How do I motivate myself?

❝How do I motivate myself?❞

“How do I motivate myself to do this?” is a common thing to say to ourselves but doesn’t really mean what we think it does. What we think we’re asking is “how do I make myself want to do this?” or, if we want to be kind to ourself, “how can I persuade myself to want to do this?”. But there is a problem with this question for two reasons.

Firstly, it might not even be a question that we’re attempting to answer and actually we might be aggressively saying to ourself “oh why can’t I motivate myself” which is telling ourself off rather than trying to encourage ourself. Say it out loud and does it sound like something you are trying to answer or are you just beating yourself up? Say it again, but this time as “hmm, why I can’t motivate myself” and making sure there is a question mark at the end. Does it sound different?

Secondly, even if it is a question, it is not the right one! There isn’t a way to make yourself want to do something that you know you don’t want to do right now. But that’s not what “motivate” means. “Motivate” means to move and with that in mind, the answer to the question “how do I motivate myself?” becomes clearer: how do I go from the stationary position I find myself in to a different state in which I am moving? Or, less politely, how I do get off my bum? Answer: start moving.

What we’re really asking is how do we overcome our inertia to stay where we are in order that we become motivated. Maybe if I start reading this book or writing this essay or doing this task that I don’t at the moment appear to want to do, that I might find myself doing it and might even find some satisfaction or pleasure or enjoyment in doing it. And that really is the order of events. I need to start doing it in order that I be motivated and once I am doing it I might enjoy it. Or, even if I can’t actually enjoy doing it, I might enjoy or be satisfied or be pleased that I have done it.

And then we need to notice that this is how it happened, to pat ourself on the back for having been able to do something we didn’t want to do, because tomorrow, tomorrow we will be in the same position, but tomorrow we will be able to remember that he have been in this place before and that the answer last time was to get off our bum and get going, at which point we are going.

Procrastination, menu for other posts

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