How Do You Inspire Yourself? (Yes, You, The Person Reading Right Now. I’m Asking.)


Last week’s post on inspiration sparked a comment that deserves further development. In my opinion, only the awesome power of the Internet is up to the task. I will build on your comments to write next week’s post.

Eran Dror wrote:

“One very obvious fact that I think men especially tend to forget is that emotions, including motivation and inspiration can be cultivated. Sometimes instead of simply trying to get back to work from where you left off, the best approach is to engage in some activity specifically designed to rekindle your motivation. That can be anything from reading an article on the topic, or trying to come up with some fresh insights. I found that my biggest obstacle was learning to recognize my own emotions as a distinct roadblock that had to be addressed separately and not just ‘powered through.'”

So, Internet, what do you do to cultivate your motivation?  Reading an article or coming up with fresh insights? Or something else entirely?

PS This is not my post for the week. That would be cheating.



  1. I generally find that a lack of motivation or inspiration is most often caused by an implicit belief that I do not have either the time, resources or ability to do what I want to do well. The solution to this problem depends on whether my implicit belief is true or false. If it is false, then I need to convince myself that I am up for my desired task by thinking about what it would mean to knock it our of the park and then either committing myself to that outcome or admitting that I don’t have the necessary energy or desire to engage with the task on that level.

    More often than not, I find that my implicit belief is accurate and I really do not have enough time or energy to do my task well. In these cases, the key is to find a way to give myself what I need to do a good job. Usually, this means giving myself more time or lowering my expectations of what the results of my work need to look like in order to be considered a success.

  2. I feel like there are two questions here, but maybe this is because I’m taking the word “cultivate” too seriously.

    In the short term, for some particular task that I don’t want to do, I usually just force myself to do it. If it’s drastic, I’ll change locations (if possible), like to a coffee shop or something, turn off wireless, and then start. Once I actually overcome the effort it takes to focus on the task it’s usually painless or enjoyable, at least until I run out of energy.

    For long-term cultivation of motivation, that’s a bit more complicated. But I don’t have any advice that isn’t obvious. Here’s what I do:

    Set up long-term projects so that success can be measured and appreciated at intervals. Have good routines, turn them into good work habits. Try to obsess over the project so that I’m constantly thinking about it and working on it, even during downtime. (That’s good for the quality of the project, but also good for keeping motivation up, since when I have an idea I’ll want to implement it, and I’ll generally have inertia on my side.) But, contra true obsession, take time off when I need to.

  3. It’s amazing how motivating having a good cup of coffee and/or a good snack by your side can be.

    But more seriously, taking a few moments to appreciate how awesome what you’re doing could be, how much better your life would be when you’re done, and even how much you’ve already accomplished is key. It’s really important that you learn to love your work, love the problems as much as the successes.

    I usually give myself 15-20 minutes to pore over what I’ve already done, and fantasize about the finished product. Then I remind myself that it’s far from finished, and try to focus on the many cool, challenging problems I still have to solve. By that point I am usually extremely motivated.

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