Where Motivation Begins

“Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject.” – Thomas Mann

By Margo Graf

Motivation is a powerful, yet fickle beast. Sometimes motivation comes naturally and sweeps you up in a whirlwind of excitement. Other times, you may find yourself unable to think or move towards anything. Procrastination sets in and you get comfortable in its lukewarm grasp. But there is a science to motivation and by understanding how the gears work, you can tackle motivation and accomplish whatever it is you have set out for yourself.

In his book, “The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield gets to the core of motivation. To paraphrase, “At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.” Therefore, it is easier to change than to stay the same. It is easier to take action and feel out of place at Planet Fitness than to start another Netflix series from the couch. It becomes more acceptable to feel awkward making sales pitches than not being able to afford rent.
This is the essence of motivation.

Every choice comes with a price. However, we reach a point when it is easier to withstand the inconvenience of setting forth than to bear the pain of remaining the same. Somehow we cross a mental, emotional, or physical threshold and it becomes more painful not to do the work than to actually do it.

So what can we do to make it more likely that we cross this threshold and become motivated on a consistent basis? You know the saying, “Don’t stop when you are tired. Stop when you are finished.” Well until you know where to start, you will never get to the finish line. Motivation is the result of action, not the cause of it. Getting started, even if that means simply putting on your running shoes, naturally produces momentum. Remember the science: objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Once a task has begun, it is easier to continue moving along. Use the energy to propel yourself forward.

Once started on a task, progress occurs more naturally. Nearly all of the friction is at the beginning. In other words, it can be easier to finish a project than to start one. Creating a schedule puts your decision-making on autopilot and gives your goals a time and a place to live. It applies pressure and helps you stay accountable and follow through. Do not wait… set a schedule for your habits right now.

Many of the world’s great artists follow a consistent schedule. They are not dependent upon motivation or inspiration, but rather they follow a consistent routine. Turning your motivation into a habit provides a way to initiate your behavior without having to think about it. It makes following through on a consistent basis more streamlined.

Creating a behavior or routine needs to be automatic and easy. This is important because when your task does become challenging, you will have built the strength and stamina to complete it. The routine will become so engrained to your performance that by simply doing the routine, you enter the mental state that is already primed for success. Remember to encourage patience, endurance, and a penchant for time keeping. Our rituals can be so fascinatingly mundane, such as starting each day with a 5-minute meditation, that we can easily follow them. Begin with a routine and your motivation will follow.

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