Leadership

You won’t feel motivated every single day. Focus on this instead

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Philippe Lopez | Getty Images

It's taken me a long time to learn that motivation isn't an external source of inspiration.

It's an inner quiet you have to practice listening to.

People get unmotivated when they expect to always be filled with "motivation."

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We talk about motivation like it's this fiery, relentless, never-ending source of rampaging drive that is as addictive as any drug, as warm as any love, and as uncontrollable and brilliant as any creator that has come before us.

We think it's supposed to never end, and when it does, we suddenly wonder and feel very confused as to why we are "unmotivated."

That's not how motivation works

Motivation is the little voice inside your head that reminds you of what really matters.

It's the struggle to sit through an entire movie without pulling out a notepad to jot down an idea.

It's the feeling guilty for going out with your friends when you know you're so close to finishing a project you've been working on for a while now.

It's why you wake up every morning and go to sleep every night thinking about what you want to create.

You might not wake up gung-ho and leaping towards your desk to get to work, and you might not be an insomniac obsessing about your ideas at night  —  you might fall asleep in seconds and not think twice about it.

This doesn't mean you are "unmotivated."

Motivation is the fact that you think about it and ultimately do something about it every single day.

Very rarely do I have 100 percent days.

A 100 percent day is when I wake up, shower, and get dressed in 15 minutes.

I meditate for 15 minutes and actually enter a calm state of meditation.

I listen to a TED Talk while I make breakfast and prepare my meals for the day.

I read a book  —  usually dense Russian literature  —  before I get to work.

I work without ADD'ing on social media, and I dig, really dig into tough, tough tasks without procrastinating or avoiding them.

I eat and then go to the gym and have a fantastic lift.

I come home, make dinner (or meet my girlfriend or a friend for dinner), come home, and then write for 2 hours.

I turn the lights out, reflect on the day, and fall asleep.

That's a 100 percent day

And every once in a while, I have one.

When I fall asleep for the night, I feel amazing. I feel like I've just conquered the world. I know in my heart of hearts that today, this day, I grew as much as I possibly could and couldn't have done anything else. 100 percent. I gave it my all, every moment.

I was extremely motivated.

And then other days, I do 1/10th of that.

I barely watch a full TED Talk.

I listen to music or scroll through social media instead of reading.

I ADD a lot during the day.

I get some stuff done, but I didn't really push myself.

I go to the gym, but my lift is meh.

I come home. I'm tired.

I write in my journal for 10 minutes and then I go to bed.

And that's OK.

Motivation is the fact that even though I have some 100 percent days and some 10 percent days, I don't stop trying to have 100 percent days

I don't stop moving towards my ultimate goal.

I don't give up completely.

I've learned not to expect 100 percent days from myself every single day.

It's unreasonable and although a good goal, I'm not perfect.

Some days I need to let my brain rest. Some days I need to be lazy. Some days I need to not push myself to the edge so that I can recoup some energy.

When we talk about Motivation, we think of it as a sprint.

"How can I stay motivated the entire time?"

You can't. And you're not supposed to  —  not in that sense.

That's not what motivation is.

Motivation is your ability to head towards the same goal over a long period of time.

Nicolas Cole is a 3x Top Writer on Quora, Top 30 Columnist for Inc Magazine, and Founder of Digital Press. His work has been viewed over 50M times online, and frequently covers the topics of creativity, entrepreneurship, and personal development.

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This article originally appeared on Medium.