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zen habits: Top 20 Motivation Hacks - #19

Friday, February 2, 2007

Top 20 Motivation Hacks - #19

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more. So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the goals I'm going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don't believe in someone being naturally "dedicated" ... it's all a matter of motivation. You can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #19: Hold Yourself Back

When I start with a new exercise program, or any new goal really, I am rarin' to go. I am full of excitement, and my enthusiasm knows no boundaries. Nor does my sense of self-limitation. I think I can do anything. It's not long before I learn that I do have limitations, and my enthusiasm begins to wane.

Well, a great motivator that I've learned is that when you have so much energy at the beginning of a program, and want to go all out -- HOLD BACK. Don't let yourself do everything you want to do. Only let yourself do 50-75 percent of what you want to do. And plan out a course of action where you slowly increase over time. For example, if I want to go running, I might think I can run 3 miles at first. But instead of letting myself do that, I start by only running a mile. When I'm doing that mile, I'll be telling myself that I can do more! But I don't let myself. After that workout, I'll be looking forward to the next workout, when I'll let myself do 1.5 miles. I keep that energy reined in, harness it, so that I can ride it even further.

This has an added benefit of stopping myself from getting injured or burned out. But I promise you, if you hold yourself back, your desire to continue only increases.

Top 20


Debbie said...

Interesting. This is the opposite in some ways from one of my philosophies which is to do something while I'm motivated. If I don't do it right then because I feel like I should be doing something with a higher priority or I feel like it might be preparing for a goal I'll never actually try for, then later when it's appropriate, I may no longer be motivated. Or later things may become urgent and I may no longer have time.

For example, I learned all about how to go about buying a house long before I had the money to actually do it because for some reason I was really in the mood to learn about that. Then when my savings started approaching a reasonable down payment, I already knew a little something about the proper order to do things in and the sort of loans I was willing to consider.

Also, I enjoy updating my resume right after I accomplish something cool and while I still remember important dates. Later when I actually need a resume, I will be that much further along.

I wonder if my philosophy and your hack are addressing different kinds of goals. Maybe not. For example, both could apply to nanowrimo. Your hack could tell you not to try to write 10,000 words in one sitting. Save some ideas for later so that every day you still have something to look forward to. My philosophy would say that if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep because I'm thinking of plot ideas, I should go ahead and work on the novel right then, while I am motivated.

Maybe the real hack is to figure out which way you're likely to err, and then encourage yourself not to err in that direction. I almost never get so gung ho about something that I go overboard with it. I also get less from breaks than regular people do. I have more trouble starting things than I do keeping them up, and if I make myself take breaks to relax or whatever, I lose all momentum and tend never to come back!

Leo said...

Awesome comment, debbie. I think both methods have validity ... yours, I think, works better if it's something you can accomplish in one go. If you can write 10,000 words, or learn all about something, in a very short period of time, then you're right, just do it while you're motivated.

I think my motivation hacks are designed more to keep motivation going for a longer period of time, addressing that phenomenon that you mentioned, that all of us face, of losing motivation over time.

We can all be motivated for a short period of time, but to keep it going after you get excited about other things, to stick with a goal and to keep focus on it, that's the real trick.

I love your comment and it's a great addition to these hacks.