I’ve written about motivation a bunch of times before here on Zen Habits, but the more I learn about it, the more I realize that motivation isn’t that complicated.
Sure, there are numerous tips that can help, numerous tactics and strategies I’ve used with success. But it really all boils down to two things.
And those two things are so deceptively simple that you might decide to stop reading after I name them: 1) make things enjoyable and 2) use positive public pressure. But read on for more on how to use those two things to motivate yourself for any goal.
It’s motivation, Not Discipline
First let’s back up a little bit. A number of readers have emailed me about sticking to their goals — anything from exercise and eating right to being organized and productive to creating new habits — and have said they simply lack the discipline to stick with things for very long.
But what is discipline, really? It’s mostly an illusion, in my experience.
When people say that someone has “discipline”, as I’ve written about before, they really mean he has the motivation to stick to something.
In a previous post I used the example of someone in the military, a typical case of somone who is said to have discipline. This military man might get up super early, fix his bed neatly, go on an early-morning run, do a bunch of other exercises, and generally do a disciplined job throughout the day.
But is that just because he’s disciplined? I think it’s mostly because he’s in a situation where there’s public pressure (both positive and negative) to do all of the things listed above. If he doesn’t do them, he might get yelled at or demerited or look bad in front of his peers. If he does do them, he’s an exemplary soldier.
There’s also the fact that after awhile, these things become pleasurable for him. He gets a sense of satisfaction out of staying in shape and keeping things neat. He enjoys the early morning. He feels good about being conscientious about his job.
So in the end, it’s not some vague quality (”discipline”) that allows him to stick to these habits, but rather the two secrets of motivation: positive public pressure and enjoyment.
What I Learned From My Experiences
Over the last few years, , I’ve been experimenting with achieving various goals — from waking early to exercising to eliminating my debt and living frugally and simply and more. And what I’ve learned has repeatedly taught me that these two key motivation principles are all you need.
I’ve learned other things as well, but the more I stick to my goals, the more I realize that it’s these two themes that keep repeatedly surfacing. It’s almost eerie, actually. Just a few goals as illustration:
* Marathon. Right now I’m training for my third marathon, in Honolulu this December. As I’ve stuck with the toughest marathon plan I’ve ever undertaken (last week my longer runs were 12 and 20 miles, and this week I’m doing 2 runs of 14 miles), I’ve marveled at my ability to keep at it. wow power leveling, , But it’s not hard to figure out why: I’ve publicly committed to doing this marathon — on this blog, on Twitter, and on Train For Humanity, where I’m raising money for humanitarian causes through my training (sponsor me here!). In addition to that, I’m really enjoying all the running!
* Blogging. I’ve now been blogging for almost two years (I started in January 2007), making Zen Habits one of the longest-running projects I’ve ever stuck with. I’ve worked on many projects before, but they are usually completed within a year, if not within a few weeks or months. Anything longer is usually intimidating to me. But it hasn’t taken discipline to stick with blogging, not at all. It’s something I really enjoy, and there’s the added bonus of positive public pressure (that’s you, the readers) that has motivated me to stick with it.
* Writing a book. A couple months ago, I finished the manuscript for my book, The Power of Less, that’s coming out at the end of this year. I will admit that I had some trouble writing this book, buy archlord gold, cheap wow gold with the demands of publishing a blog (two blogs actually), training for my second marathon in March, and preparing for my wedding in June. I wasn’t always following my own advice (although in my defense I learned to segregate the different goals so I only concentrated on one at a time). But I did get the book done with both forms of motivation — pressure from my publisher to turn in the manuscript, and the enjoyment I got from writing the book once I was able to clear away distractions and focus on the writing.
I could go into many more examples of how I used these two forms of motivation, but you get the idea. Now let’s take a look at each one and how you can use them to your advantage.