I truly believe it’s not possible to achieve much in life without motivation. It’s easy to understand why it’s so difficult though. Motivation, arguably, is a mood that comes and goes like a cloud in the sky, and sometimes one can feel very motivated and enthusiastic, and other times lose all motivation. It may seem somewhat uncontrollable and unpredictable – so what does science say? What are some ways we could motivate ourselves more consistently?
One could argue that motivation occurs when the pain of not getting the results you want or reaching your goal becomes greater than your need for procrastination. To put it in other words, eventually change becomes better and more inviting than staying the same, and then we have the motivation to perform the actions necessary for change. This is possibly at the core of motivation – every action has consequences, whether it is changing or doing nothing and staying the same, and there are positive and negative points to all actions. Eventually, we reach the point where we cross a mental threshold and decide to jump into action.
But how do we manage to cross that mental threshold on a regular basis? How do we maintain that frame of mind? The way we generally approach motivation may be the problem. There is a general perception that motivation comes from reading a motivational book or watching a motivational speaker, or even one of thousands of motivational videos popping up on YouTube all the time, however in actual fact passively looking for motivation will actually do nothing to motivate you. Simply jumping into action, even by doing the smallest action, has been proven to be far more motivational. If, for example, you want to achieve a score of 900 on the TOEIC test, you will feel unmotivated and discouraged if you just tell yourself every day how little you are doing and how you really should start seriously studying. Instead, you could start by just simply studying a tiny bit every day – even if it’s just reviewing for 10 minutes on the train. This gives you a small sense of achievement, which in turn motivates you to continue: imagine it like a old steam-powered train, starting slowly and gradually building up momentum, steadily going faster and faster. Our motivation is similar, and if we want to get motivated, taking small actions are the best way to get started. One can compare this to Newton’s first law: objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
So we know that once we’ve begun with a task, motivation comes much more easily. But how can we motivate ourselves to take that first step in the first place? We spend so much time preparing for a task – where should you do it? When is a good time? The best way to deal with this is to make a schedule. By planning a specific time to work on your goals, you’re more likely to stick to it and form the habit of working on it regularly. Putting time aside and just doing the task you need to do will go a long way.
consistently (adv.) – without stopping; continuing the same action; regularly
procrastination (n) – doing small, unimportant tasks to avoid doing an undesirable task
consequence (n) – the result of an action
threshold (n) – an amount, level or limit on a scale which when reached causes some kind of action or change
frame of mind (n phr.) – a current mood; a way of thinking and seeing a situation