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Motivation is overrated

I’m sure you’ve heard a million times that motivation is necessary to complete your PhD. Maybe you’ve heard that you have to feel motivated to write. Or be motivated to analyse the data. Or to do the reading.

Actually, you don’t.

Because the reality is that motivation is overrated.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you have it. It will certainly help you achieve your goals. But it’s not what makes or breaks your PhD.

Let me give you a few examples to explain this.

When I was doing my PhD, there were numerous moments when I did not feel particularly motivated to write. In fact, my motivation was probably -10 on a scale of 1 to 10. I wanted to hang out with my friends instead. Or watch Netflix. Or play football. Or do a million other more fun things to do.

Did this lack of motivation mean I decided not to write my PhD that day?

Of course not.

Motivation or no motivation, you get it done. And the sooner, the better.

The other day I was talking to my dad about exercising. I exercise four times a week. He doesn’t. and this worries me slightly, so I tried to encourage him to take up a sport.

His answer: “Look, I’m just not particularly motivated at the moment. When I feel the motivation again, I’ll get back to swimming.”

But that’s the problem with motivation: people think you need it for everything. And if you don’t feel it, you’ve got to wait until at some point, fingers crossed, it magically appears, so you can get out of your slumber.


I exercise for 45 minutes four times a week at 6 am. Am I motivated to do it?

Not really.

Would I rather stay in bed?

You bet! It’s still pitch dark most of the year at that time!

Do I love exercising?

Not particularly. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.

Do I let the lack of motivation stop me?

No. Because I know exercise is good for me. It keeps me healthy and sane. And I feel better after doing it.

The thing about motivation is that it comes and goes. It’s a rare specimen that is rather difficult to find. And once you’ve found it, it’s likely to escape into the wild quickly.

Motivation is overrated. It’s not what makes people successful. In order to succeed and be the best, you need consistent and focused effort over long periods of time.

Sometimes you might be motivated. But most of the time you’d rather stay in bed or watch Netflix.

So if you want to succeed, forget about motivation. You have it, great! You don’t have it? Who cares. You just get up and do what needs to be done to achieve your goal. Day in, day out.

That’s how you succeed. Constant focused effort over a long period of time.

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