The slippery eel of self-motivation

It's that point where you decide to have the rest of the packet of biscuits you were going to make last a week. It's looking at the essay title and feeling that you can't even write 100 words on the subject let alone 3000.

It's getting to your next birthday and remembering the idea for the novel you were going to day.

It's that blog which you started with great enthusiasm and then forgot the password for, having written 4 posts.

It's 'getting round to' sorting out the loft, and then there being the perfect rainy day for that very activity.

It's having the first Saturday off in ages and knowing you have to do cleaning.

It's signing up to that photography class that you KNOW is good, because your neighbour's daughter went and said it was excellent.

It's taking the photographs you promised yourself that you would take after you went to the photography class.

It's 'eating more fruit' ...when everyone else has chocolate cake.

It's getting yourself to actually achieve things, follow things through, quit wasting a good 24 hours procrastinating about something before having to hurridly finish it.

Why do we lack motivation to do things? Why is it that we look at a relatively simple task and see a mountain or a forest? What part of our brain stamps its foot and says 'NO!'? Even worse, we tell ourselves something is boring, or we expect it to be painful, or just depressing. We would rather do anything else. In order to put off the essay, we tidy the house (because it 'needs' it). We mope around hoping something else will come along which is suddenly more 'urgent', and we can say 'I had no choice' to anyone who challenges our choice.


A step back asks ourselves 'Why don't we want to do this?' Chances are it's short term pain which you have to go through in order to achieve what you want. We go to the dentist and he puts a drill IN OUR MOUTH in order to prevent pain or to stop the current twinge/discomfort/agony. We write the essay, because we want the good mark because we want the degree. The question is really: How much do I want it? Closely linked is 'How much will I regret throwing this opportunity away?' The reason 'youth is wasted on the young' is because they (we!) have had many less 'I'll never be able to do that' moments. The looking back and wondering 'What if?' moments. The 'seeing someone else make a success of the idea I had AGES ago' moments. The 'second chance' of love or life and vowing to never let it go' moment.

'I wish I had done that at your age' is the most satisfying thing to hear albeit in a slightly twisted way! Knowing that you still have a chance to act, gives you the opportunity to start now, begin again, get ahead of the game.

The idea that you might be able to look back at the end of your life and be happy with what you've achieved was first introduced to me by Sarah Cooper, a careers coach and lovely lady, in her blog post which challenges us to write an obituary. It came after a set of circumstances forced me to reconsider my whole 'world view'. I knew I didn't want to waste more of my life on things which I no longer held in high esteem because they had come crashing down. I also knew that the only time I had was NOW. I use the Leo Tolstoy quote on my About Me page because it reminds me that it is in the here and now that we choose to act, we choose to take steps towards our future success, and enact the ideas we want to carrry forward. We write our novels and essays and clean our toilets and start our businesses because we say 'Boo' to a goose and we want to be able to say 'I did it'. I wrote the novel I always wanted to.

But the task seems HUGE and we get stuck, I can hear it already. Yes, I know, I've been there. So break it down. Take baby steps. One chapter, one outline, one sentence. Take a look at @thisissethsblog, one of my favourite bloggers. You really think he started with all that content? Of course not. He had to transfer ideas from head to paper (or laptop).  He had to write blog post No. 10. Or No. 25 or No. 243 whichever was the one he got stuck on. He got through the tough times. You can too. It's determination who wins.

I once heard a saying (please comment if you know who it was) that said 'Brick walls are for other people.' Do you get it? If you want to achieve what you want to achieve, you won't be put off by the stuff that puts others off. If you want to get to a point you have only dreamed about you're going to have to get over the pain barrier which is approaching. Think of it as going to the dentist. There is drilling, but it WILL stop sometime. It'll be longer than you hope and you'll be cursing the dentist throughout, but ultimately you're creating the mindset which knows that you have to go through this stage to come out the other side saying 'Good job!'

Self-motivation is a clear skill. It separates the men from the boys. It is not cowed by the lizard brain (see explanation from Seth Godin), which smells danger and runs back into trees. It is looking ahead. I think it's the hardest journey, when you're constantly having been given expectations about what you can achieve, and yet you're doing what you're told because you fear the consequences of what happens if you don't follow that path. Take a step back and decide you're either doing it for you or you're not doing it at all.