Overcome 4 Massive Motivation Killers

What Moves You

“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” ~Robert H. Schuller

For the entirety of my life I have had an external source of structure.

I’ve very much thrived when both guided and held accountable by others. You could say that I'm a “systems” friendly person and have always felt safe and secure when I can simply follow the guidelines or instructions and then arrive at the intended destination.

The only problem is that I didn’t always create the “intended” destination. In fact, it usually wasn’t even where I wanted to be. It was where I thought I should be. So I decided to change all that.

Since starting my own business I have both felt the power of freedom, control, and expression as well as experienced the terrorizing fear of … freedom, control, and expression!

Nobody is telling me what my schedule should look like anymore. No one is checking in on me to make sure I'm staying proactive in marketing myself.

After being a corporate “yes” man for years I have finally obtained the independence that I have always wanted, and yet I swear that many times I would just prefer my old boss tell me what to do and crack the whip when I am slacking.

Parents, school, sports, work—the structure has always been built in for me and now I struggle daily to find the motivation from within. In response, I have worked hard to identify four of the biggest motivation killers out there.

1. Fear of Failure

For all the perfectionists struggling with procrastination, it’s actually pretty straightforward what the underlying road block here is: the crushing weight of expectations, the proverbial gun to the head mentality.

How many times have you been defeated before even taking on a task or challenge because of the overwhelming unknown of whether or not it’s going to be executed to your (or someone else’s) high level of expectations?

I can justify putting off just about any chore or task by telling myself that I don't have the time or resources to get it done right.

This mindset leaves me feeling paralyzed. I have found that it’s better (more often than not) to take the jump, regardless of whether or not circumstances are optimal. Regardless of whether or not rejection is a possible outcome. Regardless of whether or not other people will appreciate or understand your actions.

I'm not saying you shouldn't put your best foot forward, but you do have to realize that at some point you’ll need to start taking steps forward.

Even though missing the mark is uncomfortable at times, most happy and successful people that I've interviewed or read about have all gotten okay with taking shot after shot until they finally hit their target.

2. Lack of Clear Goals

We can mitigate the overwhelming fear of failure by focusing on rewarding, enjoyable, and achievable goals.

Now, ultimately, living out a productive, inspired, and motivated life requires us to make choices. We simply can’t have it all. But sometimes we get so caught up comparing our own situation to that of others (what others have and where others are in life) that we sabotage any chance we have of making the choices we really need to make to get to where we really want to be.

And worse, whenever we feel that our hand is forced in our journey, our intrinsic motivation is killed. Dreaming about what you want and then actually believing that you can achieve it (even during times of adversity) is the only way to really find motivation from within.

While big picture goals are important in order to understand where it is that you ultimately want to go, overcoming inertia (remember that heavy weight of expectation?) and making movement by knocking out a smaller plan of attack is a perfectly viable option when you are moving at zero miles per hour.

Whether it is by creating your to-do list and schedule the night before or creating a flow chart of how to get from point A to B, it’s remarkably more fun, effective, and rewarding to create and implement daily strategies to get what you want out of life.

Without more tangible realizations of your dreams, wants, and goals (no matter how big or small) you are going to struggle knowing where to start.

3. Ignoring Your Health

As a personal trainer, this is more my area of expertise and yet I still struggle to follow my own advice at times. And much like depression, physical neglect will rob you of feeling pleasure for any activity.

One of the biggest battles I have on a regular basis is getting enough sleep. If I consume caffeine too late in the day, or decide to reflect on life at 10pm, there is a good chance I'm going to toss and turn till 2am, leaving me with little time to mentally rest and physically heal by the time my 5:30am training rolls around.

The entire next two days I will be tired, so I choose to consume even more caffeine to stay peppy for clients, thus creating a vicious cycle and yet all the while wondering why I'm so lethargic!

Poor hydration, lack of exercise, and large amounts of insulin in the body (primarily from overconsumption of carbohydrates) will also leave you riding the motivation roller coaster (with mostly drops) thus killing self-esteem, leading to depression, and in turn creating a whole new vicious cycle of negative thoughts and negative energy levels.

You need to stop the cycle at some point. Recognize this and get off this ride immediately!

4. Loss of Core Identity

How can you possibly handle any of the above three challenges effectively, let alone find the intrinsic motivation to even try, if you do not know in your heart who you are? Or more importantly, who do you want to be?

I’ll never forget my first private therapy session as an “adult” and how shocking it was to fail to articulate an answer to the above questions. At the conclusion of our first meeting all I could dejectedly muster was “I don’t know even know who I am.”

It took (and still takes) a lot of work to uncover and stay true to my answers to these questions.

If there has been one best practice I would advise anyone to perform it would be journaling. There’s rarely a moment after being truly honest and fair with myself that I haven’t been able to dial up some immediate intrinsic motivation and be okay with “doing me.”

Because for me, having a stronger sense of self, combined with re-committing to loving, humble, and honorable principles has kept my world from collapsing when something doesn’t go my way.

This is such an empowering feeling and makes risk taking so much more exciting, goal planning more identity congruent, and proactive health care a worthy and top priority.

All four of these productivity and happiness assassins seem to work together in an effort to kill my momentum. Sometimes they still win. But more and more these days I realize that I’m in control over them. It’s been the battle of my life, and it may be yours. But our lives are worth fighting for.

Photo by Hatwig HKD

About Scott Smith

Scott Smith still has dreams of being a rock star someday, but for now his calling has been revealed as a personal trainer and fitness expert for Kansas City. He holds a B.S. in Exercise Science from Truman State University and his upstart business BodySmith is the culmination of six years fitness management and personal training experience.

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  • HannahBWYA

    Hi Scott,

    Oh my goodness I can so relate to what you wrote! It can be really hard to stay motivated once you’re the one in control of how you spend your time. I especially like what you said about health: I know that proper sleep and exercise are two of the things that tend to slip when I have a lot going on but they’re so essential to my productivity in the first place.

    Another thing I’ve noticed in myself, and in clients I’ve worked with too, is that fear of failure and fear of success often co-exist. With the fear of success comes a fear of change, a fear that we’re suddenly going to have all the expectations to live up to, a fear of feeling pressured, not having time to do the things we want to do and so on. That seems to be a huge demotivator for a lot of people but it’s hard to recognise because it’s counter-intuitive.

    Thanks for a great post! Really helpful to read 🙂

  • Shannon Oleen

    Scott, love your post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Scott Smith

    Thanks for the kind words Hannah!

    I really appreciated your “fear of success” observation. So true, yet so under the radar. It’s almost funny to think that we would intentionally keep other’s expectations of ourselves so low in order to feel less stress, while at the same time beat ourselves up for not living up to our own grand potential.

  • Scott Smith

    Thanks Shannon! I have always enjoyed your positive contributions on your site.

  • Chrissy

    I love this post! I can relate to it totally. I also appreciate that you are sharing your experiences and doubts, wins and losses in a very humble and human way – though to me you seem to be doing a great job of things! Thank you 🙂

  • SouthernSkylark

    Thank you so much for a very thought provoking article, I know that I am in the camp of doing zilch with perfection and backing off trying anything because of the fear of failure. I qualified as a running coach this year, but i still haven’t done very much with it as that mean inner voice constantly whispers that I’m not good enough to train other people :-/

  • Ling Tjoeng

    Beautifully written piece, Scott! Time and time again, during this past year, I have definitely had to focus on one or more of these four factors and address/define them. Thank you for being there for me and being so supportive through it all. In a world where there are these motivation killers, you inspire and motivate me. Thank you.

  • Fiona

    Thank you for your great post, Scott – it really resonated with me. It’s reassuring to realize that I’m not the only one with these struggles! These days, I’m working hard on finding deeper fulfillment after a long period of feeling lost and adrift in the middle of my own life, and your advice feels so intuitively right for me. Thank you for helping me on my journey; I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  • Alyson

    Thank you for this- I’m trying to start my own business while also working my full time job, so motivation gets very hard at times! I struggle with the sleep component too, often burning the candle at both ends. I’m feeling it right now as a matter of fact. Plus, this was nice to hear from a fellow Truman-ite 🙂 There’s not many of us out there; I’m proud to see a Harvard of the Midwest alumni also doing great things in the world!

  • helen

    I can totally relate to this! I too am a corporate yes girl and whilst I realise that this makes me somewhat of a slave to a world which goes against every fibre of my being, I feel safe there! And the thought of moving away from the security blanket offered by the institutionalisation of huge corporate companies scares me and keeps me there safely plodding along. I guess you can imagine my constant internal conflict! Maybe this article is the universe’s way of showing me that its the right time to focus on this area now and I should explore and work on my fears. Thank you for your insight I feel it will be so helpful to me on my journey 🙂

  • Scott Smith

    Thanks Helen! There are still many days I question my decision to work for myself and consider turning around, but I always seem to end back up being thankful that I stayed the course. I hope this helps. You will know when it’s time to take your next big leap.

  • helen

    Thank you for your reply Scott. I’m sure you’re right I need to have trust that I will know when its the right time and have confidence to go for it! Thanks again

  • Liz at Human Nature

    Scott, I really enjoyed this article. thanks 🙂 I recognise all of those things in myself from one time or another. I started my first business in 2005, and have been my own boss ever since. I love it, and wouldn’t actually want it any other way, but I have times that it terrifies me too, for all the reasons you talk about!

    I also like that you talk about big goals and little goals. I think getting the balance between the two is so important. In the past I’ve found myself fixated purely on small goals (either for lack of a clear big goal, or because I was spending more time working ‘in’ my business than ‘on’ my business). But I’ve also been caught out by having a big hairy audacious goal but not being able to work out the small steps I needed to take to get there!

    As for the sleep and health thing – I know first hand how terribly easy it is to get into a cycle of stress, caffeine, stress, alcohol, more stress, junk food, STRESS, poor sleep….. and off we go again. In fact it’s a cycle I am so familiar with I sometimes look back at that time and wonder how I survived it. You’re right, in the end you simply have to make a decision to stop something and break that cycle.

    Wishing you all the best in your business! May you thrive on your freedom, control and expression!


  • Lea

    The thought of failure can be crippling. To get over it I sometimes research if others have done it. Then my thought process moves to “If they can do it, then I can too.” Even if it’s just one person, the thought of joining the elite becomes exciting.

  • Jeff Noble

    Fantastic post. I have had several of my own businesses over the years. Now, I am trying very hard to fire up another one. My issue seems to be lack of interest and follow thru from potential clients. I do canine training and it is very difficult to find clients that give a crap. I’m not done yet though. Thanks, Jeff

  • Scott Smith

    Thank you Jeff! And good luck with the latest endeavor. Way to keep the faith.

  • Scott Smith

    You have a great attribute Lea. Sometimes I’m too competitive to allow myself to be inspired by others who have carved out a path that I desire. I’m working on switching my mindset over to an “abundance mentality.” It’s way more effective and fullfilling. Thanks for sharing!

  • Scott Smith

    Thank you for the well wishes Liz! You pretty much nailed exactly what I was hoping to communicate with this article. The way you articulate the goal conundrum was spot on.

  • Scott Smith

    A fellow bulldog! Right on. Memories of Pancake City are now running through my head.

    Thanks though for the kind words and good luck finding some balance while getting your upstart off the ground. On a side note: do you think students at Harvard call their school the Truman of the Northeast?

  • Scott Smith

    Thanks for the comment Fiona. I’m still regaining my balance from some pretty tough blows myself. This site has always helped me get back up. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to make a contribution.

  • Scott Smith

    For the other readers out there … Ling has been a client of mine over the past year here in Kansas City. I can honestly say that her transformation and continued commitment and faith in what we are working toward are what inspire me to do what I do.

    There’s a reason you are on the front page of my website Ling.

  • Scott Smith

    Thanks for the comments Skylark. I read a lot of articles from my favorite trainers and strength coaches as well as contribute my own expertise and philosophies on my website and that process has been super helpful for me in regards to increasing my knowledge, confidence, and reputation as an expert.

  • Scott Smith

    Still get a little nervous putting my imperfections out there but I’m happy to share with caring people. Thanks Chrissy!

  • sia

    this is one of the best articles i have ever read till date…….beautiful words… great meaning…. thanks for posting this!! grace to you….. have a nice day 🙂

  • Gabriel

    Thank You so much Scott! Guys, number 3 is crucial. I had to learn this the hard way (I ate so much sugar + carbohydrates that my mind was almost literally fogged up, and I definitely felt like I was getting on the road to depression). I will eat less and healthy. Remember, true intelligence is not so much knowledge as it is desire to learn. If I had not come on this website and read this article, I don’t know where I would’ve been. Sugar messes with your mind, therefore your reality. Again, thank you, Andrei, for getting me out of the dumps and saving me.

  • Liz at Human Nature

    Thanks, Scott! This article was well timed for me, actually, and helped me rethink something I’m working on. It’s amazing how you can know something, but you have to be reminded of it occasionally 🙂 But that’s why the world needs coaches, right?! Not just to teach new things, but to remind people of what they actually already know but have forgotten. Feel free to come over and say hi on my site and stay in touch – always love to talk to other businesses; it’s so good to have a support network of other entrepreneurs who really get the challenges and the joys of working for yourself!

  • Paula

    I spent 5 years in college and 20+ years in civil engineering because it was what others wanted, not what I wanted. After finally quitting 8 years ago, I’ve wandered aimlessly because I don’t really know what I want to do. Have spent the past 4+ years caring part-time for an elderly parent and doing sporadic contract work I dislike. I this post truly speaks to me, as I was taught to pay more attention to external cues of approval, etc., and without a job/meaningful work for such a long time, I feel as if I have no identity at all except for indentured servant to my father. I have begun working on these things…

  • 3 is a biggie Scott. Get your sleep! Change your habits. Boost your effective. Power share man.


  • Sandy

    Awesome article, I needed to this read. Thanks!

  • Rosa Hart

    Thank you so much Scott for this post. I am too a perfectionist and it really slows down my momentum at times or even stops it completly. Its nice to know other people feel the same. I was aware of the other three points but never really looked at them in the way you put them accross. I will definately be more mindful of those points too. I have a huge goal ahead of me, I need all the resiliance I can get to maintain my motivation! All the best RH 🙂

  • Jenna Markowick

    I really love this post – all of these hit home for me. I am definitely going to spend time reflecting on your words and will make sure to journal whatever comes up. You are truly inspiring!

  • Dianne Kennaird

    Wow, you hit the nail on the head! I actually tried reading this last night, but was too tired (refer to your points about lack of exercise and bad diet)…so tried again this morning and am so glad I did! I’m going for a walk before I turn my computer on, to write my ‘goals’ list. Thank you 🙂

  • catpea33

    Ironically enough, I think I discovered this page as a form of procrastination. I used to be an extremely motivated person and my friends used to call me Wonder Woman. Somewhere along the way, that changed. I think it started when I was made redundant and ended up depressed. I’m doing much better now but still say, ‘I’ll do that later.’ I don’t even recognise that side of me. Reading this has actually helped me feel better about that. For the last three months my life has been go-go-go. I’ve moved house three times in the last two months. I’ve started a new job. I’ve moved away from my friends and family. An ex is trying to worm his way back into my life. I’m trying to find new friends in a new city. I’m trying to find some stability again. No wonder I have no motivation! I’m exhausted and burnt out. Instead of berating myself for doing ‘nothing,’ I’ll instead listen to what my body is telling me, which is to slow down.

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