A shotgun approach to motivation
Some of our motivation comes from our own interest, and drive.
Some of our motivation comes from external factors like approval, status, money, points or whatever.
Either way, we all have a limited amount of motivation to apply to our day. It runs out.
I think the right metaphor for it is as an engine. It runs on energy, and creates force. The energy can be clean energy (intrinsic) or dirty energy (extrinsic), but it creates motivational force either way.
What happens when the engine breaks, or runs out of energy?
If we’re serious about maintaining consistent motivation about something in our lives, we need to have a backup plan, a contingency plan, for emergencies.
Every great and reliable system in nature is built to expect failure. It’s only by expecting failure, and preparing relentlessly for it, that your system has a chance to survive.
Any system that requires motivation to continue, and that doesn’t have a thoroughly tested backup plan for how to handle lack of motivation (from the preferred source) doesn’t really have a great chance to succeed.
Next time you make a goal or come up with a plan, think about this. Make note of your primary source of motivation to complete the goal/plan, and then assume that it is not going to take you through to the end. Supplement with alternative sources of motivation.
Here are a few examples (some intrinsic, some extrinsic):
- Tell someone to check in with you every week and ask about your progress
- Put money on the line
- Put up visual reminders of your own personal values that this goal is in line with
- Set alarms on your phone, add reminders to your calendar
- Come up with “minimum effective dose” for a goal that you can do in a given day or week when you don’t have enough energy to go further than that
- Go public with it… blog/tweet/etc about it so that you get the sense that others expect it of you
Of course, there are thousands of motivational techniques out there, that work to varying degrees. There is some merit in finding the “best” ones for you, and the ones that are the most aligned with your actual values rather than with guilt or fear or vanity. (What better way than experimenting with them and seeing which ones produce the best results?) At the same time, for those things that you *really truly* want to give every chance for success, I wouldn’t stop before adding on a few of the extrinsic motivations as well… even though they’re lower quality, they’re cheaper and can sometimes help in a pinch with everything else is depleted.