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zen habits: Top 20 Motivation Hacks - #7

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Top 20 Motivation Hacks - #7

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 #7: Become aware of your urges to quit, and be prepared for them.

One of the things I discovered as I was quitting smoking was that when I had an urge to smoke a cigarette, I didn't really think about it. I wasn't aware of the urge on a conscious level. And so I would automatically start justifying the urge, without realizing I was doing it.

And so I discovered that one of the most powerful things I could do was to start being more conscious of those urges. A good exercise is to go through the day with a little piece of paper and put a tally mark for each time you get an urge. It simply makes you aware of the urges.

This can work for any goal, because with any goal, we get urges to quit, at least for that moment. We might not feel like running today, so we automatically begin justifying it to ourselves. We might feel a lag in motivation about spending (and spending urges are strong!) or about dieting or anything else really. Become aware of those urges, those moments of crisis that are mostly unconscious.

The next step is to have a plan for when those urges hit. Plan for it beforehand, and write down your plan, because once those urges hit, you will not feel like coming up with a plan. It will be too late, usually. The plan could include such tactics found in the other motivation hacks here on this site, such as "just get started" or "remind yourself of your powerful reasons". My strategy for quitting smoking was to take deep breaths and drink water, and never have a cigarette without goiing on the quit smoking forum and posting about my urges first. Then, if that didn't work, I would first enlist the help of my supporters (my wife and mom). I made it very difficult to have that cigarette. And that worked for me. I suggest you have a similar plan, with a series of obstacles to get in your way.

First be aware of those urges. We all have them, and it's no shame to get them. Just know that they are happening. And have a plan to conquer them. They are strong, but not unbeatable.

Top 20


Anonymous said...

I've been to therapists, I tried "fixing" other aspects of my life, I've tried whatever I or anyone I knew could conjure up to keep me from giving into those urges and beating myself up about it. My goals are complicated with many obstacles within obstacles. I'm trying to rebuild my life after having had cancer and now having to find ways to cope with the late effects of treatment and rediscovering 'me'. That's what life is about, right? Change.

Well you've given me advice that I've so easily used in my life before but never even thought of trying for the more difficult challenges. I need to make myself a plan BEFORE I start doubting myself or getting urges. Thanks.

Leo said...

@LiFE: Wow. Thanks for sharing your experiences. That's very powerful. You are going through more than I can comprehend, so I won't try to give you advice on that.

One thing I did notice from your comment, and I am speaking from a position of ignorance so forgive me, is that you said your goals are complicated. My suggestion is that you set smaller goals (if you haven't already) that are sub-goals of the goals you currently have. Make them easily achievable. It's very difficult to sustain motivation over a long period of time, especially when there are multiple obstacles.

Just target the first step towards your goal. Make it a mini goal. Achieve that, and you will feel good about it. Then set another small goal, and achieve that. Continue to do this and soon you're pretty well along the way.

And yes, making a plan before you get the urges or doubts is crucial, or at least has been for me.

Good luck, my friend, and please keep coming back, share your experiences, and let me know if there's anything I can help you with.