How I stumbled upon the secret of motivation – here it is

Today, let us demystify motivation. 

And I am not talking about the transient spike of excitement but the motivation that endures, for months and even years. I am talking about obsessive commitment to a goal, day in, and day out, regardless of the ‘mood of the day.’

Let me share some of my experiences. When I was preparing for the Civil Services exam, I had to prepare for one full year from the Preliminary exam to the final interview. And in one year, you go through many ups and downs. Yet, every day, I would wake up and sit down to study, without exception.

Does it mean I had some extreme willpower? Absolutely not. In fact, we were a group of 10 odd people at IIT, preparing for the exam. And we all studied with the same intensity. So it wasn’t about any individual personality trait – there was something in common with all of us.

Looking back, here is what sustained our motivation:

  1. We desperately cared about the goal – for us, success in the exam was almost life and death, or so it felt. I had given up well-paying job offers to prepare for the exam and the stakes could not have been higher. The same was true for my buddies. 
  2. Inside our heads, we all believed that we would succeed. We had seen most of our seniors ace the exam. Since we believed that our hard work won’t go to waste, it motivated us to keep pushing hard. 
  3. We evolved a routine we followed without exception – every morning we would get up and start studying. And with breaks for meals and occasional rejuvenation, we would continue studying. We never questioned whether we should study or not – we did not renegotiate with ourselves whether to study or not. 
  4. We enjoyed the process of preparation. I loved most of the subjects I studied with only a few exceptions. Had the exam required me to study a subject I hated (e.g., biology), I don’t think I would have been able to sustain my motivation. 

These are the things that kept us going, day after day, and month after month. And since this worked for all of us, I believe that these are general enough principles. 

Hence, generalizing from the above, here are the secrets of lasting motivation: 

  1. You have to desperately care about the goal. So much so that it almost feels like life and death.
  2. You have to believe that you have a good shot at achieving the goal. The confidence in success has to precede actual success. 
  3. Form a routine and once you make the decision to follow it, don’t allow your mind to renegotiate. Even when you don’t feel like it, you follow the routine. 
  4. You should ideally enjoy the process. 

These are the four things that make your motivation long-lasting. And fortunately, to a great extent, you control all these four factors, even if not completely. 

So if you want to achieve any goal, don’t depend on an excitement spike or a pep talk from someone. Just create these four conditions to the extent possible and nothing will come in the way. 

We control our motivation. We control our destiny. Take charge, and move forward. There is no guarantee that life will give us all we want but there is a guarantee that we can give it all we got. 

And that is good enough. 

Thank you for reading this. Hope this helps you when you are searching for motivation. 

Keep going. 


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