Motivation Vs. a Motive: Your New Year's Resolution Upgrade

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

For those who have followed my #fitstagram for a while, you may have noticed I changed my name from @MurphyMotivation to @TheMurphyMotive. I’ve been in a period of transition in my life. I recently moved back into the Twin City Metro, I quit my job as a grocery store District Manager, and I began a job that I really enjoy. The name change reflects a shift in mindset and a realization I’d like to share with you. It’ll tie nicely into your New Years resolution once the concept is clear.

But Alex, these Instagram names are really similar. When I ask Merriam-Webster, they tell me that the definitions of both motivation and motive are “reasons to do something.” Tell Merriam-Webster to add this to their next edition: there are two types of reasons to do something. These reasons are external and internal.

Motivation comes from outside of you. It’s pretty easy to find on YouTube or Instagram: CT Fletcher, David Goggins, Jocko Willink, Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Oprah Winfrey, @MurphyMotivation ☺. And I would know. I was a motivation junky. Not only have my workouts been fueled by these videos, but so was my career.

As I mentioned, I quit my job. I gave up the company car, the nearly six-figure income, the company credit card, and a guaranteed life as a relatively wealthy executive in the fastest growing grocery store chain in the world. And I did it because of this difference between motivation and a motive. It was easy to say yes to that job when I first graduate from my undergrad. But soon after familiarizing myself with my new corporate landscape, the stress of simultaneously managing three to five grocery stores started to beat me down. To power through the stress, I turned towards some motivation. This came in the form of hyped-up Youtube motivational videos.

You’ve probably seen these videos before (go search “Fearless Motivation” on Youtube if you haven’t). Each morning, during my workout, I would listen to “successful” individuals talk about being the hero of your journey, the lion on the hunt, and the leader with unquestionable discipline. These videos gave me the motivation to lead my stores well. And I did, but I was unhappy. The success of each store I lead felt hollow and unfulfilling because the rewards were not based on my values. Those rewards were the continuation of my title, salary, perks, and authority. Hype videos to lead my stores were an external motivational tool I had to use to satisfy external values.

“External values” are the measuring sticks we give to other people to judge whether we are living a good life. Mark Manson’s New York Times Bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck describes the journey to find your values like peeling a “Self Awareness Onion”. The first layer is understanding your emotions. The second is why we feel those emotions. The third layer, the onion layer to really make you cry, is the level of our values. “Why do I consider this to be success or failure? How am I choosing to measure myself?...Everything we think and feel about a situation ultimately comes back to how valuable we perceive it to be.” (Manson pg. 72).

Here’s an example; Dave Mustaine, who was kicked out of the band Metallica (the most popular metal band of all time) started the band Megadeth (also one of the most popular metal bands). He considers himself a huge failure because he never made the best metal band of all time. Pete Best was kicked out of the Beatles and never accomplished anything else of musical merit afterwards. But he considered himself a success because after being kicked out of the Beatles, he began a family. We have two similar situations perceived using two different values, one external and one internal. Dave Mustaine valued becoming better than Metallica. He gave the measuring stick for his life’s value to a band that he was kicked out of. It had to come from the external much like my job lead me to value how important other people think I am with my title, money, and authority. Just as Mustaine saw himself as a failure, I felt I was a failure because I couldn’t solidify my own life’s value. Mustaine and I had given away the ability to that. Mustaine’s motivation was revenge, which we can represent with a Metallica poster on his wall that he throws darts at. My motivation was to be seen as an impressive leader, which we can represent with Youtube hype videos about leadership. External values require external motivations, but compare that to Pete Best. His value was love. That internal value does not require a motivation. It is a motive.

A motive IS the internal value that no one can take away from you. It is unquestionably yours and it is so much more sustainable than the motivation from Youtube hype videos or revenge. An external motivation is like a spark. Sure, it helps start the fire, but it may take a lot of them to get a significant blaze. An internal motive is your will to survive, knowing that you will fucking die if this fire does not light. When you only have motivation, you may fail. When you have a motive, you cannot fail because you will not quit.

I truly love renown German philosopher, poet, and composer, Friedrich Nietzsche’s quote “He whose life has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” He understood that a real motive can withstand near all hardships. Your New Year’s Resolution must be grounded within an internal motive if you want to consistently move towards your goals. If your resolution is to be kinder to people, that value must be “kindness”. If that value is “be seen as a kinder person” then it will require spark after motivational spark to keep lit. Giving away your value is unsustainable. If your resolution is to be healthier, that value must be self-love or living to see my kids grow up (again, love). It cannot be to look sexier to others or else you will not succeed. This requires being brutally honest with yourself. Peel back the Self Awareness Onion until you see why you do the things you do. Then address what you find. If those values don’t make you happy, that work to change them is on you. Develop your why, and you will withstand the how.


Manson, Mark. “Self Awareness Onion” The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Mark Manson, New York City, HarperCollins, 2016, pgs 70-72.

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