Why Motivation Does Not Achieve Goals: Here’s What Works

Motivation is highly over-rated, yet it is the most widely used term when it comes to going after something you want. The word motivation has been irresponsibly used and thrown around without any intention behind it.

When setting up and preparing for a new goal, everyone relies on motivation to carry them through and then quickly becomes disappointed when motivation runs out. The blame is now on motivation when truly it was a collection of many other things that were not considered.

Believe, achieve, suceed
Believe Achieve Succeed

The goal of this article today is to change your view of motivation and everything you know about it. We’ll discuss other factors that aid in accomplishing goals, what the differences are, and what to internalize instead of motivation to help you through the journey.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is two main things, the first one is that it is the reason you are doing something, often known as your WHY, and the second is that it is a feeling.

The Reason

There are two types of reasons for motivation and they are external and internal. External motivators are physical things you strive for like money and cars, internal things are for how you feel as a person, things that add to your self-worth and self-fulfillment.

Both are great motivators because anything that motivates you to start is a good reason. If you need some ideas about what to use as motivation check out the 13 common sources of motivation.

Motivation is personal and different for everyone and it changes as we grow and learn from experiences. It also changes with age and varies depending on what stage of life we are in.

When people say they are motivated, their desired outcome is usually their WHY. For example, let’s say someone wants to start exercising, their WHY would be because they want to lose weight. They feel motivated because they want to look a certain way and live a healthier lifestyle. This is the best mindset to have about motivation, and nothing more.

Motivation should only be the reason you are doing something. Always ask yourself, “Why am I doing this again?” and that is your motivation. If you have a strong reason then it will help you keep going, if not, then you are more likely to quit.

Relying on motivation means reminding yourself why you are doing it in the first place, and that the outcome is something life-changing for you that is worth all the effort.

The Feeling

The second part of motivation is the feeling, and this is where it will be a problem if you rely on the feeling. The feeling you get are bursts of energy sporadically occurring.

If you decide to exercise every morning, I can 100% guarantee that you will not feel like waking up every day to exercise. There will be days when you wake up before your alarm, energized and ready to go, and there will be days when you hit the snooze button four times before maybe getting up. The motivated feeling doesn’t magically show up every day because you decided to set a goal.

Happy, sad, and upset are all feelings. If everyone was able to rely on being happy every day then depression would not be a problem. If everyone could rely on being motivated every day then everyone’s dreams and goals would come true, but we know that’s not the case.

Feelings come and go, the same as you feel sad one day and happy the next. The motivated feeling works the same, you’ll feel motivated one day but not the next, so you can’t rely on it when you want to pursue a goal. Don’t wait until you “feel like it” to do something, you have to learn to push past that and do it anyway.

So the next time you say, “I don’t feel motivated today” or “I have no motivation today”, think carefully about your words. Remind yourself what motivation is, what is your WHY? Remind yourself that motivation is just a feeling and you can choose how you want to feel.

Motivation vs. Inspiration

Check out this quick two-and-a-half-minute clip that describes inspiration as the future and motivation as the past.

Motivation and inspiration are both used to encourage and move people, they are both very similar but have subtle differences.

Inspiration is the state of feeling aroused and influenced to act in a new or different way. The experience varies from person to person based on character, experiences, and upbringing. To inspire someone is to spark ideas in them and get them to take action.

Inspiration and motivation go hand in hand, inspiration is an internal feeling and is more about getting ideas, while motivation is the reason you do something, but both can lead to taking action.

If you follow someone on social media who exercises every morning, you’ll feel inspired to do it too. Additionally, you will be motivated to do it because you want to live a healthier lifestyle.

Motivation vs. Passion

Do more of what makes you happy
Do More of What Makes You Happy

When you are passionate about something, you can do it no matter what. Passionate people don’t know how lucky they are, they have found something that they voluntarily want to do, under any conditions, for as long as they can endure, simply because it brings them joy and makes them happy. If that’s not hitting the jackpot, I don’t know what is!

Passion is a form of internal motivation and it is the ultimate one. Your reason is genuine and everlasting and working towards that goal feels easy because you don’t have to force yourself to do it. Motivation is the reason you do something and if that reason brings you joy then by all means.

That’s what life is about, doing exactly what you want to do. Life is too short to be spending it doing something you don’t want to do or don’t enjoy doing.

When you have passion towards a goal, you are also less likely to procrastinate. One of the biggest reasons for procrastination is that you don’t enjoy what you are doing so you put it off.

Motivation vs. Ambition

Ambition is when you have a deep burning desire to achieve something. Ultimately, it’s a goal you want to attain and you have a strong eagerness and willingness to help fuel your fire and urge you to get there.

Think of motivation as the starting point, you start by having a strong reason to do something, and ambition is the end point, you have a desire to attain the goal. Your motivation is fueling and feeding your ambition to get the results you want.

“Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years”

Bill Gates

To be ambitious is to set a high goal that feels somewhat out of your realm, but still within your capabilities. A challenge too hard will make you lose confidence and focus, but a challenge too easy will not require much effort, which will not satisfy or fulfill you. Always strive for higher than you think because you never know what you can achieve, people always underestimate what they can do.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz is a great book to inspire you to tap into your imagination and think beyond what you can do.

Read here about the consequences of setting unrealistic goals.

Motivation vs. Discipline

Discipline is having the willpower to stay focused, especially when distractions come up. When you are disciplined, you resist any kind of temptation and you are focused on the task at hand. You don’t get easily sidetracked and you are engaged to the assignment, or whatever it is you are working on.

Motivation and discipline are two very different things, but they go hand in hand beautifully to achieve the goal. Your motivation is your why and reason you are doing something to reach a goal, discipline is your ability to stay on track and

Discipline is something you have to develop. It won’t be easy at first, but it can get easier the more you practice and do it. Reaching for your phone multiple times a day is a distraction that slows down progress toward your goal, learning discipline is reaching less for your phone or putting it in a different room.

Small learned actions over time are what increase your discipline, they add up and will help you reach your goal faster.

Read here 6 Things Highly Productive People Do To Stay Focused.

Motivation vs. Determination

Determination is your ability to stay on track no matter what kind of setbacks occur. You are relentless and will not going to let anything stop you. Pushing through barriers, learning from failures, and picking yourself back up is the definition of determination.

“I believe success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination”

Zig Ziglar

People who rely on feeling motivated to achieve their goals will have a hard time since that is not a consistent feeling, you need determination in tandem with motivation to get you to where you want to be. Understanding that it’s not going to be an easy journey and that no matter what difficulties you run into, you learn to find a solution to overcome it. That is the mindset to have that will lead you to success.

Determination vs. Discipline


Determination and discipline are two key factors when it comes to attaining goals. Determination is your relentless effort to complete it no matter what difficulties or obstacles get in the way, discipline on the other hand, is being able to stay focused on the task at hand without getting distracted.

You can have one and not the other, but you can never not have both. For example, if you are determined but not disciplined, you are willing to do anything to reach your goal, however, it may take you longer than expected since your day-to-day involves you constantly getting side-tracked and distracted. If you are disciplined but not determined, you are focused on what you do every day, you don’t get distracted easily by scrolling on social media and giving in to temptations, but you don’t have a goal you are determined to reach.

Discipline can improve over time if you are determined because not having discipline is an obstacle to overcome.

A person who doesn’t have discipline or determination is not going anywhere, but a person with both discipline and determination is unstoppable.

Motivation vs. Dedication

Dedication is the commitment and the amount of time you put into something. If someone describes you as a dedicated person, it means they know where all your time and energy is spent.

Allocating time and energy correctly is a pillar of success because what we put our time and energy into is what we choose to make important.

If your motivation (your why) is strong enough it’s something you want to focus on because it’s important, dedication is what makes that happen. Dedication is a commitment to following through on your words, and that means prioritizing and setting time aside to work on it.

Motivation vs. Consistency

Motivation vs. Consistency by Liz Fosslien
Photo cred from Liz Fosslien

You can’t rely on motivation to be consistent, but you can rely on your actions. Motivation can be a burst of energy one day and non existent the next. Being consistent is more important than being motivated for achieving goals and long-term success.

Consistency is a reoccurring pattern of behavior or action. It doesn’t have to be daily, but it does have to be a regular pattern. For example, you don’t have to exercise 7 days a week, you can make a schedule to do it every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Sticking to this schedule week after week will ensure you reach your goals rather than unreliably and randomly skipping days.

Humans are creatures of habit, so having a schedule and sticking to it helps us feel in control. Having a plan and schedule ready takes away uncertainty and reduces decision fatigue.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit”


Consistency is your path to success because doing something small but doing it consistently will get results, compared to some days not doing anything. One small step at a time is better than not taking any steps at all.

Atomic Habits by James Clear is one of the best books to begin your journey to learn how to get rid of old/bad habits and begin new ones.

Motivation vs. Persistence vs. Perseverance

Persistence and perseverance are so similar because if you look them up, the dictionary uses one to describe the other. They are synonyms, both of these terms practically mean the same thing, and that’s why everyone uses them interchangeably.

Persistence is when you continue to keep going without slowing down, regardless of difficulties and struggles that get in the way. Perseverance is when you keep going and don’t give up despite a lack of success. Both of these words mean to keep going and don’t give up, no matter what hardships and obstacles get in the way.

Pursuing a goal is not easy, otherwise, everyone would have success. However, many people don’t realize that the only way to truly fail is when you give up. So many goals made during the New Year fail because they weren’t even given a chance. Research shows that 23% of people quit their resolution by the end of the first week, and 43% quit by the end of January.

Failure is part of the process, but only if you learn from it, pick yourself back up, and keep going. Failure improves our thinking by making us come up with ways to overcome and solve the problems. Over time it will get easier and easier to face problems and solve them, which means you will feel more confident in your abilities and start setting bigger goals.

If you don’t persist or persevere, you quit before even getting the chance to experience all the benefits of pursuing a goal can give. Motivation starts the process and persistence and perseverance keep it going.

Putting it all together

Success is not just motivation, it is a combination of everything. It takes determination, ambition, discipline, persistence, and so much more.

I know it feels insignificant to know the definition of each word, but words are powerful and they matter. The way we talk and how we label ourselves is more important than you think. What we constantly repeat in our heads becomes our reality. The habits we do every day determine who we are and what we will be.

If you consistently say to yourself “I’m so unmotivated”, you will become unmotivated. If you are always saying “I have no discipline” then you won’t have any discipline.

Fixing this issue and shifting your mindset is as simple as repeating to yourself a few times a day positive statements that you want to be true. Phrases like, “I am dedicated, I am ambitious, I am determined, and I will be persistent”. Over time you will believe it and it will become your reality.

Achieving your goals is not easy, it will be the hardest thing you will ever choose to do, but it will be the most rewarding journey you will ever be on.

Read next: How to Write SMART Goals for success.

Hong Singer

I'm the creator of Ambition Forward. I keep things simple by focusing on the goal and being consistent in my actions to get the results I want, and I'm here to help you do the same. I encourage you to look for the things that bring you joy and go for it!

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