HOW TO: GET MOTIVATED
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
So I know I have to write a blog post. My web developer has demanded it...by tomorrow. Eeeek. I said I wanted blog posts, so apparently now I've got to produce one. Except there are so many other REALLY important things I need to do first before I can possibly turn my attention to this necessary evil, right? It's so much fun NOT getting the blog done, I mean, there's um dinner to cook, what about a wee nap?, or finish that episode I started last night, and what's that in my insta feed... yadda yadda yadda... You've been here, right? Ugh, I'm knee-deep in the treacly no man's land that is procrastination and it's a ghastly labyrinth of anxiety and self-loathing and, er, well nothing else much TBH.
THE WRONG SWEET RELIEF
Have you ever got yourself in to a state of anxiety about not getting on with the task you have to do? Did you shelve the job til tomorrow, at which point you experienced some unexpected relief? Yup, this is the moment your good ol' brain gave you a quick dopamine hit for NOT getting on with the job in hand. Which is pretty cheeky. Yup, when your anxiety is high, the immediate relief you get when the anxiety goes gives you a dopamine spike. As the relief feels like reward, therefore the behaviour is rewarded, and we are more likely to repeat the behaviour. But this is not genuine pleasure or reward, it is built on on dallying and adversity and as such is unsustainable to our long-term wellbeing.
DOPAMINE - WE LOVE A BIT OF IT
The good news is that when we expect success we get a spike in dopamine release, when we expect failure, dopamine levels fall. So we can train ourselves to expect success, or we can train ourselves to expect failure. The progress principle in our fulfilment (perceptions and thoughts, emotions and feelings, motivation and drive) means that any progress, however small, is rewarding. And greater fulfilment leads to greater creativity and productivity. So go on, get started, aim small and the big stuff will follow. Enjoy the journey not the destination.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO INCREASE MOTIVATION?
Visualization: no you don't have to get the vision board done or just note your big ol' goals, but, of course, these things don't hurt. An athlete doesn't win by simply imagining themselves on the podium. They have to break their goals down into small achievable steps, manageable and rewarding dots that eventually join up to get that gold. They also have to identify potential pitfalls, and negotiate them. Then they track their successes, but also their obstacles. So keep your eye on the prize but plan how to get there, and anticipate what could go wrong along the way.
Embrace failure: Yup, FAIL = First Attempt In Learning. Believe it, baby. Leading to...
Develop a growth mindset: Those of a fixed mindset believe that our basic abilities, such as intelligence and talent, are fixed. Develop a growth mindset, one which believes that our talents and abilities can be developed through effort, teaching and persistence.
Track your success: Ever raced through that to do list and got immediate relief from doing so, only to start considering the next bunch of yet untackled tasks? Give yourself a little credit. Once you start with those baby steps, you'll soon be able to look back and see that you are making progress.
Imagine the future you: so often we're so caught up in the present we don't connect with our future selves. Who would you like to be in five or ten years? Trying to connect with that person, write a letter to present you from your five-years away self. How did you get to be that person, what are the steps you need to take. Invest in that future you.
Willpower: Willpower is said to be a depleting resource. Ever started the day feeling invincible and by lunchtime lost your mojo? People with great willpower are not necessarily those with great resistance, but they know to avoid situations where they will be tempted. For example, avoiding the confectionary aisle in the supermarket means not bringing sweets home with you, meaning you won't be tempted to a 9pm cupboard raid. Don't rely on willpower alone, develop tactics.
Don't get caught up in guilt and shame: So you didn't quite manage to achieve what you wanted to this time, but it's a journey. Rome wasn't built in a day. Guilt and shame makes us more stressed, so step away from punishing yourself. Work with self-compassion to get yourself back on track because what matters is how we respond afterwards to failure not that it happened at all.
And there, would you know it, I've done the blooming blog post. How? By just getting started... If you're every fizzing, knowing you should be doing something, then just take that first step. The rest will unpack itself from there. Good luck and thanks for reading!