The magical power (and complexity) of Super Motivation

FRIDAY 3 APRIL 2009

00:58

Motivation is, for me, a complex animal. Every day has its stories, its angles, its ideas, its visions, verbalisations, lists of things to do.

This morning’s story was as follows: I leave for Bronkhorstspruit on June 1st and return on August 31st – not a plan, mind you, just a story on the way to the supermarket. The idea is to do research for three months, walk around, read magazines and newspapers, socialize, and sit under a tree and think and write. That would give me two months to save some money, but more importantly, to get sources of income going from which I can withdraw money while I am in Bronkhorstspruit.

A few hours later, on my bicycle on the way back from an errand, I expressed the opinion that it is “quite doable”. I am, indeed, convinced that something of this sort can be embarked on and brought to a successful conclusion. I also know that I probably wouldn’t be able to carry out the necessary steps within two months. “Why the heck not?” someone might ask. Because, so I reckon, I would need a special kind of motivation to succeed with such an undertaking, and three months in Bronkhorstspruit isn’t enough of a motivation.

I believe in the concept of Super Motivation, an almost magical power that spurs you to action and does not allow you to rest until you are able to firmly clutch the prize to your chest. Super Motivation – like in the story of the mother of three children in the book, The One Minute Millionaire, who had to earn a million dollars within a month otherwise she would lose her children, forever.

The image of the mother, the 30 days and the one million has been sticking to the inside of my skull since late 2003 like one of the post-it notes on my kitchen wall. I have believed for quite some time that if you are motivated enough, you can do anything. Whether the story in the book is based on a real person or not, I have no doubt that large amounts of money can flow in your direction if you take enough of the right actions; and if you are super motivated, you do have enough of the right things. You do not rest until you are satisfied that you have done everything possible to achieve your goal.

Since 2006, and especially since I realized it might take longer than 30 days to make my first dollar on the Internet, I have been wondering what it is that motivates me to want to make more money. Initially, it was to make up for classes that got cancelled while I was on holiday that April of 2006. Two-thousand-and-seven came and went, and my promises of visiting my family in April, or July, or September – or December! – got postponed or cancelled one after another. So, by 2008 going to South Africa and seeing my family again had become the Grand Prize, the pot of gold at the other side of the muddy field where the rainbow drilled into the soft earth. I launched new attacks like a desperate general in the First World War, trying fresh strategies and new ideas every few weeks. Money was supposed to start streaming in, and I was supposed to book my plane ticket, pay it in full, and on the scheduled date actually go on that trip.

A trip to South Africa to see my family as prize. A trip to South Africa to see my family as motivation. A trip to South Africa to see my family as fire fuelling my actions every day. But deep inside I know a visit to see my family is a double-edged sword. You arrive home; everyone is happy to see each other; after a day or two you’re used to the new landscape, and everyone is accustomed to you being part of the landscape that is their daily lives. Then, after a dozen visits to the local supermarket and half a dozen visits to the local bakery and confectionery store, you pull your suitcases from under the bed again, pack your clothes and a few copies of your favourite local magazines and an ornament or two and a few other items, lament the fact that your luggage is going to be overweight again and you may have to fork over more than R1000 at the airport for the extra weight, and then after three more days … two more days … last day, time again for emotional embraces, vague promises, and then you disappear again into the foggy skies over the Indian Ocean.

Vacation – long-awaited visit “home” – as prize. To see my family again, and within two or three weeks to say goodbye again, as motivation, the reason why I do what I do every day.

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Let me stop right here before June knocks on the door with me still getting sentimental about the old days, with one paragraph after another regurgitating old ideas about packing it all in and returning to South Africa for good, like casting old bones back on the fire to see if there is still a speck of flesh on them, or a little marrow I can cook soft enough to suck out. Point is, if I were still feverishly planning on returning to South Africa for good, the motivation issue might have been a beast of a different colour.

Where does this leave me? What am I supposed to do without the sweet voice of the Marvellous Motivator to spur me on?

It leaves me with a simple undertaking to do my best. For that I can motivate myself – without expecting any miracles. To get up every day, eat breakfast, and start working to the best of my ability. And as I learned again recently, that does not necessarily mean to work hard for the sake of working hard. It means working smart. I shouldn’t spend eight hours driving in screws with my thumbnail if I can spend ten minutes doing it with a screwdriver. And I also shouldn’t feel I do not deserve the advantages of the screws wherever I drove them in because I only spent ten minutes driving them in instead of the eight hours I had initially expected it would take. My goodness, I really, desperately, need to stop overcomplicating things.

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