The key to getting motivated: give up

Here's a bit of useful insight from Oliver Burkeman. Could the key to motivation be giving up on getting motivated?

The real problem isn’t that you don’t feel like taking action. Rather, it’s the underlying assumption that you need to feel like taking action before you can act. Which explains the hidden pitfall of most 'motivational' advice: it’s not about how to get things done, but about how to get in the mood for getting things done....

But as research by the Harvard psychologist Daniel Wegner and others has repeatedly demonstrated, our efforts to control our emotions through sheer force of will can end in self-sabotage: resolve to get 'psyched' about some unappealing task, and it’s all too easy to end up fixating on the gap between the emotion you feel and the one you wish you were feeling.

So when the world is going all Tony Robbins on you, call its bluff. Getting things done isn't about "getting in the mood to get things done," or of convincing ourselves that the we really, really want to do the thing we're resisting doing.

There will of course be times when the thing to be done is unpleasant and absolutely necessary. But as Burkeman says elsewhere in his post at 99U, just be the best imperfect person possible. It's good advice. I've discovered that the mood is brightened considerably when that first mistake is made and you realize no one is paying attention anyway.

Burkeman is the author of "The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking."

Stay curious.


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