Motivation can’t be Bought

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 6-16-2021

“Helping isn’t necessarily about having all the right answers. It’s about having the right amount of empathy to validate a struggle that may be outside your comprehension.” -EaE

Life Coaches, fitness trainers, crash diets, public figures, iconic gurus and more. People dying to become the “best version of themselves” with no luck. Repeated attempts at attaining what seems to be unattainable. Frustration experienced by workers when they are unable to help people get past these “stuck points”. Simple solutions and “quick fixes” often getting thrown out in blanket advice form.

I am in no way bashing anyone’s profession, I respect them all and have seen people in the career fields above do some respectable work with people. I have seen plenty of individual transformation stories as well. However, it goes deeper than what meets the eye. Motivation cannot be bought, and that is often what people are trying to buy because it’s hard to summon up within themselves at times.

I always say it isn’t the education and information people are necessarily buying when they hire trainers/ coaches/ mentors. Now a days, we have access to all the info we need, even access to free online workout plans that cater to our body types and goals. We have access to plenty of online advice from professionals as well. What we cannot attain for free, is motivation. So I say, when people hire trainers, coaches and mentors, they are actually attempting to buy motivation.

“I need a workout partner” / “I can’t do it alone” / “I need someone to push me or make me do it” / “I don’t have time” / “I don’t know where or how to get started”. These are common sayings from clients when they want to make changes.

“All you have to do is eat less, do more” / “get past that and move forward” / “today is as good as any day to start” / “it’s easy why can’t they just …. x/y/z”. These are common sayings from motivated, fit, “together” type people talking about people in “stuck points”, that seem to be in a perpetual cycle of goal attempting, but then falling short.


This is the piece of knowledge that everyone, besides mental health professionals, is missing. If you have ever wondered why your friend continues to binge eat despite saying they want to lose fifty pounds, or your relative continues to abuse drugs, in denial year after year. That coworker that always complains about their relationship and stays in it anyways, or the person that hates their job so much, but is afraid to leave it. These are psychological stuck points, they can last for years, decades or even the rest of our lives.

Throwing practical advice out, as our country often does through word of mouth, advertisements and more, will not get a person past a stuck point. The root cause of a psychological stuck point goes so deep, it takes a lot of work to penetrate it. If you’re wondering why someone, or yourself, doesn’t have the motivation to help themselves in what seems to be a very obvious way, you have to identify what is really stopping this.

We may not want what we actually say we want, we may be terrified of what we think we want. We may be ambivalent and pre contemplating this want because it’s societally pushed vs an actual want. We may be too mentally ill to accomplish that particular goal and pushing toward it is draining every ounce of energy we have, and now, we can’t identify why it is even worth it anymore.

Too often than not, the advice given to people in stuck points is likely something they have heard, over and over again. It won’t change where they stand, it will not get them moving any faster toward that goal. They could be in denial, or they could be depleted and done.

The unfortunate thing is that the more some people try, and then “fail”, the harder it becomes to “start over” again on the “right” track. The other unfortunate? It may not be that you’re a failure, it’s actually more likely that you took the wrong approach. You didn’t firstly, address the root cause of your stuck point.

Motivation as a habit

True motivation is a practiced habit, and it is easier to practice when it is something we naturally gravitate toward. It’s easier when we can eventually see/ or feel benefits overtime. Its easier practiced in a safe and supportive environment. Yes, this does mean dysfunctional households create severe setbacks to goal making, time to practice healthy habits, energy to work toward a goal etc.

Many fitness plans and life coaching plans center toward present day goals and moving forward. However, if say, an adult is suffering from an unprocessed mental stuck point that hit at the mere age of 10, they aren’t going to get very far. Time and money will get wasted. A person may then become disempowered vs empowered. This digs that individual even deeper into that stuck-point. Creating an ambivalence toward any real practice of “change” because “it just doesn’t seem possible for them”.

You can then see, how what’s supposed to be a helping profession can actually do a lot of harm, if we are not careful with addressing root causes. Throwing methodical and logical plans at someone that is suffering from severe anxiety, ptsd, self destructive tendencies, severe feelings of worthlessness and/ or an addiction may not work out well. This is where the term “meet the client where they are at” takes on a while new meaning.

To practice motivation in a healthy way, in which we can be empowered, requires us to test our capabilities little by little and practice an unconditional self acceptance toward our mistakes, setbacks and “failures”. To see the roadblocks as “human” vs “this means I’m worthless and should just quit”. It means for some, countering constant cognitive distortions that toxic people have pushed onto them in the past.

For some, motivation comes easier when it is just the activity they have to push past. For others, they must push past the the activity of change, as well as the mental barriers that want to prevent them from change. We must know exactly what we are fighting through and have a realistic idea of how long this practice can take. Small gradual slow break throughs overtime can happen. Being rushed, won’t help. Being told it’s “simple” when it may not be, won’t help.


Regardless of what we may have attempted and “fell short” on in the past, I encourage everyone to go toward something of interest. Especially if this activity/ goal in mind improves multiple areas of our lives. We often don’t require what we think we do, and require what we don’t realize we do. We don’t necessarily need daily workout partners, magical free time, magical energy, quick fixes, a lot of money, tons of praise from peers and an abundance of help.

What’s more valuable, is realistic expectations, boundaries, the knowledge of and practice of self care, self acceptance and the acceptance of shitty days where we will be below average to average. We need the ability to counter shame and give ourselves positive affirmations. I also find that to continue long term, as an athlete, (and this is just my personal advice) it requires a constant reminder of why we are choosing to do what we do.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

3 thoughts on “Motivation can’t be Bought

  1. Great blog. Motivation is hard for me sometimes but I’m trying harder at working at making it as you say a habit. Th as is for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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