Stop Watching Motivational Videos (and what to do instead)

They fade from black with one person as the focal point. The music is starts calm but it’ll build up to something. It’s a Hans Zimmer score, after all.

You see a fit person running up some stairs or someone boxing. If you’re lucky, you get to see scenes from The Pursuit of Happiness again with a speech from Rocky Balboa layered over the top.

As the video progress, more stuff about getting up after a fall and dreaming big is shown. You’re told you’re worth it and can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. You’re reminded of all the rags-to-riches stories that exist like J. K. Rowling living in a council estate to earning millions a day and getting rejected a number of times before finally being accepted.

You feel good.

You’re motivated.

But motivated to do what? Finally start on your goals? But only after one more video…

Stop watching motivational videos

They’re akin to depending on sugary energy drinks rather than a good night’s sleep to combat tiredness.

Motivational videos (and images) feed procrastination in a special way.

They make us feel productive without all the work required in between. They might lift our mood temporarily but do nothing to combat the problem. The problem might be perfectionism. It could be that you’re simply trying too much and the goals need to be broken down. Or a number of other things that continues procrastination.

Motivational videos do nothing to solve these problems. It’s far too easy to continue doing nothing at all to further progress.

Hell, there’s even a chance you’ll feel guilty because you still haven’t done anything.

Since the improvement in mood is temporary, we always need to be motivated to even consider working. That in itself is unsustainable. After a while, they lose their desired effectiveness and become boring like any other entertainment.

It leads to only doing work when we feel like it and waiting for magical inspiration to strike us on the head. Such things don’t happen. To work consistently towards something, you’ll have to do it when you don’t feel like it.

Depending on how we feel in order to start working is a poor strategy. With all the quick entertainment and instant gratification at our fingertips, when will we ever feel like working if we haven’t already become disciplined enough to make it a habit?

In this case, dependence on motivational videos is actually detrimental.

Clichés, clichés and more clichés.

If you’ve watched many motivational videos, you’ll hear many of the same things over and over again. You might repeat them a few times but if it doesn’t result in any action, it’s literally just an empty chant. For example: “When you breathe as bad as you want to succeed, then you’ll be successful” is a reasonably new phrase that’s creeped its way into motivational diction.

I don’t want to say it’s useless but it is somewhat unhelpful. It hides the work actually needed to be done in order to achieve those levels of hard work.

Let’s say you want to exercise and embodied that phrase.

Does it inspire feelings of moderation or extremes?

After hearing that, do you want to aim for a huge personal best every gym session? Or do you want to start running for a few minutes and try a few more the next day?

The first choice is inspired by these motivational videos. It’s unrealistic for a beginner and unsustainable. The second is achievable but doesn’t fit too well in a catchy phrase.

Small starts and consistent work isn’t shown in such videos because their nature isn’t to show you the hard work. They show the end result and say ‘just do it’.

Small starts and consistent progress is how we actually achieve our goals.

But of course, that isn’t as romantic. Discipline is rarely romantic. But it works.

What should I do instead?

Start small – Make the goal so small you can’t say no. Or work for 3 minutes and decide if you want to stop afterwards. For example, this article was started by simply writing the title.

Be kind – Don’t berate yourself with hatred and negative thoughts for not doing something. It only serves to make you feel bad and does nothing to further progress. It actually makes you less likely to do anything. If you feel like you’re worthless, why bother starting anything?

Be specific – A huge reason why we procrastinate is because we don’t know what to do. Saying ‘get fit’, ‘read more’ or ‘write essay’ doesn’t mean much. Saying you want to write 500 words by the end of the day or lose 10kg in 3 months makes the goal much more real and attainable.

Conclusion

Motivational videos aren’t helpful unless what we’re looking for is to feel good for a few minutes. If that’s the case, we should admit we watch them for entertainment rather than their life-changing abilities.

We simply don’t need to be intensely motivated for everything. It’s fine to just go for a run or write some words without becoming your own personal cheerleader in the process. It’s called being normal.

Consistent progress will beat motivational videos every time. That’s what self-discipline grants us.

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Do you find motivational videos helpful? If so, how often do you watch them?

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2 thoughts on “Stop Watching Motivational Videos (and what to do instead)

  1. I had never thought of it that way. When I first got to watch motivational videos, I was amazed by the background music, the examples of great men, and the intention to help people. After watching some, I realized they were all the same and they weren’t as helpful as they seemed. In fact, i’s pure entertainment.

    1. Researching for this article was quite a bother because I was just given more motivational videos to watch! They even had very similar thumbnails of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Will Smith.

      I do think they can be a bit detrimental and just lead to what I call ‘the productivity trap’ where you read about being productive without doing anything.

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