Why Inspiration is For Idiots
It’s old news, you’ve long suspected it to be true, but you might not be aware that there’s actual science behind it. Well there is: People who post inspirational quotes are more likely to be stupid.
Researchers at Canada’s Waterloo University tested 845 participants, examining how receptivity to “Pseudo-profound bullshit” relates to intellect. Participants were asked to assess whether a series of statements were profound or relatable. These statements varied from actual advice from new age gurus like Deepak Chopra, to pure word-salad bullshit.
Researchers then performed cognitive tests on the participants; while also asking questions about conspiracies, religion and the paranormal.
The results won’t surprise you, especially if you have an aunt on Facebook who likes Minions memes. The people most receptive to the bullshit inspirational quotes performed most poorly in the cognitive tasks (They were also more likely to believe in conspiracy theories).
So what? Nobody’s getting hurt, right? Sure, and joking aside people should feel free to do whatever they want. But you might consider the down side of so-called “inspiration.”
1 – Inspiration/motivation is overrated…
I’m going to tell you a secret: You don’t actually have to feel inspired or motivated in order to do something. You can just… do it.
Well yes, you say, but surely feeling motivated to do something makes it easier? Actually no. Often, by waiting to feel motivated you are simply setting up another barrier that prevents you from taking action. If you’re scrolling instagram memes when you should be putting on your trainers and just getting started, something is awry. In short, don’t let motivation become another form of procrastination.
2- Inspiration is often inaccurate …
“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Nietzsche said that. Did you know Nietzsche had syphilis? He contracted it in his thirties. It eventually drove him mad, made him blind and massively impacted the quality of his work. It didn’t kill him though.
Of course, when Nietzsche said those words they had context. The thing about stripping a single quote out of a book and superimposing it over a picture of a waterfall is you tend to drain it of subtlety.
The message of most inspirational quotes is the same: Hard work overcomes adversity. Just grit it out and everything will be fine. And sometimes that’s a great lesson. And sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you need to work smarter, not continue to bash your head against a brick wall. Sometimes the plan you’re following is bad. And sometimes, sadly, no amount of hard work and positive mental attitude will make any difference at all.
Having a ton of “Motivation” to follow a bad plan will just get you shit results a bit faster. A good plan plus good habits beats motivation every time.
3- Inspiration often leads to unhappiness …
The philosopher John Stuart Mill said; “ask yourself if you are happy and you cease to be so.”
How do you feel after scrolling through Facebook for an hour? Chances are you saw a few inspirational quotes in that time. So, do you feel inspired? Motivated? Or do you feel a bit hollow, or maybe have a vague sense that you’re not quite doing enough?
The problem with much motivational imagery is it paints the future as some far away place where you are always happy, always have enough money, are always in great shape and never experience stress. But it’s never the future, it’s only ever now. When a quote or image forces you to focus on the shortfall between where you are and where you want to be, the result is unhappiness. And remember; you’ll never be where you want to be, that goal is a constantly moving target.
Which all sounds a bit depressing. But here’s the positive take away: You don’t need motivation or inspiration to start moving forward, in fact motivation usually follows action.
Habit and planning beats motivation every time. So unfollow the motivational quote accounts, stop searching for inspiration. Pick a decent plan and get in the f*cking gym.
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Words by Zack Cahill