The Lack of Motivation
The lack of motivation has to be one of the biggest barriers to success facing people in the world today. We’ve all been in that state of inertia in which we want to do nothing but lay in bed and watch Game of Thrones. We all go through those phases in which we just feel like bums. This sometimes leads to feelings of guilt because we know that we are supposed to be doing something that we are not doing. Then this guilt further demotivates us and we enter a deadly loop.
But we know that in order to achieve great things we have to dream big. We have to develop confidence in ourselves to know that we can achieve those dreams. We have to create a dreamline or some other concrete plan to reach our goals. Most importantly, we must put our plans into action! But for some of us, this is the most difficult part. Even when we know what needs to be done in order to get where we want to be, we sometimes just can’t muster up the immediate motivation to begin.
So what should we do in those situations? What can we do to motivate ourselves to spring into action?
The Cure for Demotivation
The reason for demotivation is the law of inertia: a body in motion (or at rest) tends to stay in motion (or at rest) unless acted on by an external force. So when we are at rest, ie. when we are demotivated and lackadaisical, it is much easier to stay in that state. But when we are in action, it is much easier to keep going. So all we need is that force to push us into action. But what is that force? Is it motivation? Inspiration?
Well this is what most of us believe. We believe that motivation and inspiration are the driving forces of action. And they are. But the mistake that most of us make is waiting to feel motivated in order to be driven to action. Indeed, motivation leads to action but it does not necessarily have to flow that way.
Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
– Mark Manson
To most of us, this is the intuitive process: Inspiration -> Motivation -> Action. Emotional inspiration motivates us to spring into action. But we are missing an arrow in the process; it’s not linear, it’s a cycle:
This cycle can be initiated at any point: inspiration, motivation or action. So to initiate the cycle, we have three options: we can seek inspiration which will create an emotional drive to motivate us into action; we could find incentives to help motivate ourselves into taking action; or we can begin with action which will break the inertia, creating momentum and leading to inspiration and motivation. The third way – action – seems to be the option that we have most control over. So maybe that’s the one we need to concentrate on.
When we take action, we set ourselves in motion, making it easier to stay in motion. The action switches our mental and emotional focus to the task at hand. This makes us invested in the task and provides us with inspiration to get better or to continue the action.
So the cure for demotivation is action.
How to Spring to Action
I am suggesting that action is what leads to action. If this seems counterintuitive, it’s because it is. It’s like the chicken and the egg. What will get us to act in the first place?
Well, remember the law of inertia? We need a force to break the inertia of rest for us to take action. But the nice thing is, the smaller and less complicated the action, the smaller the force required to push us needs to be. So the trick is to strip the action down to something extremely easy. For example, if you want to write a song, don’t let your action be to write the song. Let your action be to write “two crappy lines.”
Two lines is relatively small compared to an entire song. And “crappy” relieves the performance anxiety associated with writing a “good” song. You can literally write anything. So writing two crappy lines (vs writing a song) is a much less daunting and much easier task to accomplish. Therefore, the force (willpower/motivation) required to complete this action is very small.
But this will create a snowball effect – we write two crappy lines, then two more, then the next two lines are better because we are getting in the zone, then the lines improve more, then we get an idea and change the first two lines, and so on… Action leads to inspiration which breeds motivation which leads to more action.
So here are some tips to follow when you’re demotivated:
- Remember that the cure for demotivation is action. So decide to do something. Push yourself with the thought that, after you begin, you will feel motivated to continue.
- Don’t make the action be the entire task. Make beginning the task be your new goal and reduce the expected quality of the results. The idea is to just do something. Anything.
- Trust the process and focus on the action you have decided to do.
- After you start, keep going. It will be easier.
Mark Manson spoke about this subject in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. He calls it the “Do Something” Principle. Here’s an audio extract from the book:
The idea is to rewire your mind to believe that the cure to a lack of motivation is action. So whenever you feel demotivated, you must act in order to stop feeling that way. The more you practice this, the more this idea is reinforced in your brain and soon it will become a habit.
So do try this approach. It’s worked for me in many aspects of my life – music, gymnastics, this blog! So I think it can work for you too. Please let me know how it goes in the comments below.
May you live an action and motivation filled life 🙂