, “March or die.” Celebrate the journey, not the destination, because none of us ever actually know where we’re going and the terrain is always changing. You do the best you can with what you have and keep your nose pointed at virtue. The core “tactical” virtues of life are (from The Way of Men by Jack Donovan):
- STRENGTH: Physical prowess and power; ability to dominate an opponent (of the natural or human variety) instead of being dominated, and to stand fast and immovable when pushed.
- COURAGE: The spirit /will/discipline to engage and employ one’s strength when inwardly tempted to shrink/run/hide. There are “higher” forms of courage, but at its most fundamental, it represents an outwardly demonstrated indifference to risk, pain, and physical danger.
- MASTERY: Skill and adeptness in using the techniques and technology employed in hunting and fighting; a deft understanding of knowledge that saves lives and furthers the interests of your group.
- HONOR: Traditional honor is not the same as integrity — living up to your own, personal standards. Traditional honor is a reputation for strength, courage, and mastery — as judged by other men. Honorable men care about being manly, knowing that each individual member’s prowess in the tactical virtues bolsters the strength and reputation of the gang as a whole and thus deters attack from rival gangs. Dishonorable men, on the other hand, evince indifference or hostility to the standards, weakening the group and leaving it more vulnerable.
Do you want motivation? Well, guess what? A reason to act is not a zing you get from a stimulant packed pre-workout drink. It’s not something that makes you overly emotional because emotionality is a liability. Man’s primary motivation, the reason to take action, is life itself, to first survive, then to thrive. Thriving is a heightened state or quality of being; it is to grow or develop successfully; to flourish or succeed. As a human, especially a man, you must embody the tactical virtues and live the quest of constant and never-ending improvement (kaizen), especially in truth and morality as well as health and tactical skill. Shut out all distractions, abandon relationships that hold you back, and as my good friend Mike Mahler advises, “LIVE LIFE AGGRESSIVELY!” To live life aggressively you need a plan; YOUR plan, and you need to execute that plan for your own success, not others. Execute aggressively!
One last cluster of thoughts… Don’t be afraid of mistakes and pain. Learn from them because nothing you ever do will be perfect and pain is found in any course of action we choose. As long as you’re pointed in the right direction it will all get better as you go. The key is that you have to me moving. Nothing improves from standing still. So above all else, “March or die” because like war, in life there is only advancing or retreating. There is no such thing as maintaining or a static defense. You are living or dying and if you stop living you die faster. Life is a war and there’s no such thing as intrinsic motivation, “only do, or do not.” (Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back). Live for you first of all, then for others and remember that a less than optimized you is a liability, not an asset. You decide, right fucking now if you’re going to live well for yourself and others or die pathetically as a burden upon yourself or others. If you choose to live well, then go get your ruck, your rifle, and your helmet. We’re moving out in seven minutes and no one gives a fuck about your feelings, especially mother nature.
“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
-William Shakespeare’s, Henry V, in Act IV Scene iii 18–67.
Make every day Saint Crispin’s day…