The Tao of Motivation

If you think you need to ‘get motivated’ … then I am sorry but you are thinking in reverse.


Because neither motivation nor inspiration are things that you can get ‘out there’, like they are things you can buy at a supermarket.

Does a tree need to ‘get motivated’ to reach its branches towards the sky?

Does a river need to ‘find inspiration’ to flow down to the sea?

They sound like silly questions right?

But they are no more ‘silly’ then the notion that you need to ‘get motivated’ to be the success you are naturally destined to be.

In saying things like, “I need to get motivated” or, “I need to find inspiration” you create a separation within … a motivator and a motivatee.

Doing this can create an internal scenario where part of your mind becomes the “Task Master”, the one with a whip and a drill sergeant’s bellow, and another part the “Wretched Slob” who performs up to standard only to keep the whip off his back. Such internal conflict is destructive to one’s well-being and is also a major waste of energy.

This type of motivation is external and artificial. ‘True’ motivation and inspiration are internal and come as naturally as breathing.

You see, there are four types of people. The first is the unconscious incompetent. This is the person that doesn’t even know that they don’t know. This is the lowest rung in the ladder.

The second type of person is the conscious incompetent. This is the person that knows that they don’t know, but they still don’t know what to do. The model above of “The Task Master” and “Wretched Slob” fits this type of person well. They consciously want to be achieving things but their internal incompetencies and personality traits sabotage this desire.

The next type of person is the conscious competent. This is the person that knows what to do, and then if they think about it, they can go ahead and do it. Instead of the “Wretched Slob” this person might internally be a “Super Star” but they still need “The Task Master” with his whip.

The highest level of person, though, is the unconscious competent. This is the person that has it so ingrained in them as to what to do, that they don’t even have to think about it. They just automatically do it.

The unconscious competent does not need any sort of external motivator … motivation for them is a natural, internal state of being.

Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching1 begins by saying:

One of subtle universal virtue

is not conscious of being virtuous,

therefore, he is truly virtuous.

Applied to motivation, it could be modified to say:

One of subtle universal motivation

is not conscious of being motivated,

therefore, he is truly motivated.

Look at young children playing. Do they need conscious motivation to be playfully exuberant? It is only when social conditionings encroach that this natural exuberance diminishes and we have to resort to artificial ‘motivational systems’ so that we can do the things that used to come to us ‘naturally’.

Here’s a personal example, for a long period of time my internal “Task Master” would be always telling me to exercise more because I wasn’t as fit and trim as I used to be. I tried all sorts of processes including reward/punishment systems, time management systems, personal trainers, going to the gym and the list goes on.

But then in a moment of clarity my inner youth piped up and said, “Hey! Wouldn’t it be much easier if you just did something that you really enjoyed?”

That’s when I discovered Hacky Sack. For the uninitiated a Hacky Sack is like a little bean bag that you have to try and keep up in the air with only your feet … just like the pro soccer plays do with soccer balls.


Playing Hacky Sack for me isn’t exercise at all … not in the sense of, “OK now I am exercising.” I went from struggling to ‘exercise’ once per week to having up to 2 or 3 full-on sessions with the Hacky Sack every single day. I grab every chance I can to kick that little sphere of joy up into the air!

You see my motivation to exercise went from an external, artificial affair to an ‘unconscious competence’ state of being. By digging deep within me and discovering that my true nature is very playful, exuberant, and youthful I was able to discover ‘automatic motivation’ to engage in exercise.

I now don’t have to ‘get motivated’ to exercise … I just get out there and play because I am motivated from within to do something that I really love doing.

And there … right there … is the essence of motivation.

In the I Ching (the Book of Changes)2 you will find that it is the nature of things for life to be ever-changing, ever in motion, ever ‘motivating’ into new manifestations. So it can be said that ‘motivation’ is a natural prime mover that keeps life going on its merry course.

When viewed in this light motivation can be seen as a core fundamental principle of your very being. So if you feel you are suffering from a lack of motivation it basically means you have cut yourself off from your core inner reservoirs. It means that you are not in tune with your true nature.

At a basic level this is caused by 2 things:

a) You have an internal ‘blocker’ that is preventing you accessing your inner reservoir of motivation. In essence, your inner ‘river’ of inspiration has been clogged up with a lifetime of debris and conditionings.

b) Also, a lack of motivation can be the result of engaging in something that is not truly your ‘path of heart’ (which is usually caused by having internal blockers).

The solution of course is to remove these internal blockers so that you can once again integrate with your limitless reservoirs of natural energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. Unblock the dam and the river flows again.

Until you can tap into your inner source of motivation your attempts to ‘get motivated’ will only create superficial motivation because as soon as you stop the motivation process you run out of motivation. Like when you are cold you put a jacket on to get warm, but when you take the jacket off you get cold again.

What you need to do is to reach the stage of being unconsciously competent, or unconsciously motivated. Motivation needs to be so much a part of your being that you don’t even realize that you are being motivated.

You see that is the secret to motivation … it is not about how to ‘get motivated’ …

…but how to ‘be motivation’.

Because the truth is that you already are motivation. You just need to clear away the ‘debris’ and let your natural motivation and inspiration flow forth.



1 Ni, Hua Ching (2003) The Complete Works of Lao Tzu. LA: SevenStar Communications Group, Inc.

2 Ni, Hua Ching (2002) I Ching, The Book of Changes and The Unchanging Truth. LA: SevenStar Communications Group, Inc

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