Determination and motivation are not the same thing. We hear/read/pursue a lot about motivation today and how it is important to get us to our goals. But it is not. The problem with motivation is that it relies on emotion most of the time. We attend conferences where rocking, loud music gets us going. A speaker yells how “you can do it!!” We get excited and jazzed and know we WILL accomplish all that we were designed to do!
And then the alarm goes off at 5am at the beginning of the second week. We wake up with the memory of the promising prospect that let us know he had gone a different direction. Or it is time to go to the gym after a difficult second week and we don’t want to because we overdid it following the conference and our muscles are screaming at us.
And so we hit snooze and roll over to sleep another hour. And then another.
Determination is different. It builds from within and looks more like constant forward motion than explosive bursts followed by a quick fade. It is the Olympian who gets up to finish the race even though she has fallen. It is Aragorn who, in the face of certain defeat at Helm’s Deep, says there is one thing they can do – “Ride out and meet them.” It is not “RIDE OUT AND MEET THEM!!!!” nor, “Ride out and BEAT them!” No. It is jaw-clenched, understanding the reality of the situation, and choosing to press forward regardless of the result. It is “progress-is-victory-and-I-define-progress.” It is habits rather than excitement. It is the Tortoise, not the Hare.
Too many times we look outward for motivation, but determination is build inward.
So what, right? Why the obsession about a difference between determination and motivation? Aren’t they just different sides of the same coin? No. For decades, our current culture has associated motivation with a one-at-a-time booster shot that we get externally. “I just need someone to motivate me,” a gifted young man once told me. I had just been named head of the division where he worked. He stared blankly at me when I said my experience was that the best performers motivated themselves. That concept was foreign to him. Further, it implies an additional step: I must make the effort to find something that will motivate me to propel forward. Determination just grinds forward. Fewer steps needed. More simplicity.
There is subtle nuanced difference between motivation and determination, also. Motivation suggests emotion is fuel; I must stoke myself – or have someone or something else do it for me – into a lather to fire my engine. Determination suggests the absence of emotion. Not that emotion is bad; it is just that determination is emotion agnostic. If I am excited/mad/hurt/scared, I move forward. If I am none of those things…
I still move forward.
I am “determined” to move forward, to take one more step. That is how Joe McConaughy recently broke the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. He was tired – exhausted – and so took just one more step, fell, and took just one more. Over and over and over again.
Are you ever tired? Don’t want to get out of bed? Ever? If you ever are, then determination is your friend. And the data is showing determination leads to results. Motivation, not so much.