Oprah: Can you tell me how you came to know what you know about the nature of motivation?
Brendon Burchard: Death. When I was 19, I was in a horrific car accident, and it taught me that at the end of our life, we ask all these questions. And my questions, I discovered, were: Did I really live my life? Did I love? Did I matter? And I was unhappy with the answers. There was this moment when I pulled myself out of the car—blood all over my body—and wondered, Do I matter? I was young, so I wasn't even connected to the idea of mortality, but I felt it and it coursed through me. And so, in the months after, I thought about those moments and the grace I felt that day and realized I needed to be more intentional.
OW: The key word—intention. In The Motivation Manifesto, you say there's an art to motivation and it begins with a decision.
BB: Well, there's a starting place. And that starting place for everyone is ambition. We're all scared of that word today because they made it bad in the late '80s. As if desire is not a good thing.
OW: I remember an interviewer, whom I shall not name, once said to me, "You're quite ambitious, aren't you?" And she said it in such a way that I thought, Maybe it has a double meaning. But back to what you're saying—we need to have ambition or desire, and most people get lost somewhere between the desire and the doing. Every single year, people start out with great ambition and great desire, but by mid-February they've given up. I notice it at the gym: Around February, you no longer have to wait for the treadmill. What happened? What is that?
BB: There are different parts to motivation. The people you're talking about at the gym possess half of the first part, which is ambition—but ambition has to be joined with expectancy. A sense that you have a dream for yourself that you believe can happen. A lot of people have the ambition, but they never ask themselves, Do I really believe I can do this? The second part is attention and effort. It takes an extraordinary amount of attention to manifest any ambition. But life intervenes—distractions and obligations pull us away from the ambition we originally had. In January, we're focused on our goals. We write them down in our journals, put them on vision boards, talk about them because everyone asks, "What do you want this year? What's your thing?" So there's social communication supporting you, but that's not happening by March. By then, the only thing we're talking about is taxes.
OW: The key to getting motivated and staying motivated is...
BB: Attention and effort. Which is the hardest part because they hinge on attitude and environment. How do I feel about my day? Am I surrounding myself with good people? The ability to focus and stay disciplined with regard to our real dream or desire is difficult because of two enemies: self-oppression and social oppression. By March, maybe your husband is saying, "Well, you haven't done so well at this." Or your kids say, "Mommy, I want you to come back. You used to give me more time." But chasing any ambition takes time away from someone or something.
OW: So if you're going to stay motivated, you have to be willing to give the attention and effort, and know that one doesn't work without the other?
BB: Motivation comes from effort. People say, "I wish I had more motivation today, because then I would try something." But our thinking is backward. The way our brain works is that dopamine—the so-called feel-good chemical—is released the second we actually do something. So the motivation doesn't come before, it comes after.
OW: That's right. I always say "I wish I felt like working out," but if you work out, then you feel like working out.
BB: Absolutely. We have to reconceptualize and understand that the act of pursuing our dreams and being our full selves is what allows us to feel alive. Aliveness doesn't happen in silence. Aliveness doesn't happen in repression. Aliveness happens in action.