Maintaining Focus: The Illusion of Motivation


“Motivation” is the snake oil of modern society. These days, it seems like every half-decent public speaker and author is shelling out advice on staying motivated, kicking goals and winning at life as though there’s a simple formula that the rest of us are too foolish to grasp.

It’s not that simple. The Tony Robbins(s) of the world would have you believe that if you could just flick that switch, you’ll dive headfirst into mounds of success and the wealth that comes with it. The motivation business is big money, largely due to one key reason: people keep coming back for more.

The promise of an easy path is a drug. If your doctor continuously prescribed morphine to treat your broken leg, you’d never heal. You might feel great for a few hours, under the firm impression that you’re going to turn your life around and have a fantastic, fully healed leg in a short time. However, without real treatment, you’re going to end up in a lot of pain and potentially suffer life-altering damage.

That’s the real danger of the motivation drug – if you ride its high for too long, the world passes you by and you still haven’t cultivated the real key to success.

That key is discipline. Motivation is fleeting. Discipline, once acquired, is here to stay (with some nurturing along the way).

Forget motivation, and focus on discipline. The truly great pioneers of the business world are highly disciplined. Buffett doesn’t drop millions on a stock because he feels great that day. Branson doesn’t launch airlines because Gary Vaynerchuk told him to wake up to himself. Musk isn’t going to imprint his name across humanity’s second home because he stayed up bingeing Coach Carter scenes on YouTube.

True success comes through hard earned discipline (or a healthy inheritance, but this article isn’t for those people). When you have a goal in life, and maintain stringent focus on that goal, with no excuses, you will develop discipline.

It doesn’t come easy. If it did, the 1% wouldn’t be so outstandingly far ahead of the rest of us. Discipline is a game that you must play every single day. Naturally, deviations from the course are to be expected. However, the essence of discipline is that these are not an excuse. There are no excuses.

For those of you who are still looking for a magic bullet – there really isn’t one. There are, however, shortcuts to attaining the kind of discipline that makes people truly great.

Goals are absolutely essential. With nothing to strive towards, there is no need for discipline. If you want to cultivate genuine, lasting discipline, it’s time for some serious introspection.

  1. What do you want in life?
  2. How will you get it?

These questions may seem laughably simple, but answering them is the first step to maintaining focus. Break your future down into simple steps. Develop short and medium term goals that will make real contributions to your long term goal.

If you want to retire at 55, you’ll need to know how much you’ll need in order to draw a comfortable 5% a year to live on. If you want to triple your business’ revenue, you’ll need clear strategies and growth targets, with contingencies in the case of failure.

They say every day is a new day, but that’s like saying every slice is a new apple. Every day is your life – and it all matters. A simple “trick” is the tried and true to-do list. Start every single day with a list of that day’s achievements. It’s your trophy list, and all you have to do to win is to go down that list at the end of the day and tick off the items.

By all means, search for motivation from your favourite snake oil salesman. However, always remember: a shot of morphine might make you forget your broken leg, but it won’t heal it. Failing to address the root of your problems will only make your situation worse in the long run.


About the author

Christopher Sales is the founder and director of mortgage broker, Finance Warehouse. In 2016, he was nominated in the Australian Top 10 Brokers Newcomer of the Year category. 


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