Whether you want to improve your career, marriage, or ability to kill a man with nothing but dental floss, making changes to your life can be tough. And if you thought that part of the difficulty lies in your ability to stay motivated, boy are you a dumb piece of crap. As a viral, triple-fire-emoji video explains, "MOTIVATION IS GARBAGE." It doesn't exist, and you've been a jackass thinking that it does.
In this four-minute video, Mel Robbins helps you find the cause of "every single problem or complaint in your life." Motivation, she explains, is "complete garbage," and you know you're about to get carpet-bombed with the truth after she says, "It's total bullshit, frankly. Are we allowed to swear on this show?" Is there a police chief in the audience who can rein in this loose cannon?!
Anyway, this video has over eight million views on Facebook, and gives precisely zero helpful advice. Robbins begins by saying, "At some point, we all bought into this lie that you've gotta feel ready in order to change." On it's face, this isn't controversial. It's true that we can't always wait around until we feel excited to make a change. Nobody's elated the day they quit smoking. But this vast oversimplification of the problem assumes everyone who struggles has the petulant mind of a child. "Sure, the doctor says I should start watching my cholesterol or I'll die, but I'll wait until I feel like it." Most adult people have complex reasons for procrastinating, ranging from too much stress to clinical depression. This probably can't be solved using the same line applied to a child who won't make his bed or stop teabagging people on Call Of Duty. It's as if human behavior is not easily reduced to a single simple bromide like "YOLO" or "JUST DO IT."
Stop yelling at me, LaBeef.
According to Robbins, the fact that you're a dumb baby who waits around until you feel like saving your marriage isn't your fault. It's your dumb baby brain: "The way that our brains are wired, and the fact about human beings, is that we're not designed to do things that are uncomfortable or scary or difficult. Our brains are designed to protect us from those things." Now, the brain is a pretty complex pile of meat. What are Mel Robbins' qualifications for making such a sweeping statement about it? Well, she's a CNN commentator, life coach, author, and "motivational speaker" -- which, using Mel's own definition, translates into "bullshit speaker."
Despite having no background in psychology or neuroscience, is our plucky, truth-droppin' life coach onto something with the hypothesis that "Our minds are designed to stop you at all costs from doing anything that might hurt you?" Well ... no. Psychology and neuroscience has shown that stress actually increases your likelihood of making a risky decision, as we seem to optimize seeking reward despite the risks. There are also many studies that explore the motivation circuit in the brain, which includes studying the cues that "mobilize the organism to prepare for action." This sounds like fancy science talk for "stressors can motivate us to act."
Mel also accuses you of "Only feel[ing] motivated to do the things that are easy." But a psychological study found that people typically front-load more difficult tasks, or "pre-crastinate," choosing the satisfaction of quickly reaching a subgoal over saving themselves effort. There have even been studies imaging the areas of the brain that are active when subjects receive a compelling motivation to do some unpleasant physical tasks: ca$h money.
Pixabay Public Domain
Or as the kids call it, "fat stacks." Kids call it that, right?
Which might be what's motivating Robbins. Because what else could convince someone to claim with a straight face: "You can truly trace every single problem or complaint in your life to silence and hesitation. Those are decisions." Despite citing no studies of her own, she goes on to explain, "And what happens when you hesitate, that moment -- that micro-moment -- it sends a stress signal to your brain." Honestly, I was stumped by this one. I couldn't find a single study verifying that hesitation sends a "stress signal to your brain." Nor could I find one in Robbins' book. However, I did find that studies have painted a complex picture of hesitation and work performance, and that hesitation only seems to impact performance when job satisfaction is low.
She also claims that "I am one decision away from a totally different marriage, a totally different life." Which seems to be a pretty good argument for hesitating, like before you buy that $32,000 "immersive" speaker chair, prompting your spouse to go stay with their parents until they feel "a little less murdery."
So what is Mel's solution to the problem of motivation, like Santa and stock tips, being a lie? "Motivation's garbage," she reiterates, "I'm never going to feel like doing the things that are tough so I need to stop waiting." But if you stop waiting and start doing something ... that's what motivation is. If it was so simple to "stop waiting," we'd all have glistening abs, be the authors of our own novels, and bathe regularly.
The truth is that humans have been trying to figure out the best way to accomplish our aspirations for millennia, and there is no singular solution. And that's why this poster exists:
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