Motivation versus commitment

Over the years I’ve had countless phone calls from people asking if I could come and deliver a motivational speech at various events.  At the risk of offending the entire ‘self-help’ community, I am going to suggest that the reason there is so much scepticism in the industry is because much of it depends on the concept that motivation alone will create positive personal change. Working as a success coach has shown me that motivation happens on the inside and for a moment. Commitment is what you do even when you don’t want to. For anyone who has been trying, and then trying again to change something in their life, understanding what you are committed to might just be the thing that gets you there.  

This is very annoying to think about, but please stay with me here. Many of us grew up associating the word ‘motivation’ with all things positive. ‘Motivational speakers’ are amazing, right? Motivation is something that successful people do well, isn’t it? Being self-motivated is a strength, right? In my years working as a success coach it’s been really obvious to me that motivation fades. It’s great – but it’s fleeting and inconsistent and unreliable.  

How many of us start something on a Monday, such as a new diet, and by Wednesday we are eating four slices of peanut butter toast because we’re hungry? Or we have vowed to ask for a promotion, yet back away when the manager looks too busy? The behaviour and mindset that gives us the greatest chance of success is commitment. So that even if we eat the toast, breaking our no-carb rule, and delay seeing the manager one day because we are procrastinating, we gather ourselves and get back on the case the next day. We are committed to the end goal and to persevering. On the other side of commitment is where your success is waiting. 

Motivation is a feeling, commitment is a mindset. If you really want to create change, reflect on these questions:   

  • When have I been successful before and what behaviours did I demonstrate? 
  • What am I already committed to in my life that’s working?  
  • When has motivation let me down?  
  • How can I integrate higher-level commitment into my planning and thinking? 
  • What would be different for me if I were committed? 
  • What are my non-negotiables when it comes to my daily/weekly habits?  

One of the crucial elements I’ve observed from successful people is that they always have a plan. They map out their lives as if it were a work project. They identify their goals and develop their ideas, strategies and opportunities. Successful people know how to prioritise the things that matter to them. To achieve their goals, they seek the advice of experts, consider the risks and set deadlines. They do not depend on motivation to make things happen. By planning your next steps towards achieving your goals, you will have something to focus on and be committed to when your motivation fades. For some lucky people, opportunities fall into their laps, but for the rest of us, we have to do what’s needed to ensure we are reaching our potential.  

If you are ready to live a resilient, happy and successful life, here are 10 strategies to implement now:  

  1. Write down specific and meaningful goals that will keep you focused and on track.  
  2. Create realistic but ambitious timelines (both short and long term) that can guide you on where to invest your time and when.
  3. Write a list of everyone you know who can support you in bringing your goals to life. 
  4. Identify the blockers and challenges you will face and spend time working through how you will overcome them. 
  5. Think big and capture all your possible opportunities and ideas. Then, check with the people around you to see what you might have missed in your brainstorming. 
  6. On a scale of 1 to 10, consider how committed you really are to succeeding. Are you prepared to compromise and do what’s required to make this happen?  
  7. Carefully work through the financial, emotional, physical and spiritual needs that you will have while you’re working on you. Also, identify what your significant others might need from you during this time.
  8. Write down what success will look and feel like for you. Be as specific as you can. This is one of the most important steps in creating a successful life. 
  9. Build in accountability systems that will keep your momentum going as you progress.
  10. Review your plan constantly, ensuring you adapt and evolve your plan as you achieve your goals.  


Lisa Stephenson

Lisa Stephenson is the author of Read Me First (Major Street Publishing), a book filled with thought-provoking coaching questions, strategies for success and life’s must-haves. Lisa draws on decades of experience as a global speaker, leadership consultant and success coach. She is also the founder of the global, Australian-based consulting firm, Who Am I Projects. For more information on Lisa go to

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