Motivation Inside and Out

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily."  –Zig Ziglar

A few years ago, I had a big ah-ha moment revolving around motivation, and I let go of my preconception that that some of us are self-motivated and some of us aren’t.  I realized that, in actuality, everyone possesses some degree of self-motivation even though it may simply show up as self-preservation and basic physical survival.  After all, I reasoned, it takes self-motivation to go look for food when you want something to eat.

Recently reading Zig Ziglar’s comment made me laugh out loud, but it also made me challenge another assumption.  You see, I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on the “self” in self-motivation, as if we shouldn’t ever look outside ourselves for it.  For example, whenever I asked the question “What motivates you?” while interviewing candidates, I’d hope to hear the answer I thought was correct.  If candidates said, “I’m self-motivated” or “I motivate myself”, I concluded that they did not look outside themselves for motivation.  These candidates would presumably derive their happiness from within, and so the employer didn’t have to be picture perfect before they’d fly out the door to another job and another job.  At least, that was my belief.

Yet, here was Ziglar recommending that motivation be some sort of frequent action in our lives like bathing, which implies that we might need to get it from outside as well as inside.  Of course, I realize that Ziglar makes his living as a motivational guru and that it’s in his best interest for us to get our motivation from him, but, still, I wondered if there was something to what he was saying.  I decided to look up the definition of motivation. 


1. a. The act or process of motivating. b. The state of being motivated.

2. Something that motivates; an inducement or incentive.


So, what I’d been doing when asking candidates the question, “What motivates you?” was hoping they would give me a “The state of being motivated” answer, which I judged should have been “I’m self-motivated.”  Where they were usually coming from was the second definition, “Something that motivates; and inducement or incentive”, which makes sense since most folks want a company to provide an incentive or inducement to work for them.  That second definition seems to refer to outside factors, while both parts of the first definition can refer to self-generated factors.  Now that I learned that self-motivation is just part of and contained within that definition of motivation, I saw a parallel in another abstract state of being… happiness.  There is a great deal of happiness within us if we chose to tap into it, yet there are many things outside ourselves that cause us to be happy.  So why can’t we look both inside and outside ourselves for motivation as well?

In concluding that even the most self-motivated person does, on occasion, require something outside that offers “The act or process of motivating”, I’ve also come to see that inspiration is entwined with motivation – for me, one cannot be without the other.  As a matter of fact, part of the definition of inspire is “To stimulate to action; motivate” ( 

Taking this back to Ziglar’s comment about frequently needing the act or process of motivation in our lives, it occurs me to me that I, personally, have been using outside motivation all along… I just call it inspiration. I frequently read inspiring books and poetry; watch inspiring movies about others’ acts or processes; and gather inspiring quotes like the one above.  Taking this a step further, I must now admit that I’m often directly involved in the act of motivating/inspiring others… whether professionally with clients or personally with family and friends.  I’m definitely an outside force trying to trigger inside forces in folks.  With that thought, I’ll close and go take my bath now.

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