Why Motivation Is Bullshit And What You Really Need To Do To Reach Your Goals

Why Motivation Is Bullshit And What You Really Need To Do To Reach Your Goals

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At 41, Mel Robbins was unemployed, her self-confidence at rock bottom and family, drowning in debt.

When her alarm went off at 6AM, she’d open her eyes and lie in bed, thinking about the bankruptcy she and Chris, her husband, were dealing with from a failing restaurant business, how they had fought the night before, their negative account balance, the lien on their home, and her stalled career.

Afraid and overwhelmed by all the problems that were sitting squarely on their shoulders, Robbins would hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.

Over, and over again.

Feeling trapped and drained from the nightmare they were living, the snooze button was her temporary respite from reality. Not a big deal, you think. After all, so many of us go through the same motions every single morning. Alarm goes off. Open eyes. Snooze for 10 minutes. Repeat until you’re jolted by the realization that you have to be out the door in 20.


Hitting the snooze button is the sign of a much bigger problem, thinks Robbins—it’s one of the many decisions we make to ‘check out’ of doing the things we need to do to get what we want. Robbins knew exactly what she had to do to save her family and their future: Wake up on time, look for a job, patch things up with Chris, and take better care of herself.

But she just couldn’t make herself do them.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, think of all the “I shoulds” that you’re struggling with right now: Sleeping in instead of getting out of bed to go for your 6A.M run. Picking pizza over a salad even though you know that one warm, cheese-smothered slice always leads to a binge. Putting off bringing that idea you’ve been dreaming about to life even though not doing anything is killing your soul.

The excuses that precede these not-so-great decisions are usually linked to certain emotions: Overwhelm, fear, self-doubt and that all-too-familiar “I don’t feel like it”. 

But the cold, hard truth is, you never will.

There are, however, steps you can take to propel yourself and your dreams forward despite this, and here’s how:


Everything changed after Robbins found herself watching a NASA rocket launch on TV one evening, she says in her book, The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work And Confidence With Everyday Courage.

“Pay attention”, her instincts whispered. So she did, and in an instant, decided that she’d launch herself out of bed the next morning—she’d do it so quickly that she wouldn’t have time to think her way out of it.

The next time her alarm went off at 6AM, Robbins opened her eyes, counted “5,4,3,2,1”, got out of bed on 1, and stood up to a cold, dark Boston winter morning. Many repeat, early-morning ‘launches’ later, she finally broke her habit of hitting the snooze button. And using this very same ‘rocket launch’ formula that she calls The 5 Second Rule, Robbins turned her life around, all without relying on the one thing most of us rely on to get ourselves going: Motivation.

But why is it so damn hard to stay motivated to do all the little things that you know will make your life better?

Here’s one scientifically-proven reason: Your lizard brain is designed to make you, at all costs, want to pull away from something that’s triggering fear, discomfort and uncertainty to keep you safe from harm, even though you’re technically not in any physical danger. This means that that warm, fuzzy intense desire to jump into something is rarely there when you need it the most—when you’re about to do something that’s uncomfortable, difficult, scary or uncertain.

It also means that you’re only going to feel motivated to do things that are easy (hello, snooze button), and the very moment you hesitate when faced with the prospect of doing something difficult, your brain shifts to ‘protection’ mode, making the path of least resistance almost impossible to pass up.


It seems like there’s a hack for everything: How to lose weight, how to be more productive, how to be happy, how to get rich.

But ask anyone who’s acquired a skill that’s made a positive difference in their life, and they’ll probably tell you that it’s not shortcuts that got them to where they are; habits did. The slow grind. Taking small steps that made them 1% better at something every week, month or year. Being persistent at something until the way they wanted to be, or live, stuck. Deliberately practicing until the skill they wanted to have became automatic and effortless.

She may not have known it at the time, but by using the 5 Second Rule over and over again, Robbins was disrupting her old habit of snoozing and simultaneously building a new one. It’s this habit disruption followed by the repetition of a new, small step (in Robbin’s case, getting out of bed) that led to the successful development of a new habit.

Just ask Leo Babauta, who went from being sedentary, 70 pounds overweight and way over his head in debt to running marathons, being healthier than ever and debt-free just 2 years later.

How did he do it? By starting with running 10 minutes a day. By eating more vegetables and drinking more water, one meal at a time. By cutting back on his expenses, saving a little more and paying off his debt until he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Habits, not hacks will take you where you want to go. They will allow you to rewrite your story and keep refining it until your goals and reality are a match.


Knowing where you want to go is great. In fact, it’s essential to know what you want, to get what you want. But don’t get so fixated on that one way to get there that you miss out on the 3 others that can do the job just as well.

When your car breaks down, you might need to have a tow-truck take it in the opposite direction while you get a new ride to your destination. You’re in a loving, committed marriage one moment, and struggling with a painful divorce the next. You think you’re crushing it at work, but 3 months later, are packing your things into a box and looking for a new job.

You think you’ve got it all figured out with your thoughtfully-researched and airtight plan A, but life happens and you wish you had a plan B ready to break your fall. But you don’t and now, getting to your goal feels impossible, so you give up.

But I don’t want you to give up. I don’t want to either.

This means that it’s time to make your plans A, B and C, and see yourself being OK with executing any of the three. Be someone who anticipates and prepares for change. Be OK with it, so you can thrive, no matter what. Be your own scenario planner.

Be prepared to live your life from different perspectives, and reaching your goals will get so much easier.


Waking up in the wrong state of mind can leave you feeling frazzled, stressed and overwhelmed. In other words, not preparing to start your day off on the right note can make the rest of it suck and you, less likely to do what you need to do to get what you want. The good news is, there are things you can do to avoid this A.M suckiness and wake up feeling rested, healthier and focused. This is why I made The Good Morning Guide: 6 Steps To Reclaiming Your Sanity & Winning The Day for you. You can download your copy HERE. No spam. Just helpful, good-for-you stuff. Pinky swear.

Photo credit: Japheth Mast on Unsplash

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