Motivational videos, quotes, and pictures are all over the internet. You’ll find your friends posting them on Whatsapp groups or sharing them as their Instagram stories.
A lot of people search for inspiration explicitly too. The phrase “motivational quotes” garners 2.7 million searches a month on Google. On Youtube, you’ll find a cartload of inspirational videos that have tens of millions of views, if not more.
That should tell you how widely motivational content is consumed on the internet.
But here’s the kicker. Motivational videos or quotes do not work unless you do.
- The endless loop of motivational content
- The problem with motivational content
- How to use motivational content
The endless loop of motivational content
Are you surprised to see a statement that seems to point out an issue with motivational content? Many people are.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that motivational material is useless. The problem occurs when you watch/read them and do nothing after, which is unfortunately the case with most people.
The habit of consuming motivational content can pull you into a vicious cycle shown below.
Let me break this down into 4 parts.
1. The anger/frustration/guilt
Whether you’re unhappy with your current job or feel the dissatisfaction of postponing your long term goal, you believe you could do better. You feel a discomfort within yourself about your current state of affairs.
Triggered by the emotion, you make a spontaneous decision to stir things around.
2. Consume motivational content
Since you lack the motivation, you look for powerful quotes on Google or motivational videos on Youtube. You encounter advice and lessons from stories of other people who got out of a similar rut and changed themselves forever.
3. Feel energized and plan
You feel a new surge of energy running down your spine and you vow to make an effort. You make a plan to get started with chasing your dreams.
4. Do nothing different
Some people never take the first step they planned. Some others get started and lose energy shortly after. In no time, one way or another you slip back into your old routine.
You find yourself experiencing a negative emotion again and try to find solace in motivational content.
The problem with motivational content
You’ll find tons of consumers of motivational content. But if you measure that against people who took action, you’ll end up with a very small ratio.
So what causes such a gap?
1. Gives a false illusion of work done
Watching a motivational video feels like a necessary catalyst to propel you into action. You believe it is part of chasing your goals.
Since you encounter new and interesting information, you believe you spent the time fruitfully. The dopamine rush invokes a thrill within your stomach.
But, was the time consumed rewarding? Well, that depends if you put the knowledge to use or follow it with action. If not, it only pumped your chest and made you feel productive without getting any work done.
Consuming motivational information is an addiction in itself. The structure of the internet today makes related content easy to find.
If you close Youtube and open it again the next day, you’ll find a related video popping right on your face. The same goes for social media newsfeed.
Machines today are specialized at feeding you content that you like. So, one motivational video leads to many other similar videos and one inspirational quote can tempt you into a reading spree.
Was the content useful? Sure it was, but only if you implement it. The same goes applies to any self-help content including the articles on this blog.
Unused knowledge is no different than ignorance. In fact, it is a bigger waste of time.
3. Survivorship bias
Most of the motivational content you consume cannot be debunked. But, they’re based on success stories tailored to fit the material you’re watching.
Compiling such content is easy in hindsight after an event has occurred.
But, you cannot replicate Bill Gates’s methodology and build a world-renowned software company today. Neither can you follow Warren Buffet’s investing principles to become a billionaire in the next decade.
Am I saying their methods were a stroke of luck? Of course not. They were the smartest of the lot who came up with many intelligent ideas and trained themselves to reach the success they have.
But, your situation, thought process, and goals are way different. Waking up at 4 AM won’t magically turn you into a celebrity like The Rock. What works for somebody else won’t produce the same results for you. You’ll have to figure out your path to success just like the successful people did.
4. Not all motivational content is actionable
Most motivational content you go through does not always help you take action. For example, consider the statement, “You need to overcome your mental barrier to achieve your true potential.” You’ll find enough and more videos on Youtube which advocate the same philosophy.
But not everyone knows how to overcome their mental barrier. Unless you receive actionable steps to solve the problem, the confidence you gained will translate to nothing.
All motivational advice sounds pleasing to hear and gets you flared up. But you have to differentiate between what helps you inch closer to your goal vs the content which is pure fluff.
How to use motivational content
I am not advising to stop watching videos or reading quotes because motivational content in itself isn’t bad. But if you consider the consumption of such information as work done, you’re only fooling yourself.
If you have such a habit, here is what you can do to fix the problem:
1. Keep it to a minimum
If motivational content gives you the goosebumps and helps you get going, that’s wonderful. You can watch a short video to start your day, listen to a podcast, or look up a few inspirational quotes. But once you feel energized, get out of the pattern of further consumption.
If you watch a transformational video to motivate you to hit the gym, it must help you start today. If you plan to begin working out “soon”, the chances of keeping your promise are slim.
Motivational content should help you get work done today. Not tomorrow, next week, or some date in the future, but today.
2. Watch out when content gets repetitive:
You’ll find a lot of advice which boils down to:
- Stop procrastinating
- Your limitation is in your mind
- Embrace failure to succeed
- Hustle and work hard
Such advice is powerful and useful. But listening to 37 speakers or reading 153 quotes that convey the same message in different forms serves no purpose.
If you’re hearing repetitive lessons, you’ve taken it a tad too far.
3. Start small, but start today
After you gain some adrenaline in your veins from the motivational content, finish a task to help you move forward. Even a job which takes 2 minutes is acceptable.
If you want to start working out, signing up today for membership is progress. If you want to start a blog, identifying the right niche for you is a step forward.
Think of your goal and find the easiest job you can do today to gain momentum. Constant progress serves as the best motivation to achieve your goal.
4. Be specific, not vague
Goals that have the words “sometime soon”, “next ..”, “in the future” are excuses for procrastination. The vaguer you are, the lower the chances of achieving the target.
After watching a motivational video, be specific about what you’ll achieve. If you have a long term plan, keep a portion of it tagged to the present and near future.
Posting a powerful quote on your Facebook wall doesn’t help anyone achieve their goal. You’ve to get off your butt and work towards the destination.
The whole purpose of consuming motivational content is to facilitate action. And if you fail at that, all the time you spent on videos, quotes, books, and articles fades into oblivion.
So, make your motivation count and it will take you places.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.