Motivation and meaning


We all struggle to ‘find motivation’ sometimes. Luckily, we don’t have to look any further than within ourselves to find it when we need it.

The first thing you need to do when seeking motivation for any behavior is to figure out what the outcome of a behavior (if executed) will accomplish and why it’s important.

For example, a client was recently telling me how they “were lacking motivation for workouts”. Instead of berating them or sending them some cliché motivational meme I asked them a few questions:

  • What will that behavior (working out, in this example) help you accomplish?
  • When you answer the question, ask yourself why that matters?
  • Whenever you think you know ‘why’ you want to do something ask yourself ‘why’ again.

The client’s first response was: “Working out will help me lose a few pounds and feel better”. Next, I asked them why is that important to them?

They responded: “Because I know if I look and feel better my life will be better.” Great reason, but I thought there was a deeper reason so I asked them: Why does that matter?

Their response: “Because I want to be the person who I imagined myself being and who I tell the world I am.” Now that’s a much deeper meaning for staying on track with workouts.

By digging deeper, you can figure out the more meaningful reason to act. Motivation is usually less of an issue after just a few questions like this.

The Process

So now you have a little more motivation, but that only lasts so long. And you can only ask those questions so many times before that process loses its effectiveness.

The next step in maintaining motivation is associating the process with the outcome. You must accept that sometimes the process will be hard. Situations will come up that will challenge your ability to stay on track. If you have a reason to quit you will. If you’re doing it for someone else, you will fail.

You must see the process as important as the outcome. If you’re not ready to make that commitment right now, that’s ok, but you probably won’t make much progress.


To stay engaged with the process you must attach meaning to going through the process.

In our example of finding motivation for workouts, you must find meaning in the day to day grind.

It might be that the process (finding a way to get workouts in) is the actual representation of the idea that you live out your values, and taking care of yourself is an important part of who you are. Or, it could be that the process of doing something like working out that you don’t inherently enjoy gives you to confidence to tackle similar obstacles in other areas of life.

I couldn’t tell that client what the deeper meaning was, but I challenged them by asking “what does this process represent?”

To summarize, the process (and the outcome) must have a deeper meaning to you or it will fall by the wayside whenever life gets in the way.

Wrap Up

You must have a good reason when things get hard or you will quit. Create your own motivation by understanding what you want to accomplish, the underlying meaning of that accomplishment, and how you can attach that meaning to the process.