The Problem with “Motivation”

‘Control your Controllables’ (CYC) is a resilience program facilitated by the blind and experienced through the Paralympic game of Goalball. Earlier this week, my team conducted the program for a group of junior college students who did not manage to progress on to Year 2.

During the session, the students were asked to reflect on possible barriers that could stop them from putting in the necessary effort to pass their exams. Many of them alluded to some version of the same problem – the lack of motivation.

Does the problem really lie with the lack of motivation?

I asked the students if they were disappointed that they did not pass their exams, and why they wanted to progress on to Year 2. Indeed, these may seem like redundant questions but I was trying to get them to understand that they do not lack strong reasons nor motivation to strive for better results.

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.” Steven Pressfield

The problem here isn’t about the lack of motivation. The problem lies with the ability to direct their motivation towards the goal of passing their exams. The problem has to do with procrastination, specifically, they were motivated to do something else rather than to study.

When we complain about the lack of motivation or that we need to increase motivation, we are perceiving motivation as something external and not within our direct control. In many ways, we have ceded responsibility and authority to someone or something else. Such thoughts often lead to a sense of helplessness and to even more procrastination!

So how does one regain control and direct the motivation to overcome procrastination and other obstacles that may be in the way of our aspirations?

Joan sharing with TMJC students
Joan’s sharing at TMJC

One of the main facilitators of this program is Joan Hung and she is also the top scorer for the women’s national Goalball team. She shared with the students how she makes use of the ESL (Effort, Support and Learning) Reflection Method to overcome the challenges of being blind, and how they could make use of the same method to overcome procrastination.

CYC Card
The ESL Reflection Method

Effort, Support and Learning are behaviors that are within our control and when we begin to focus regularly on what is within our control and how to make full use of what we have, our confidence grows and our motivation is directed towards what we want rather than what we do not want.


Coach Hansen






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