The Motivation Epidemic

“Hey, Leigh. Last week, you said that your remedy for inspiration is motivation. Well yeah duh, right….you have to be inspired to be motivated and vice versa. But, where is that motivation supposed to come from?”

Excellent question!

But, first, I’d like to clarify: Last week, I did mention that internal motivation is the juice that keeps us going after inspiration wears off. I don’t think that motivation and inspiration are dependent on each other. If inspiration is a spark, and you are the wick, then motivation is the fire that keeps the embers burning after the initial glow has ceased. It’s a fire that warms from within. The motivation that we know—the kind that my friend is referring to in her question—is external.

How can we tell the difference?


Let’s define the word.


The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.


The desire to do things.

Eh. For a word that holds so much weight in our lives, these definitions are flimsy and sound pretty darn external to me. Yes, motivation comes from a desire to do things, but what happens when that desire isn’t exciting anymore (or ever! I don’t know about you, but I rarely desire to get out of bed at 6am to go for a run when it’s raining and dark out).

What happens when you’re suddenly not in the mood, or your reasons change?

You can feel motivated by your desire to keep Shabbat, but what happens when other desires pop up? Do you throw caution to the wind and follow your *brand new* desire, and so on, until you’ve strayed miles away from that which originally gave you purpose?

The Motivation “Epidemic” has transformed motivation from an internal drive that gives you sustaining purpose into something that exists outside of you. If it’s out there, it’s not permeating in here. It’s like a get out of jail card for avoiding the ordinary and perhaps  difficult areas of life.

We’re a generation that needs a lot of external support and recognition and clapping. Our world is dominated by inspirational quotes about reaching for the moon (and landing in the stars), hustling, doing, being, getting stuff done, which is great—I’m all about quotes. They makes us believe that anything mundane or ordinary or that we have to work hard for is a waste of time.What we don’t realize is that 99.9% of time spent on great, awesome, life changing things is mundane, ordinary, and difficult.

We’ve lost a sense of respect for the amount of time it takes for things to happen because we live in an instant age. Hard work is too hard!

Everything has to feel good in order to motivate us to do it. It has to enlighten and engage you, or else, why do it?

Listen. Your life is something worth showing up for. Your regular, mundane, everyday life is not something you should need to be convinced to participate in.

The origin of internal motivation is found in Torah; it is also highlight in Tanya (and, if you attended a Jewish day camp, in a variety of ‘line up songs):

“…This commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away….it is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?”…Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.”


It already exists. Each of us is born with an innate drive to live life to the fullest, be our best selves, and fulfill our unique purpose. Motivation exists within you. It’s in your heart—so get out there and do it!

How does one cultivate their internal drive?

Honestly? To each their own. You have to find what works for you. My internal motivator looks like Brene Brown (for real); maybe yours looks like the gatekeeper at your local zoo. My internal motivator reminds me that I am human; maybe yours needs to remind you that being human does not mean succumbing to every emotion that tugs on your heartstrings. Mine pushes me to keep working; maybe yours need to remind you to take a break now and then.

If motivation lives within you, you need only to muster it up; not with an exploding fire of inspiration, but in a strong, logical voice: “You belong here, and you have a job to do, so let’s get to work” (This may or may not be what I tell myself every morning…).

Think about your role models, the people who you look up to—peers, athletes, writers, whoever. Go ask them  what drives them to keep going. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. The people who keep going no matter what are the people who have learned to hold it together, even when the desire has changed.

It may be the hardest lesson you’ll ever learn, but boy is it worth it.

You can do it. Stop looking for external motivation or excuses to serve you entirely. Use the world around you to facilitate your mission, but know that you’ll never feel motivated enough if it does not come from the inside.

You belong here. You have a job to do. Let’s get to work.



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