Motivation Kicks Butt — But Action Kicks Harder

I’m waiting because I know it’s coming soon. I can’t do anything until it does. For years, I’ve been trained to think that I must find the motivation within myself to truly begin a task or activity and “want” to do it.

So, I’m waiting.

I’m waiting for the motivation to become more athletic and energetic. I’m waiting for the motivation to exercise regularly. And I’m waiting for the motivation to clean out the upstairs closet that is jammed to the ceiling with things that haven’t been touched in over 10 years.

I’m waiting.

And now, after all of this waiting, I find out that I must stop waiting and take action before motivation occurs.

What? I thought it was the other way around.

Recent research about motivation, by Hugh Kearns and Maria Gardiner, changes how some people think about it.  Some new psychology research indicates that action leads to motivation and not the other way around. According to these psychologists and researchers, you have to start before you feel ready and then you’ll start to feel more motivated — and then, you’ll take more action. This is a difficult concept to grasp since it’s hard to get started until you feel motivated.

It’s sort of like asking “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”

The researchers believe that people use time-wasters, mindless activities, and other methods of procrastination to avoid taking action. Instead of doing what they should do, they do whatever they can to avoid it. They wait for the motivation to move forward. So we should take action and motivation will follow.


But there is good news. There are apparently simple steps to help you take action even before motivation kicks in. Avoiding time wasters and procrastination, you can start taking action — and STOP waiting.

Here’s how it works:

  1. First, break down the activity, project, work, or whatever you want to do into small steps — make the steps very small so they’re manageable. That means instead of having a first step of running a marathon, or running 30 minutes a day, or even running for 5 minutes — make the first step walking for 5 minutes.
  2. Second, make an appointment or set a time to take the first step – literally! For example, schedule time for a 5 minute walk at 7:30 a.m. in the morning. Continue to set times for the tiny steps and honor your commitment.
  3. Third, reward yourself for a job well done. If you walk for 5 minutes as scheduled, then pat yourself on the back, write a positive comment in a journal, or share your excitement with a friend. As the steps grow, make the rewards bigger too. Once you’re walking for 30 minutes a day several times each week, reward yourself with a new pair of walking shoes or a Nike t-shirt.

Once you get started on the task or activity, it is very likely that your motivation will emerge and escalate, and you’ll increase your desire to take action. At that point, motivation will spur you on to even greater heights and greater success. Motivation will encourage you to sustain your activity and you’ll succeed beyond your original dreams.

When I first started reviewing the research on this concept, I was skeptical. But I soon realized that it was so true of so many things in life. We often wait for motivation or “the spirit to move us”. But, taking the first step of anything is the hardest part. And then — it becomes easier and easier until it’s second-nature, enjoyable and even exciting. That’s because motivation kicks-in and kicks butt!

If you’re having trouble taking action to complete an assignment, begin an exercise program, clean a closet, or anything else in your life, try following the steps above and see what happens. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish.

I have an appointment to begin my new exercise activities tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m.  Instead of waiting for the motivation to hit me, I’ll move ahead and let motivation catch up.

Rhonda is the mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to five wonderful grandchildren – and our only grandmother on staff. She spent 25 years in corporate healthcare managing prenatal and disease management programs. She is the Content Manager for Richmondmom and contributes her expertise as both a mom and grandmother – while sorting out the many opportunities for our valuable advertisers.