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Motivation Has Died but Habits Have Never Been More Alive

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motivation is dead

Since I was a little kid, I have had problems with motivation. As a normal kid, I had poor persistence and concentration and slight frustration problems. If I didn’t get something from the first time, I dropped it. My mother used these simple words that would kill any kind of motivation for me.

She still uses them without realizing it. And I still struggle with motivation. The words were: “You must do so and so,” and my favorite! “There are just things in the world that need to be done, you can’t do whatever you want at any given time.”

I was angry. I was frustrated. I am still. And then I said to myself: “Well, you can’t do anything you want at any given time only if you don’t want what you are doing. So, maybe there’s a way to turn this around? Like, start doing and the desire will come?” And this was the beginning of my journey towards finding motivation.

Now, there’s no better way to kill motivation in me than saying that I should or must do something. It evaporates in a brisk second, replaced with overflowing annoyance. Though I do know how to kill it so easily, I still have no idea how to restore it.

Here are, however, a few observations that I have made on my path of struggling with starting habits and dropping them, trying affirmations and to-do lists, and more:

1. Motivation is a one-time solution, a habit is a lasting one

Motivation can work if you have one or two unpleasant things to do if your main problem is impulse. Then, motivation will become that impulse – to press “call” on your phone’s screen to call an unpleasant client or force yourself out of the comfy armchair to cook some dinner. But mostly, motivation stays what it is, an impulse. You still won’t be happy calling a difficult client next time and cooking dinner when you are exhausted.

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.” – William James

2. Motivation has limits

There’s a good notion that willpower is a muscle that can be trained. More than that, willpower, like a muscle, can get tired. If you have been doing things you don’t like doing all day (or week, or month), there definitely will be a moment when your motivation won’t be enough to get things going. Remember that it is a resource and, as any resource, it needs time to restore.

3. We are hooked on the idea of getting everything without any effort

Why do people care about motivation so much? Because we want the buzz, and feeling of energy and pull towards our goals. In other words, we try to escape the hard work, as usual. If this sounds a little bit odd to you, think of when you have to form a habit. There will be lots of days when you have to go against yourself and actually make yourself do something you don’t like (the part I still struggle with the most).

Humans try to find the other way around. They try to start wanting something so much that the unpleasant nuisances of hard work won’t bother them, and they want to maintain this madness-like bliss forever.

As paradoxical as it sounds, if you are motivated, you don’t have to actually do hard work – you get to a state where the work you are doing isn’t considered as hard. The truth is, if you will manage to maintain your body in such a state 24/7, it will burn out faster than you will reach your dreamed success.

So what works? Here are a few things that worked for me:

1. Figure out what you truly want

Most of the time the lack of motivation is dictated not by laziness or natural inertia, but by the fact that the person doesn’t really know what he or she wants. If you think that you want to start a business, but actually you don’t, everything in you will procrastinate to its fullest. First of all, questioning your true desires and leaving hope, you will understand them the minute you decide to. Most of the time it takes years.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

2. Improve 2% per day

All this about reconnecting with your inner self is great, but we still have to keep moving and do something, right? Then just improve 2% of something a day. For example, you’ve picked eating habits. Find out what activity is the easiest for you to start with. So easy that you were actually almost doing it, but not regularly.

For me, it’s drinking water. I would drink like a camel before a long trip to the desert without any reminders, my body is the greatest reminder. I fail, however, to drink a cup of water in the morning, which does help to wake up your body. Start with the easiest action, and your inner procrastinator won’t resist much. It won’t notice you are tricking him.

3. Form habits

And no, 21 days is not enough to form a habit. This highly depends on individual preferences and your attitude towards the habit, but the count starts from 60 days and more. Sounds discouraging, especially to our sprinter brains that hate long projects.

That’s why the previous 2% hack is so effective – improve just a tiny bit every day. It’s easy, since it doesn’t require a lot of your willpower, motivation or whatever you have there, and soon it will form into an undying and unbreakable habit of improving.

Habits beat motivation, and you know it, because everything you think you are doing “wrong,” you are doing habitually.

How have you found forming habits has helped your life? Leave your thoughts below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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