Anyone who has tried to change some behaviour in their life has most likely asked the question: how can I motivate myself to do this?
Whether it be getting your butt to the gym, starting to eat more healthily, or simply getting a task ticked off your to-do list that has been there for months.
In the minds of many, motivation is some mythical magic that turns you from a lazy, unproductive being into a superhero. If only we could drink a potion of motivation we say, we would be as happy and as healthy as we could possibly be.
Sure, it is both pleasant and useful to be motivated. Everyone is familiar with getting a timely wave of motivation and riding it happily until the sun goes down. But when it isn’t there, it gets a bit more tricky.
The problem comes from the fact that we have been trained to think that the action that we want to take can only arrive after motivation does. That motivation has to kick down the door before action can enter unopposed.
Of course, this is the ideal scenario – but it happens far too infrequently and reliably to be our go-to method for change. As it turns out, we aren’t that good at instructing ourselves to change.
The solution? Realising that we have gotten it wrong all along: motivation doesn’t lead to action, action leads to motivation.
Bestselling author Mark Manson refers to this as the ‘Do Something Principle‘.
The first couple years I worked for myself, entire weeks would go by without accomplishing much for no other reason than I was anxious and stressed about what I had to do, and it was too easy to put it off. I quickly learned that forcing myself to do something, even the most menial of tasks, quickly made the larger tasks seem much easier. If I had to redesign an entire website, then I’d force myself to sit down and would say, “OK, I’ll just design the header right now.” But after the header was done, I’d find myself moving on to other parts of it. And before I knew it, I’d be energized and engaged in the project.
This concept of action leading to motivation far extends just projects and work.
You might recall a time that you had plans, were sat in the house and really, really could not be bothered to go out and see your friends. But you go to your room, you get changed and you decide to see what’s what when you arrive. You convince yourself that you will only stay for one beer and end up having the best night of your life. The simple action of leaving the house led to the motivation to socialise and have fun with your friends. Good for you.
Or if you have practised any sport, you will be familiar with running around being one of the last things you want to do on a cold, Thursday evening. However, 5-minutes in, you are flying around the field like you have just woken up. The lack of motivation is a thing of the distant past, as action came to save the day.
The list goes on and on. Many people claim that the cure for writer’s block is to simply write. It doesn’t have to be much, it doesn’t have to be great quality, just write. Then before you know it, you are on your third paragraph and don’t want to stop anytime soon.
So whether you are looking to finally put away that laundry that has been lying on your floor for weeks or searching for the motivation to pursue your true passion in your professional life, don’t wait for motivation to come around.