Which Came First: The Motivation or the Goal?


Which Came First: The Motivation or the Goal?

On what will most likely be the first triple digit temperature day of the year, I sit on my back patio pondering what will motivate me to be productive on this hot Friday. Sometimes I feel like a great effort Monday through Thursday should reward me with a relaxed Friday, but come on, that’s what the weekend is for and I’m just having a lazy moment (my 9 wing if you speak Enneagram).

Have you ever run a mile while not being chased? It’s tough, right?! 

There are people in the world who run for fun, and they run far. Maybe you’ve run a fun 5k race to raise money for a cause or as a dare from a friend. You are awesome and you have all of my respect. Whether you loved or hated your 5k run, you did it and that is a proud accomplishment.

I have many friends who run ultramarathons. That means they masochistically subject themselves to running distances of more than 26.2 miles in a single event. They do this for sheer enjoyment. Uh, okay… 

Who am I kidding? If my body would let me, I would be right there with them. They are still crazy.

One particular ultramarathon is 135 miles long and the course winds through the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America and part of Death Valley National Park. If I ever ran 135 miles, you better believe I wouldn’t choose any location that had the word “Death” in its name.

Despite their insanity, I am obsessed with ultra runners because of their foresight, motivation, discipline, can-do attitude and so much more. A life-long commitment-phobe, I have a hard time even committing to a goal that big, much less training for it and showing up on race day. 

Once I thought really long and hard about signing up for a 30-mile trail race and ultimately didn’t commit. These cardio freaks stay motivated to run hundreds of mile in preparation, often upwards of 70 miles each week. There was no way I would drag my butt out of bed at 4am on enough days to get in that kind of mileage.

What comes first: motivation or goals?

I keep saying I’m going to get something referencing GRIT tattooed on my body because it has become more than a mantra. It is in my DNA now. In this season of COVID-19 and all of its nuances, I have definitely had to restructure my approach to success and accomplishment, to the passion and perseverance that encapsulates grit. 

Goals have changed because priorities have changed. 

Finding ways to stay motivated has been challenging when I can’t use the same reward system I did previously. 

I have no desire to go backward, so I’m looking for a new mindset.

August became a month of evaluation, where I removed most of the expectations I normally put on myself in a personal development manner. I haven’t been podcasting much, I haven’t done any writing or editing, and I have let myself read when I feel like or substitute that with Netflix and social media, and no ensuing guilt for any of it. Adventure is the theme of my year, but “reset” is the theme of this month. 


Do I pursue inner motivation and assume goals will follow or do I set goals and look for ways to maintain motivation?


A few things I am noting from reflection on the ebbs and flows of many years as well as wisdom from others:

  • Intrinsic motivation will always overshadow external motivators.
  • Learning more about my personality is the key to setting achievable goals that have a greater chance of keeping me motivated.
  • Setting goals large enough to keep me challenged will last.
  • The “why” behind each goal must be my own in order to create motivation.
  • Implementing rhythms provides margin to ebb and flow without pushing 100% of the time.
  • Embracing failure is the way to stay consistent and keep moving forward.

I’m confident the last couple weeks of August will be full of prayer and journaling as I set goals for a new season. Even though life is still full of limitations and new territory, there is something about September that feels like a fresh start. Here’s to defining a clear “why” and believing that will generate the motivation for whatever crazy goals I set.