Edited on 9/16/08: Rewrote the second half to take Nathan’s excellent comment into account.
This is the third post in a three-part series about motivation.
If you’re a sensitive person, you’ve probably noticed that most motivational advice really sucks for you. Much of the advice you’ll find from motivational speakers, motivational books, and motivational blogs is rooted in a fear-based approach. They teach you to whip yourself into shape, how to boss yourself around, how to split yourself into a drill sergeant and a corporal. Kyeli and I aren’t big fans of fear. We follow a love-based approach.
Believe it! You can form good habits, practice self-discipline (if you want to call it that), be a highly effective person, and achieve anything you wish — and you can do it all by throwing away that stick and going for the carrot instead.
Love yourself! Motivate yourself by your desire to achieve your goals instead of by your fear of failing to achieve them. You can be kind and gentle to yourself and still be effective and productive — and as an added bonus, you won’t suffer from burnout! The key is to keep your goal in mind. If you remember how much you want to achieve your goal, if you taste it often, that yummy carrot will keep you going far longer and far happier than that nasty stick or that vicious whip.
To achieve your goals, you may need to use “hard self-discipline”: working up the willpower to do something even though you don’t feel like doing it at that moment. But you can even do hard self-discipline with love instead of fear! When you’re faced with the challenging situation where your goal lies on the other side of a chasm of stuff you don’t feel like doing right now, there’s no need to bring out the whip and force yourself to jump. There’s no need to tell yourself that you’re a lazy loser if you don’t buckle down and put your nose to the grindstone. There’s no need to beat yourself with the “fear of failure” stick. Simply do what you most want to do. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
If you want your goal more than you want to avoid doing the unappealing things that block the path to your goal, then do it. Go for the goal. It’s what you most want to do, after all.
On the other hand, if the unappealing things aren’t worth the goodness of reaching your goal, give up! Instead, do something else entirely — something that you want to do even more. It’s what you most want to do, after all.
Whatever you do, be wholehearted about it. Remember that you’re doing what you most want to do.
If you’re working toward your goal, remember that, taste it, and it will make the unpleasant tasks feel more pleasant. Remember that you’re choosing a rough journey because you’re super excited about getting to your destination, and find ways to remind yourself of that excitement often. Focus on the goal, because achieving your goal is what you most want to do.
On the other hand, if you’re choosing to give up on this goal and focus on something different instead, keep that in mind as you go. There’s no need to beat yourself up for not being tough enough to kick your own ass into shape. Failure doesn’t even enter the picture, because all you’re doing is balancing out your competing desires. If your new choice is an enjoyable journey over a not-as-desirable destination, then don’t forget to enjoy the journey! Focus on your new goal or desire instead of the goal you gave up on. Giving up on something that you want less is a good thing, because it frees you up to focus on something you want even more.
In the long run, positive reinforcement is more powerful than negative reinforcement. Water flows longer than fire burns. Love wins out over fear.