Motivation 101

A common mistake people make when trying to motivate themselves: They say or think things like, “I have to learn HOW to motivate myself.” Or, “I have to learn HOW to stop drinking, or eat healthier.” Or, “I have to learn HOW to become a better person, a nicer person, a more organized person, etc.” What are the 3 steps or 9 steps to doing so? As if happiness were like following a cookbook recipe, with a more or less guaranteed outcome.

It’s the most common question helping professionals get: “HOW do I do such and such?” Nearly all of the time, it’s not a question of HOW. It’s a question of commitment. The rest will follow, if not naturally, then at least on a secure foundation. People might object, “No, it was really hard for me to quit drinking, ” or, “It was really hard for me to lose weight and keep it off.” I’m not denying that. But “hard” is somewhat of a subjective term. And the hard part, I think most would agree, was not the mechanics of changing the behavior, personality trait or whatever the issue was. The hard part was DECIDING that you want to make the change and (the really important part) to STICK WITH that decision day after day and hour after hour, for the rest of your life. For your OWN sake, selfishly (yes, selfishly) and not merely as a matter of dogmatic command or for the sake of another person (because those motivations rarely, if ever, sustain themselves).

So the next time you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know HOW to fix this or that about myself,” you might follow it up with an immediate challenge to yourself: “How badly do I WANT to change it?” That’s what really separates the men from the boys, psychologically speaking.


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