Book Club: The Motivation Myth

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In the Strongertmr Book Club Series, I breakdown and summarise key takeaways of books that I find helpful for individuals who want growth and more out of life. Today I bring you some takeaways from “The Motivation Myth”.

The Motivation Myth

The Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden is a book on ‘How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win’. His main message, that Motivation is a Myth is based on the opinion that many of us believe that we have to be motivated in order to start on something. We believe that if we have a goal like trying to lose weight, succeeding at our job or to keep fit, we need to get some motivation in order to start working on that goal. However, Jeff argues that this is not the case, and that:

‘Motivation is the fire that starts burning after we manually, painfully, coax it into existence, and it feeds on the satisfaction of seeing yourself make progress.’

So the main premise of this book is that motivation only begins AFTER we start doing and not BEFORE, like many of us think. So how can we use this idea to help us achieve our goals? This book shares many insights about this and also many practical tips too on how we can set ourselves up to win.

Let me share with you my main takeaways from this book.

Just get out there and get started!

Takeaway #1: Just Get Started

The first takeaway that I’ve got from The Motivation Myth is that we should just get started on our goals. Time indeed waits for no man. Waiting for something or someone else to strike us with that hit of motivation is usually never enough to get us started or to sustain the work needed. A quick hit of motivation is like a sugar rush. You feel good initially and then it quickly dies and fades away.

Instead, try starting small. Start with the easiest thing to do. If you’re trying to get fitter, don’t go out for an hour long run. Go for a short 10 minute walk to just break a sweat. The momentum of moving helps us to carry on and keep on going forward. Of course, the endorphins that kick in from that small success helps a lot too.

Once you start and give it some time, you will start seeing the difference. You start to improve bit by bit, walking turns to jogging and to running. This improvement feels good, which helps to build feelings of competence and self confidence. This in turn motivates us to do more and more and eventually can lead to our success.

Sometimes big goals can be intimidating.

Takeaway #2: Don’t Focus on the Goal

This sounds counterintuitive. If our goal is our ultimate aim, shouldn’t we work to keep our eyes on the prize? It might seem so, but according to The Motivation Myth, it can actually be more harmful than good to be too focused on the goal. For one, when goals are too big (such as a goal to be a millionaire), you might get too intimidated by it when your monthly paycheque only comes in at $3000 (which is only 0.3% of that million dollars!).

Also, when we keep focusing on the goal, we are also ‘dreaming’ of the triumph and success that comes with the goal. This can lead us to count our eggs before they’re hatched and feeling as if we have already achieved our goal. This can kill our motivation instead.

Jeff recommends that we first set a goal and use that to create a process which can help us get there. We then forget about the goal and just focus on the process instead.

Working the process is like laying bricks. Keep at it and you’ll end up with a house.

Takeaway #3: It’s all About the Process

The third and in my opinion, the most important takeaway from the Motivation Myth is that we have to have a rock solid and well thought out process. So rock solid that by following this process, we are almost sure that we can achieve our goal as long as we stick to it.

For instance, I want to be one of the best and most sought after Fitness Professionals in Singapore. This of course, is a huge goal which might take years and years to even come close to. So, instead of focusing on this humongous goal which can be very daunting, I have to come up with a process(es) that can help me to achieve it.

Such a process might include things like:

  • Coaching at least 4 trainees daily
  • Run and/or workout 5 times a week
  • Upgrade myself with Fitness Certifications quarterly
  • Take part in one Sport/Physical events every year
  • Produce an article weekly

So once I have these processes down, I will just keep working on them consistently and deliberately (a bonus tip from the book Deep Work) until I achieve my eventual goal. Of course, I might have to set some targets for each of these processes to know how far I’m getting. But in it’s essence, working on your process is the key to getting to your goal.

Take time to come up with your process.

Takeaway #4: How to Build a Successful Process

Jeff Haden details our some easy steps in The Motivation Myth to help each of us build a successful process.

  1. Set your goal: It can be anything at all!
  2. Set aside decision anxiety and choose a reasonably promising routine. Don’t think too much and just choose a routine that will help with your goal! You can get these sort of routines from the internet, books of professionals.
  3. Customise that routine to be specific. The process should tell you precisely what you should be doing. Don’t have half baked action plans such as “Run this week”. Instead, it should be “Run 5 times this week at XX distance and on XX-days”.
  4. Rework your schedule to allow you to work on the tasks you need to do/perform. Trying to achieve any goals would require you to spend time on it. Usually the bigger the goal, the more time, effort and/or money you’ll have to invest in it. Start adjusting your schedule in order to give yourself time to work on the process. As a coach, I’ve found that this is something most people struggle with. They can’t let go and are not willing to sacrifice some distractions in their life in order to make time for their process. This of course, eventually leads to failure more often than not.
  5. Map out your daily plan. Put your routine into your daily plan and make sure to set aside time for it!
  6. Work the process. This is the simplest yet hardest part. We just need to do it! Start working on the process which you have earlier come up with.
  7. Fix any schedule problems that arise. We will encounter schedule problems arising from work, family and other miscellaneous issues. Take a look at your overall schedule again and start shifting things around and sacrifice what is not essential to you.
  8. Adapt accordingly if results vary. As we start moving through the process and learn more about yourself and your goal, there might be some factors of the process that we might have to adjust and adapt to suit our needs better.

If you need a reasonably promising routine to get started on your Fitness Goal, check out “The FITTER Program: A Simple Guide to Building Max Fitness“.

Ask yourself this question to kill indecisiveness and improve your focus.

Takeaway #5: The Most Important Question

Once we set our goals and build our process, the only thing left to do is to work on it consistently and with effort. As we do this, we will definitely get distracted or face temptation to veer away from our process. When things like that happen, there is one question that can help us get back on track and to guide our way.

“Will this help me reach my goal? If not, I won’t do it.”

This is an especially important question to people who struggle to make decisions. If we just think about our goal and purpose, the decisions should make themselves. Indecision is born from a lack of purpose. So whenever anything comes up and threatens to pull you away from your process, make sure you ask yourself this important question. “Will this help me reach my goal?”


I highly recommend this book “The Motivation Myth” by Jeff Haden for those who struggle with a ‘lack of motivation’. In the book, there are also many other practical tips to help improve your process or just productivity in general.

I hope this edition of the Strongertmr Book Club has helped you understand what true motivation entails and how we can work in a practical way to get to our goals!

Author: Leon Tan, CSCS

I'm a certified Fitness Coach with a degree in Sports Science. I am passionate in Health, Fitness and helping people become a better version of ourselves.

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