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  • Writer's pictureAntti Vanhanen

The Push and Pull of Motivation (or How to Develop a "Never Give Up Attitude" )

One of the biggest lies in today’s culture is that we get to choose our attitude.

If that were true, why would anyone ever be insecure, jealous, or lacking motivation?

And even more to the point, why can't we find even a single individual who has mastered this in every area and moment of their lives?

Quit simply, because no such individual exists.

So what does that tell us about attitude?

Perhaps it is that attitude isn't something we really develop.

Instead, we find something that is more important or interesting to us than anything else, and then that something pulls us through long hours, set backs, difficult problems, and unsupportive people.

Why We Can't Push Our Way Through Life

The great misunderstanding that we as a culture have about motivation and attitude is that we view motivation as the ability to keep pushing.

It’s as if we have a heavy sleigh that we’re tasked to push everywhere we go, through swamps and forests and up mountains.

From this perspective, isn’t it obvious how limited motivation is?

Isn’t it clear that at some point, we are just going to get tired of pushing and our strength is going to run out?

Fortunately, motivation isn’t about pushing.

It’s really about finding something that pulls you.

When Michael Jordan spent his offseason doing hundreds of jump shots every single day, he wasn’t “forcing” himself to do it.

When former Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz worked 13 hours a day and then continued working from home, he wasn’t “pushing” himself to do it.

When GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt put in 100 hour work weeks for 24 years, he wasn’t "motivating” himself to do it.

It's so deceptively easy to look at these examples and conclude that the key to their success was their work ethic and their ability to motivate themselves.

In fact, I think that's completely backwards.

I don't believe these guys motivated themselves to their success, but rather that they all found something that PULLED them to greater heights.

They were so fascinated and inspired by what they were doing that putting in crazy hours wasn’t that big of a deal or sacrifice to make.

Their magic ability wasn't their ability to motivate themselves but to stumble upon something that captured their imagination so completely that it pulled them forward like an invisible ski lift.

The Push AND Pull of Motivation

So does that mean we never need to push ourselves?

Not quite.

No matter how much you love what you do, there are going to be moments when you just don’t have much fight in you. When you feel tired, demotivated, and insecure.

In those moments, you will have to push through.

But the pushing can never be done for a long time, because our ability to push is very limited.

That’s why it’s vital that we find that which pulls us.

What this essentially points to is that motivation isn't up to us, but rather we have to open up for motivation to find us.

And when it does find us, in whatever form, we latch on and see where it takes us.

And if it sometimes gets stuck in the mud, we help to push it along.

We are like the man sitting on the cart, my friend, while life is the horse.

Stop trying to be the horse.

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