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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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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. cruzpaul

    Jan 2, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Much appreciated Hannah for this one. Extremely accommodating. Been having the issue of short inspiration traverse. This will be exceptionally valuable.

  2. Kate

    Nov 27, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Rationalization is the art of coming up with facts to defend something that is indefensible. The moment you can see through the smokescreen of your rationalizations and admit that something you do is compulsive and harmful is the moment you can start to take action.

  3. TANROSE Anomuogharan

    Jun 5, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Thanks Hannah for this one. Really helpful. Been having the problem of short motivation span. This will be very useful.

  4. Vicky

    Apr 22, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    hey there Hannah. Thats a lovely write up youve got for us all. its very educative and for all classes of people.
    indeed, if we want to see an improvement in our life, we’ve got to change and not be resistant to change. Cos we can’t keep doing same things over and over again expecting different results.
    am happy i got the chance to read your article

  5. carl melton

    Apr 10, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    I love the article Hannah.
    Habits are so hard to form and so easy to break – an old sports frind of mine used to say 6 months to get fit, 6 weeks to get unfit!
    Incremental change is really important if you want to get better at something you already do, but sometimes (like for example if you want to run your own business) you need to kick start things with something bigger!

  6. Nicholas Marchwinski

    Apr 6, 2017 at 2:40 am

    Great article Hannah. I really like the emphasis regarding building habits. I was an indiviudal who use to act purely on motivation until I realized how draining it was. Building habits are extremly important for implementing new objectives in your everday life, and i feel that you referenced that perfectly.

  7. jay

    Apr 2, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    thanks for wonderful article. I hope i can find my rhythm..

    • Hannah Stone

      Apr 4, 2017 at 8:36 am

      Thank you, Jay, I’m glad to share my experience.

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