“I really need to work out today, but I’m not motivated at all.”
I often hear wifey say this when we’re hanging around the house.
Have you ever found yourself saying something like this?
“I really should ______ but I just don’t ______.”
- “I really need to meditate today, but I just don’t feel like it.”
- “I really should do meal prep this week, but I’m just so tired.”
- “I really should take my spouse out for date night, but I just want to stay home.”
- “I really should write a blog post today (ha!), but I just don’t want to.”
Underlying these statements is a mindset about motivation and what it takes to take action.
Can you hear it?
It’s the expectation that we’ll take action when we feel like it. It’s the assumption that motivation is about waiting until we feellike doing something.
That action then reinforces our perception of who we are and how we behave.
The process looks something like this: Feeling/Emotion > Behavior/Action > Perception/Identity
Let’s think about what happens when we follow this model.
On Monday, you wake up, one week into your new meditation habit. You don’t feel like meditating, so you skip it. Tuesday comes but you still don’t feel like it, so you skip again. Wednesday comes—still don’t feel like it. By Friday you don’t even think about trying and by the following Monday you’ve forgotten you were learning to meditate. All the while, you’ve reinforced the idea that you don’t finish what you start. You can’t stick to a habit long enough for it to be engrained.
It’s a mental model that’s doomed to fail, taking down any hopes of an empowering self-image as it sinks.
Does this example sound familiar?
I know it sounds especially familiar to every New Year’s Resolution, especially from January 1st – January 8th, where 25% of resolutions get dropped. (And only 10% remain twelve months later.)
Now, there are many more reasons why changing behavior is challenging, from the whirlwind, to a lack of accountability, to a lack of buffer in our lives. But we aren’t helping ourselves with this mindset about motivation and action.
At its heart is the expectation, or the mindset that we’ll take action when we feel like it.
And we badly need to change this mindset.
First, we need to update our mindset around motivation. Replace “I’ll take action when I feel like it,” with, “One of the best ways for me to get motivated is by taking action.”
Drill it into your brain, every time you’re on the verge of making a decision. “It doesn’t matter whether or not I feel like it. Merely taking action will help me feel like it.”
(According to a Duke University Study cited by Stephen Guise in How to Be an Imperfectionist, emotional change is about twice as likely to be caused by actions as opposed to thoughts.)
Second, we need to reverse the order of the motivation framework above.Instead of Feeling > Behavior > Identity, we must operate according to this model: Perception/Identity > Behavior/Action > Feeling/Emotion.
When you’re on the verge of making a decision, ask yourself, “Who am I committed to being?”
Third, we need to learn to truly decide. The etymology of “decide” is Latin “de” (meaning “off”) and caedere (meaning “cut”). When you Decide something, you cut yourself from all other routes forward. Your future is forever changed. There is no going back.
When you Decide to get married, every cell in your body becomes committed to that decision, and you will fight to the death for the success of it. When you Decide to work out every day, there will never be a future day in which you don’t work out. Ever.
Instead, most of us make decisions willy-nilly, without ever understanding what it really means to commit to something 100%, no excuses, never turning back.We forfeit the power of our choice. We do a serious disservice to our future selves.
(This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course, but it’s a good start.)
So, what’s your motivation mindset?
Which of these interventions will you take action on?
(Really. I would love to hear! J)