4 Motivation Myths You Falsely Continue to Believe

Believe it or not, every year, disengaged workers cost their employees upwards of $300,000. And while it’s been proven that effective motivation techniques can improve workplace productivity by upwards of 44 percent, if being truthful, much of what’s taught isn’t worth all that much.

For the sake of today’s topic, instead of zeroing all of our editorial efforts on the professional realm, we’ll focus on motivation in all aspects of life—school, work, play, etc. That said, our intention isn’t to simply sit idly back, talking about the importance of being a self-starter …

Moreover, it’s to help you, the reader, identify a few of the most common motivational myths you’ve been force-fed since way back in elementary school. Yes, while much of what you’ve learned is of value, some of what’s found below might come as somewhat of a surprise:


1) ‘Money is always the greatest motivator.’

Don’t get us wrong—the vast majority of the 5am.ers who frequent this blog have made money a prime motivator in everything that they do. That’s not to say that it’s the sole motivator, but it’s certainly a sizable one. Do realize, however, that—rightfully so—this isn’t the case for everyone.

Seriously, what’s most interesting about money as a motivator is that it can act as a double-edged sword of sorts. Yes, it’s an incredible reward, but no matter how much money is made, if it’s the sole motivator, the inverse often occurs—drive, diligence and determination all plummet.

Once again, though all facets of motivation are being discussed, consider the effect a small bonus might have on an employee in a regular, run-of-the-mill office setting. While a bonus might have an effect in the short-term, long-term results aren’t likely to be influenced by cash.


2) ‘The key to motivation? Writing down your goals!’

You’ve heard this one before, right? Similar to the point that precedes it, there’s a grain of truth to this myth—contrary to what the mediocre might claim, writing goals down is important for bringing about motivation, but the simple task by no means indicates never-ending incentive.

But hold the phone—isn’t there a well-documented story out on the Internet about the need to write down goals? There is—it involves the Yale Class of 1953. Basically, the class’ professors asked each of their students to write down their goals—years later, they’d see what happened.

Twenty years later, the very professors who’d asked that students jot down their goals discovered something shocking—only three percent of graduating students penned their ambitions back in 1953. Now comes the impressive part—each was wealthier than the other 97 percent combined.

Almost sounds too good to be true, right? There’s a reason for it—the story isn’t true. In fact, if interested in reading up on how the story was debunked, click here. You see, motivation isn’t that simple. While writing down goals is an excellent idea, there’s more to motivation than that.


3) ‘Just do the best you can—that’s all you can ask of yourself.’

Boy, does this sound like a soccer-mom statement, or what? By all means, no matter where life takes you, always put your best foot forward—tried-and-true 5am.ers know nothing else. Still, there’s a problem with this kind of statement—it eliminates all forms of accountability.

It makes sense. Think about it—apart from the person in need of motivation, how can anyone else know if someone’s actually given their all? Stop thinking—it’s impossible. Doing things this way, encouragement is given, yet no pressure’s applied. As a result, motivation suffers.

Still not convinced? You won’t like where this is headed—science isn’t on your side. Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, two well-known organizational psychologists, spent years studying the many differences between “do your best” goals and those of a more well-defined nature.

Spanning the course of multiple decades, their in-depth research and analysis of over 1,000 case studies led them to believe that, hands down, specific, more quantifiable goals helped people both consciously and unconsciously push themselves to the limit—this is real motivation.


4) ‘Learn to visualize success. It’s the first step to making it a reality.’

Not only does this tactic fall comfortably in the “Pseudoscience” category, but engaging in this sort of activity often looks ridiculous. Yes, Jim Carey’s become famous for talking about how visualization helped him launch his career at a young age, but there’s not much substance, here.

The biggest proponents of this motivational strategy are big on positive thinking. And while   optimism is certainly the right way to go about doing things, mental exercises like these rarely set the stage for the tremendous amount of effort that will undoubtedly be needed at a later date.

Believing you’ll succeed is easy stuff. Actually stepping outside of your comfort zone, staring failure square in the face and overcoming a mountain of obstacles? It’s hard work. Conveniently, during most visualization exercises, all of the hard-nosed, hustle-and-grind stuff is left out.

So, is optimism important? Of course. What’s detrimental en route to your earnest pursuit of motivation is unrealistic optimism. Success is an active experience—not a passive one. In simpler terms, success doesn’t just happen to people—they must work tirelessly to go get it.


It’s Time to Set the Record Straight …

Having read through this post, as far as authentic motivation is concerned, you’re now privy as to what what’s more fact than fiction—nice job. Your work’s not yet done, though. Armed with this information and the 5am.er title, share what you’ve learned with others—they need it, too.