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Why I don't think motivation should be in your vocabulary...

People and students have asked me so many times, “How do I stay motivated?”

Motivation is tricky and it is something I’ve been thinking a lot about.

It is literally coming up for motives or reasons we believe in and are compelling enough to take action.

Now, this can be positive OR negative. You can tell yourself “I’m really not good enough, I need to practice.”

This will motivate you, but will it sustain you? Is that a sustaining thought? What I mean by that is, if you tell yourself you’re not good enough in order to be motivated to take action or practice, when will you actually believe you’re good enough? Will it magically happen when you're on stage? (Spoilers: No it will not.)

As people who love to achieve, so much of the time we deprive ourselves of good feelings in order to motivate ourselves. Then we lack confidence. Another question I get (usually from the same people), “How can I feel confident?”

Now, let’s talk about why these can’t coexist.

The dictionary defines confidence as a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities.

Let’s look at that thought once again that motivates so many of us to practice, “I’m not good enough.” If you use this to motivate yourself, you believe this thought. And we know this because it compels you to practice.

When you believe “I’m not good enough” you can’t also have self-assurance from appreciating your abilities (a.k.a. confidence). Those are conflicting.

So many of us give up any chance of truly feeling confident when we motivate our practice with negative emotions. When we practice a thought enough, it becomes a belief.

Many people fear that they will have absolutely no motivation if they think they’re too good. But let’s think about that in practical terms. Think of your idol, whether it be Beyoncé, Michael Jordan, or Emmanuel Pahud.

Also how much more excited are you going to be to perform if you think it is going to be an incredible experience?! -- SO MUCH MORE!

Do you think your idols motivate themselves by thinking they’re not good enough? No, because they perform with confidence that is palpable.

What we focus on we create more of.

This is true even if we keep thinking of ourselves being “not enough.” If we use this belief as motivation, we just make it stronger.

Well if we need to let go of shaming and guilting ourselves into practicing, how do we stay motivated?

That’s a really good question. I like the feeling of being motivated, but I think a better word would be inspired.

Ask yourself, how can I spark inspiration today? Inspiration is inherently positive. Inspiration is beautiful and usually leads to creativity and enthusiasm. So instead of the question, “how do I stay motivated?” maybe just shift it to, “How can I feel inspired?”

Oh, and answer your own question.

If you say “I don’t know.”

Ask yourself, “What if I did know what inspires me? What would I write down?” Then write that down and try it! There’s literally no downside here.

We are all inspired in different ways, and taking responsibility for our own inspiration and willingness to show up, not because someone told you to, but because you’ve reflected on how you best show up, is really powerful.

You know more than you think you do, you just have to ask yourself (and answer).

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