The Theory Of Motivation: The Not So Incredible Post On How To Maintain It

Image result for motivational art

That picture slightly fired you up, didn’t it? It gave you a feeling that can’t be put into words, but it’s something only you can feel

“Motivation”

The one word that would cure the world of all it’s ailments, with the end result being that everyone would live in some technological utopia, happily ever after. The word that makes people do seemingly impossible feats of strength and discovery, even in the face of adversity. The word that has been responsible for the success of many people the world over. Okay, it’s not the all-curing panacea that I just built it up to be, but it’s incredible what a person with nothing but his wits and motivation can achieve.

Many people desire it’s riches, but motivation is nothing if not a massive, massive tease. For a time, it will show you the gold coins it took out of the treasure vault and promise you to take to the mystical land of gold. A while into your journey though, it will pull sand into your eyes and pull off a vanishing act, leaving you aimless, clueless and making you feel like a major twerp for believing in it’s lofty claims of making you the richest man of the hundred-acre yard. I assume that can be a good metaphor for that initial burst of motivation which slowly fizzles out over time, failure and banging a head against a wall over that illusive solution that would be the final piece of the puzzle.

It’s been a problem for many people, including yours truly. While the initial motivation and drive to pull off some world-breaking feat can be easily attained, it quickly becomes a law of diminishing returns over time, as we try to awaken that genie with little fanfare. Maintaining that initial motivation over the course of our journey to attain our victory is a big pain in the ass for many people. Over time, you find yourself thinking if that initial spurt of motivation was an aberrant in your otherwise normal psychological functioning, as you dawdle about wondering how you got lost in the middle of the forest, without a way-point to guide you out of this funk.

Below are some strategies that can work out for you to maintain that motivation that you so crave right now.


Plan Like Batman

Give me six hours to chop a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

This particular quirk of humanity, barging in head-strong without a plan to save your ass, usually disappears over age and experience, but a fact is that most people never, ever have a game plan to achieve their big victory. Most of them believe that their hopes, dreams and motivation will carry them through to the summit of victory, before reality plunks down a 16-tonne iron anchor on their body, laughing maniacally at their naivety and crushing their dreams into pixie dust. For a lot of people, this ends up being a detriment. They might have a great idea and they might be the most energetic and intelligent being on the planet, but without a plan, you might end up being like the woodcutter in that story Abraham Lincoln mentioned. Your motivation can only withstand the Law of Diminishing Returns for so long, before it pulls off the vanishing act again.

Let’s take Batman, shall we? Not the best of examples, but bare with me. A human among the demigods of the Justice League. But the guy planned contingencies for everything, most famously for defeating the Justice League should they ever go rogue. Bats planned for every possible scenario, whether it may work successfully or not. So when crap hits the fan and all the heroes lose their motivation for saving the world, there stands Batman, unfazed and smirking with some thingmajig, ready to take on the threat with nothing but his gumption, skills, money and his impenetrable plot armor.

Guys that see success usually have a plan and strategize in the long term about their course of action, before getting down to brass tacks. Not to say that all plans have been successful, but it helps to have a guidemap and a back-up should you find yourself lost and without any internal compass to guide you to your destination.

Break It Down

So you have a rough outline of a plan to work with now. You’re all fired up to start this project of yours that has been gestating for too long. You take the first steps towards victory, and then lo and behold, in your path lies a crazy forest of roadblocks. Suddenly, your heart starts to sink a bit. You think only of the final goal as you try to fight off every obstacle in your path, all the way your motivation starts sinking even further, until you find yourself at the starting point with no progress made, no sense of motivation and purpose and an overall sense of defeat permeating your soul.

It’s not wrong to focus on the big picture, but remember that reaching the summit can’t be done in one giant leap by us mere mortals, but rather, it takes a thousand small steps for us to achieve that victory. So every time you see something so big that scares the bejeesus out of you, break it down into small steps. I was taught this thing in cycling by a good natured rider, where I needed to keep a mental checkpoint of the landmarks along my route during a long distance ride. In that way, it made things easier for me. Instead of thinking, “Goddamnit, I still haven’t reached my destination yet“, these checkpoints made me think, “Okay, only a few kilometers more to 150kms. No sweat. I’ve come this far, can’t stop now!“. It’s a matter of human perspective and a good deal of psychology.

Break down the humongous task into smaller tasks and sub-tasks. Keep a note or a checklist in an app. Once you’ve finished them off, check them off the checklist. Now, when you look back, you will have made significant progress than you thought possible. Once that checkpoint is over, do a small victory dance or whatever makes you feel happy cause you earned that victory, learn the lessons from that small journey, move on to the next. Break down, finish em all, victory dance, reach next checkpoint…Rinse and repeat. You’ll find it way more easier to get things done this way.

Schedule Some Down Time

Look, we all have had the idea of working our ass off 24/7 until our task is done, hopped up on a shit tonne of coffee and pizza, all the while your favorite band is blasting some motivational shit for us to get pumped up. We assume that magic will be created from all the increased hours of productivity and we can rest, knowing that we’ve created the anthem of our generation.

Oh, how we always wish for the practically impossible. Then again, I guess that’s how most wishes work….

We aren’t robots. You can look up for the most extreme productivity hacks ( *cough* Uberman Sleep Cycle *cough* ) and try them and spectacularly fail at them. Our body and mind can take only so much abuse, before the Law of Diminishing Returns starts to kick in. As we’ve already established, motivation and Diminishing Returns aren’t exactly the best of friends. Motivation is kind of like your college cheerleader. They’ll be enthusiastic when you are at your peak, scalping runs left and right. But of course, as you get tired and your performance decreases, the cheerleader will cheer on, a mix of hope and desperation. Once you are near the stage of getting wiped out, forget about the cheers, the cheerleader just up and left the arena.

So, take some rest in between your projects. They can range from your 10-minute breaks to week long vacations based on how hard you pushed yourself. Exercise, take a walk, cook, meet up with your friends, something, anything that doesn’t involve work for some time. Your body will be relaxed, your mind will be clear and you might get a good idea on how to overcome the pesky bug that’s been plaguing you or how to improve your existing product. Do that and you’ll find the cheerleader at the edge of the stadium, all smiles and energy cheering for your victory.

Converse With Those That Took Your Path

No man is an island.

Life has been slapping me this lesson for quite some time now. Either it’s because of me being an introvert or some part of my ego perpetuating this train of thought, but I think I can get shit done all by my lonesome, which has not been the case for most of the time in my adult life. If you think you are different and can get shit done like some Superman, then boy, is life going to have so much fun swatting you like a fly.

You read all those biographies and watch all those documentaries, why? You want to find some source of motivation, a sliver of hope, to identify yourself as the underdog that those people were, rising up against the odds to catch that sweet, sweet nectar of victory. From personal experience and having seen so many people, that motivation high will last all of one hour before fizzling out like a soda opened two times too many. Why not instead meet people in your place who have walked down your path?

The path you’re taking could have very well be taken by some one else. Instead of jacking off to another story about how Steve Jobs created Apple, meet with the people who have made it big in life. Communication in these days is dead easy, with social media connecting every nook and cranny of this world. Get tips from them on how to move forward and break down the road block you have been facing. It’s bloody good for your motivation as well, to know that someone has already beaten this insurmountable puzzle that befuddles you, it gets filled with hope. Ask them to be your mentor and get advice and help from them. If your ego is standing in the way, either shut it down or it will get shut down, and not in a good way either.

All of a sudden, all those roadblocks you had been struggling to push forward become that much lighter. Sometimes, it isn’t wrong to use a cheat code to move forward in life, as long as the cheat code doesn’t screw over others.

Discipline

While I’ve written on how to maintain your motivation levels, the truth is…..

You will never always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined

Some random quote on the Internet.

I can already hear curses along with the perfectly good question of “Well, why the fuck did you even write this article?“. Good question. I already made the “Motivation is a cheerleader” argument, let me elaborate on it a bit more.

While it is cool to have a cheerleader cheer on for you during your brightest and darkest of times, that cheerleader won’t always be there. She might be taking her entrance exams, have a date with her boyfriend or get married, essentially making you cheerleader less until some one else wishes to be your cheerleader, which could be a long, long time. You can’t make the excuse that you don’t have a cheerleader to play well, to your coach. He’ll probably bench you or deck you in the face.

Point is, you can’t keep using “I lost my motivation to do X or Y” for every undertaking of yours. Don’t think that because you lost your motivation, this project wasn’t meant to be. We are humans, after all. We gain motivation, we lose motivation, we gain it again, it’s a vicious cycle. Don’t depend on your motivation as a crutch or a convenient excuse when things go south. Learn to cultivate some self-discipline when you lose your motivation. When you don’t feel like giving it your all, work for about 15-30 minutes that day. Do this every time you feel down and don’t feel any motivation for doing anything that day. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat….

Over time, that conscious level of actions you pulled off will become a reflex action. It’ll become a part of you, your soul, so symbiotic in nature that a day without performing those tasks just feels wrong. If motivation is the cheerleader, then discipline is the hard-nosed coach, whupping your ass into shape, not giving a damn about your petty excuses and giving you a pretty hard time all around. Think of him as Captain Sobel from Band of Brothers. He might be a hard-ass and might not have given a damn whether you ate or slept, but it was his relentless training that gave you the skills to survive WWII. (Okay, nothing that dramatic. But you catch my drift.)

Over time, you won’t even need the cheerleader. It’s just you, the opponent, the wind and the ball.


This is all I have for this week. See you next week, guys.

(If you are new to this blog, I publish articles for self-improvement every Wednesday at 6:00 PM Indian Standard Time. If you like my articles, do subscribe to my blog and if you really like it, do donate via the Paypal widget found below if you feel like it. A man can dream, right?)

Until next time,
An ever improving geek.

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