Motivation – Internal vs External

by PJ McClure on February 7, 2013

FTS quote 25
I love subjects that are infinitely deep. In other words, they are as deep as you want them to be. No matter how many times you revisit the subject, there is always something new to explore. You never reach the bottom.

Motivation is one of those subjects.

During a webinar I once conducted on motivation, I received a comment that sparked me. I had spoken about taking time to remember moments of motivation for the purpose of carrying our momentum forward. What at least one person heard was a little different than the point I wanted to make.

“Great stuff, but if one is in the “flat” zone it is very hard to find that “magic”. Like you said, you have to go back to that “moment” again and again to recapture the motivation. But it’s hard when other people spill their unhappiness over you. I feel like I have to enter a “focus’ tunnel that excludes a lot of the rest of the world. Developing the “mindset”!”

My reply takes the topic further and provides some needed clarity that might help you too.

(start reply)

There’s a distinction we need to visit. The purpose of revisiting that moment of external motivation is to IDENTIFY what motivated you, not to RECAPTURE the motivation. If we are trying to recapture motivation, it is still external and can never last. When I encourage you to go back and figure out what lit you up, I’m doing it so you can then make the reason internal and understand what motivates you long-term.

The same distinction applies to those spilling their unhappiness over you. Realize that their unhappiness is external and you are not obligated to accept it. You can recognize it is there and acknowledge their issue, but it is your choice as to whether you engage it or not. One of the most important things you can do to take control of your own environment is to know what you want from your life and take a stand for it. Have courageous and compassionate conversations with the “unhappiness spillers” about where you are focused in your life and why it is important to you.

No one wants to be unhappy, though it might seem that way sometimes. Unhappy people are looking for someone to plug in to. Someone that knows what they want from life and has real reasons why everything doesn’t suck. I understand the notion of the focus tunnel and wanting to exclude the rest of the world. Been there. What I discovered is that full-scale avoidance makes us weak. It might feel better at first and can be used to build a little strength and gain clarity, but it is not a long-term strategy.

We have to be so strong in our purposeful vision that we can mold the input from the rest of the world to our will. We are not attempting to change the world directly, but to determine our own meanings and responses to what the world throws at us. Focus on what you want your life to look like first. You’ll see your motivations rise up from within you. Keep your eyes there and see what begins to happen.

(end reply)

The main takeaway is this… no one makes you happy or unhappy. You make the conscious decision about which you will be. Find what motivates you and build your strength around those things so that you always have a foundation for dealing with life’s curveballs and screwballs. You can do it.

Are there any other issues you deal with when it comes to staying motivated? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks!

Be your best,


ADEBAYO DARAMOLA April 1, 2011 at 7:33 am

PJ… Your today’s article really shows that you are a great leader who always teach people how to fish. The lesson i learnt ‘ll ever be tonic that will always spur me to action. Please keep it up for God will surely reward u

Carol Douthitt March 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm

PJ … I loved this article today! I was on a training call today that really lit my fire …. then went for a long walk outside in the sunshine while I internalized it… and even got more excited. So now when I start to “lose the fire” I can go for my walk again and remember that “powerful feeling”. Thanks for the great advice!!! ~ Carol

Janice L. Evans March 31, 2011 at 11:33 am

I recently discovered you via Sandi Krakowski and Real . .I am currently reading S.W.I.T.C.H, and am thankful to find someone who validates how I see life. My journey into this mindset began at the loss of our twenty month old son. My very wise uncle told me that the world was not going to stop and let me off, and that I still had a three year old who needed a Mommy. From that moment forward, I saw life from a different viewpoint. I am currently seeking the motivation to go beyond all I have know before , and to be all that God would have me to be. Thank you for your work!

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