Do motivational quotes actually motivate you?

un-motivational quote

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Anonymous

“If you are not willing to risk the usual you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

“Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.” – Chris Grosser

“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.” – Michael John Bobak

There. Now that you’ve read those, are you ready to get up, put down your phone/close your laptop and create a risky opportunity that makes you feel uncomfortable in order to achieve greatness? Are you going to put on your workout gear and head to the gym right this very moment, even though you’re currently cozy in your bed/sitting at your desk at the office? No?

I’ve often wondered if reading motivational quotes layered over images of mountains, oceans and trees actually inspire people to get up and DO the things the quote is trying to motivate you to do. Although many of us seek out and resonate with words of wisdom, especially when we’re going through tough times or are working on something that requires mental strength and willpower, do they actually cause a person to take action?

According to this Inc.com article, reading motivational quotes might have the opposite effect of what we’re hoping they will do for us. “We certainly get a mental boost from seeing them, but that can be a bad thing,” writes author Jeremy Goldman. “Research has shown these motivational pick-me-ups can trigger the same kind of psychological reward as doing the work itself, treating us with endorphins we don’t deserve and actually reducing our capacity to do real work. Our minds are so happy at the prospect of having done our work that we crash down to earth when we realize we have to actually, you know, do the work!”

un-motivational quote

I don’t think the mental boost we get is entirely a bad thing; when I have a run on the agenda but lack the motivation to get up and do it when planned, I’ll often open up Instagram and scroll through my feed full of runners, yogis and weight lifters to help inspire me to get my butt out the door. Seeing stunning morning run views and happy, sweaty faces is all the motivation I need sometimes to get me up out of bed and on to the road. It works for me because I’ve been the one to post  those kinds of pictures before, and associate them with that great post-run feeling. I want that feeling, so I go for a run. But what about for people that don’t normally get out for morning runs? Do you think it has the same effect? Or as Goldman points out, do you think the mental boost is undeserved unless it inspires action?

Although sunrises and post-run bliss is worth the effort, sometimes we forget that there is an effort when we post our accomplishments to social media. The first 10 minutes of most of my morning runs suck. It’s dark, cold and the scenery is industrial. But if I posted that, would that inspire someone to go run? Probably not. So I’ll throw up a photo at about the half-way point, when my body has warmed up and my route follows alongside the ocean just as the sun is coming up. Much more motivational.

un-motivational quote

As Goldman points out, “another major problem with motivational media is its tendency to romanticize the process of work and to provide an unrealistic view that clashes with the true nature of what you need to accomplish.” Since it’s hard to get pumped up for the crappy parts of what it takes to get things done, I get why we focus on highlighting the best parts. As long as we actually take action from our inspiration, don’t get discouraged when things don’t go as planned and can consider hard work as a necessary part of the process, I don’t think there’s any harm in using motivational quotes and images as a resource.

If you find you get a mental boost from viewing motivational quotes and images but don’t actually do anything with that motivation, try turning your attention to quotes and images that inspire you get excited for the hard work as opposed to the end result. “If you want motivation, get motivated to work hard, not to be great or successful,” writes Goldman. “Use motivational media to quash self-doubt and mental roadblocks that are keeping you from putting your nose to the grindstone.”

How do you feel about motivational quotes and images? Do they inspire you to take action? What are your favourite quotes? Do you think they’re helpful?

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