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The Motivation Checklist

10/13/10

A week ago I asked the Internet what it does to “cultivate their motivation,” rather than just treat it like an unchangeable thing that you just have to hope you’re lucky enough to have. I received three different responses, from three different perspectives.

Sam focused on “an implicit belief that I do not have either the time, resources or ability to do what I want to do well.” Matt separated the question into short term and long term. I’ll leave his thoughts about the long-term for another day, but his short term focus was on powering through in order to get started. Eran focused on “appreciating how awesome what you’re doing could be, how much better your life could be when you’re done, and even how much you’ve already accomplished is key.”

I think that all of this is good advice, and I wanted to see if I could integrate them together into something a little systematic. I went to my library of psychology books to see if something worthwhile already existed by an established psychologist, but that was a failure. If anyone has a good lead, let me know.

I think motivation is a product of essentially two things, which Sam and Eran are dealing with, respectively: a belief that the goal one is pursuing is 1) possible to you and 2) worth the effort. There’s a lot of important detail to each, so, for example, “possible” doesn’t just mean having the materials or connections but also having the time.

The frustrating thing about not having motivation is that the cause of the problem doesn’t necessarily present itself. You just know you’re bored and then have to dig a bit to figure out why. I don’t know that this list is comprehensive yet, but next time you’re in a low motivation situation, I hope this can be helpful.

Questions relating to the goal’s worth
-Do I know what I want? It’s surprising how often people just fall into a goal without questioning why they are doing it.  
-Do I know how this action gets me what I want? And is the action a meaningful step?
-Is the goal specific, real and concrete to me? Or is it vague and abstract?
-Is there a limit to how much time, energy, money I will be spending on this thing? (ie Do I know the cost?)

Questions relating to possibility
-Do I have the time needed for the goal?
-Do I know how to measure how well I’m doing? And do I know where I am now?
-Do I have the skill needed? This can mean knowledge, effective habits, muscle memory.
-Do I have the money, relationships, reputation, or other resources needed?

If you can pinpoint exactly where the problem is, you can start to figure out what to do to solve it. In looking at the list, I realized a problem with my own motivation in this blog–I don’t know the time cost. I have a rough estimate regarding the time it takes for a weekly post (around four hours per week) but not regarding how long I will keep it going. Let’s say I will just focus on the next month and reevaluate then whether I reup. That’s three more posts this month. I have three quality post in me.   

So, Internet, what am I missing from the above list?

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