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Motivation

The Myth of Motivation: How to Get Unstuck

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Many of us get stuck in the trap that motivation is something we need to have first to start or finish a task. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

I am sure you’ve been in situations where your mind wanted to accomplish something, but your body said, “Nope, not today.” It’s almost like you are fighting yourself for the very thing you said you wanted to get done.

Many of us procrastinate until we don’t want to think about the task anymore or unconsciously find something else to do to keep our minds preoccupied.

American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson is famously quoted as saying, “Do the thing, and you will get the energy to do the thing.” In translation, even if you don’t feel like writing or working out now, once you open your laptop and start typing or tie up your running shoes and walk out the door, the energy you are seeking to get it done will come after you start.

Even though this quote was said in the 1800s, science is proving what Emerson noted so many years ago.

Here’s the thing about motivation

For so long scientific research associated the dopamine neurotransmitter with pleasure; however, new research confirms that it is also responsible for motivation.

Many of us wait until we feel inspired or motivated to start a new task or habit. We patiently wait for the dopamine to be released into our brain, hoping it gives us the motivation to work out or start writing that new book. And we all know it rarely comes.

Here’s why: motivation comes after starting a task, not before. So, if you desire to start writing a book or hitting the gym after work – try focusing on what David Allen calls the “2-minute rule.”

The rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

So how does this work? When you want to develop a new habit, just focus on the first 2 minutes of the task, and once you do, the motivation surge comes!

If you want to read more, just focus on opening the book and reading one page. If you desire to run after work, just focus on lacing up your shoes and walking out the door. In both of these examples, you will find that once you get started, the rest of the task will flow quite easily.

The idea behind this strategy is just to start; then, your brain will start working for you, giving you the motivation you yearned for prior to starting the task.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, stated, the greatest amount of friction for any type of new task is in the beginning. But when you set a goal just to lace up your shoes and walk out the door or just open your laptop and start writing – you make it so easy it’s difficult for you to say no.

“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Get clear on what you need to accomplish

Another way to instill motivation for a task you want to complete is getting clear on when you are going to complete it. Schedule the task in your day!

This has been the most significant life hack for my consistent writing and reading every day. In fact, my wife and I have this saying that “if it’s not on the calendar, then it’s not getting done.” So even when we hold family meetings, we pop calendar invites on each other’s calendars because we know how busy life can be.

We have way too many distractions and demands to “hope” you’ll find the time to complete a task. Remember this: It’s not getting done if you don’t tell your brain when.

Instead of waiting around, hoping you will find time to complete a particular task, put the task on your calendar. This tells your brain that you won’t do anything else but this task.

The truth you need to understand about motivation

You’ll find that many people never start a task or pursue a goal because they “never got around to doing it.” But if you schedule your tasks daily – it almost puts your willpower and motivation on auto-pilot regardless if you “feel like doing it or not.”

For example, if you desire to hit the gym every other day after work between 5-6 pm – overtime through each gym session, you will begin to create a routine that creates less friction. And since we are creatures of habit – you will continue to deepen the corresponding neural pathway in your brain, making it easier for this new behavior to stick.

It’s almost like your body will pull you toward the newly established habit because you are consciously ingraining a learned behavior.

Many of us allow circumstances and emotions to unconsciously influence the tasks we hope to accomplish, but if you have a consistent routine – your body will naturally fall into line, making it easier on yourself. 

So in the context of human change, motivation is less about having the sufficient energy to carry out a task. Instead, it’s more about understanding how your body develops its behaviors and actions. Once you gain knowledge of how your body works now, you can adequately guide yourself toward the desires you seek.

Chazz Scott is a keynote speaker and mindset expert. He trains entrepreneurs, leaders, and professionals to achieve their potential personally and professionally. Chazz is also the Executive Director & Chief Creative Optimist of Positively Caviar, Inc., a grassroots 501(c)(3) nonprofit, focused on using optimism and positive thinking to build mental resilience and disrupt mental health stigmas in underserved communities. For more info, check out his weekly blog at: www.chazzscott.com or download his latest workbook designed to help you build good habits and break bad ones to achieve your goals faster: download here.

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