E17 - Attention to Motivation: [The Goal Ambiguity]

Why motivation and goals don't get you anywhere.

Hi everyone,

My name is Lemmy and this is my story of how I became The Attention Master.

If you struggle with motivation, Episode 17 is for you. Let’s dive in!

Here is what you are going to learn today:

  • Why motivation is unreliable.

  • Why goals are spongy.

  • The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

  • Actionable tips to get things done.

Have you ever signed up for something you were super excited about (like a gym membership), told all your friends about it, stuck with it for two weeks, and then dropped it one day?

Don't worry, you're not lazy. It has happened to all of us. Here's why:

1. Why motivation is unreliable

Motivation is like a party animal friend, great for a night out, but not someone you would rely on to pick you up at the airport.

- B.J. Fogg, behavior scientist at Stanford University

A common trap of the human mind: You overestimate your future motivation. You start with something new and your motivation is high, but then it drops rapidly.

Motivations are changing, invisible, competing, and conflicting.

That's why this element of behavior is so hard to pin down and control.

2. Why you should forget about goals

People often believe that motivating themselves toward an aspiration will lead to lasting change.

So they focus on aspirations. And they focus on motivation. And that combo doesn't really produce results.

What is a goal anyway? B.J. Fogg, a behavioral scientist at Stanford, even says:

Don't use the word goal, it's ambiguous.

Use "aspiration" or "outcome" for better precision.

Don't invest your time and energy in an abstraction. Invest it in actionable steps.

A distraction, by definition, takes your attention away from something else you are trying to focus on. A task, a desired outcome, a direction. Something that matters.

You can't be distracted from a non-existent target!

So if you want to master your attention, you have to define your aspiration and your desired outcome. Always.

3. The difference between aspirations, outcomes, and behaviors

"I want to be a good mother" is an aspiration (= abstract wishes/dreams).

"I want to reduce my screen time" is a desired outcome (= measurable).

"I'm going to put my phone away” is a behavior (= actionable task).

A behavior is something concrete that you can do right now.

Aspirations and outcomes can only be achieved over time by performing the right specific behaviors.

Behaviors lead to outcomes, and outcomes make your aspirations come true.

4. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Of course, motivation is not a bad thing, and it can help you get started on a task when you don't feel like it. You just can't count on it naturally.

However, there are a few hacks you can add to your routine.

If you do so, they will help you bring up the starting energy that you need to get off the couch and get started on even the most unpleasant tasks.

Rule of thumb: Choose intrinsic over extrinsic motivation.

Here is everything you need to know about the difference:

In a nutshell:

Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors such as money or praise. These sources create short-lived motivation boosts. They work at first but they fade fast.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from within. It’s long-lasting, self-sustaining, and compounds over time. With intrinsic motivation, you work because you want to - not because you have to.

You'll never find hard work easy unless you switch to intrinsic motivation.

5. The Protocol to take ACTION:

We have created a series of questions you can ask yourself to activate your intrinsic motivation when you are struggling to get started on a task.

Here are some examples:

  1. Purpose: Why does your work make a difference, even if it involves unpleasant tasks?

  2. Personal Growth: What are you learning from the task?

  3. Achievement: What career goal does completing the task bring you closer to?

  4. Life Benefits: What will you do tonight if you complete the task on time?

  5. Collaboration: Who on your team relies on your work and will be extremely grateful for your input?

  6. Mastery: How does the task help you become an expert in your field? Experts make more money!

This knowledge comes at 0 cost

If you learned something,
be generous and share it with friends or family.

See ya next week


  • You overestimate your future motivation.

  • Talking about goals is unprecise.

  • Behavior → Desired Outcome → Aspirations

  • Intrinsic > Extrinsic Motivation

  • Intrinsic = long-lasting + self-sustaining + compounding


We know that mastering your attention is extremely difficult. It's not going to happen in a day. That's why we've created Lemio, an app designed to be your personal buddy on the journey.

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