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Motivation sounds simple enough. It's what inspires us to get shit done. We know when we have it and when we don't. But the actual source of motivation is often a little bit mysterious to us. It's one of those things that we all agree is important, but can never quite get around to considering in depth.

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"1300 hrs. Monkey shrugged and checked his phone?"

Because the government requires me to document all my activities, I have a lot of data with which I can analyze my motivations, and so have become something of an expert on the subject. It turns out there are six primary types of motivation, and not only do they have different mechanisms for getting you up off your ass, but all of them can also be triggered by fairly artificial means when you need an extra kick in the pants.

So here, for your off-ass-getting pleasure, are the six types of motivation, and how you can go about faking them.


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Rewards motivate by promising you something desirable if you do something. It might be money, or a toy, or a solid pat on the ass. Whatever it is (a solid pat on the crotch?), it's the process of seeing and envisioning your new terrific life with that reward which prods you to get on with whatever it is you're avoiding.

How This Works In Practice:

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"I will give you 20 dollars if you take that cop's hat."

How To Fake It:

This is probably the first type of motivation people try to artificially stimulate, and for obvious reasons. A lot of the tasks we need to motivate ourselves to do have no natural rewards built in to them.

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"Fuck. YES. Clean laundry. YESSSSSSSSS."

Most people's first instinct is to give themselves an arbitrary reward. "If I finish writing this paper, I'll have a chocolate." That kind of thing. But this has its own problems. If you're capable of giving yourself a reward when you complete a task, you're capable of giving yourself that thing anyway. A partner can help here to keep you honest, provided they are themselves incorruptible. For example, if you're having trouble doing the dishes, consider hiring a lawyer to give you a chocolate only when you finish.

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"Here you go, and congratulations. That will be $520."


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Fear is kind of the flip side of reward, the pair of them often referred to as the "carrot and the stick" in discussions of motivation.

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Because of the natural fear all humans have of eating carrots.

Although they approach motivation from different angles, the principle behind both is basically the same. It's just that in this case, we're envisioning a future where something unpleasant happens to us. Maybe it's pain, or the loss of something valued, or the ingestion of a carrot, so we do whatever we can to avoid that unwelcome outcome.

How This Works In Practice:

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"You should run, because that cop is now going to beat the crap out of you."

How To Fake It:

Even though fear is a pretty primal motivating factor, we almost never try to artificially instill it in ourselves. I guess because we don't like hurting ourselves? Cowards.

Again, a partner to keep you honest can work, but the nice thing about fear is this is something you can rig up for yourself. Jogging becomes a lot easier when you have a hungry badger leashed to you.

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Or, again, a lawyer.

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This is a variant of the motivation that comes from generic rewards -- the reward in this case being the fact that some accomplishments are impressive in and of themselves. Whether it's because of their inherent difficulty or relative rarity, we're naturally drawn to these challenges. Sometimes for the purposes of bragging, sure, but we also sometimes do these things just for the quiet pleasure of knowing we did something difficult.

How This Works In Practice:

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"Wouldn't it be cool if this beating resulted in you bleeding more than anyone ever bled out of their ears before?"

How To Fake It:

This is one of those motivations that's hard to fake. No one's going to be impressed if you do the dishes. But you can kind of trick yourself into thinking you've done something noteworthy by making your tasks more difficult. Like by trying to do the dishes really quickly, then trying to beat that time the next day, as if it's a game or something. But that requires a certain level of self-delusion. Which provides a pretty big hint to the solution. What adds challenge to a task while increasing self-delusion?

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Let's do some motherfucking dishes.

That's right: booze. See how drunk you can get while doing the dishes. Then try to beat that mark the next day. This isn't necessarily an impressive achievement, but it will certainly get a few people talking, which achieves essentially the same thing.


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Some activities can result in us improving in some way merely by doing them. Although these tasks are often difficult and sweaty, seeing ourselves grow and improve is a very appealing, even addictive sensation.

How This Works In Practice:

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"The doctors say if you keep attacking the police and then bleeding out, your body will learn to adapt and start storing more blood."

How To Fake It:

This is another one which is hard to fake, especially for menial tasks that don't result in any physical or mental growth. You could try to claim they build character, but again, some level of self-delusion is needed for that. The main trick is to try increasing the difficulty -- doing extra practice problems in your math textbook, mowing the lawn while wearing ankle weights, or something like that.

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Running the lawn mower over your textbook while shouting numbers.

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Some things we do result in more power for ourselves, increasing the domain we have over others. This is a reward, obviously, as well as a variation on growth, but the reason it's separated into its own category is that the appeal it holds is unique. For a certain type of person (you can often spot them by their scepters), anything which results in more little pawns for them to move around the game board can be very motivating.

How This Works In Practice:

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"If you steal that cop's gun, he'll have to respect you."

How To Fake It:

This is easily the hardest motivation to fake, simply because most of the chores or tasks that you're struggling to motivate yourself to do won't ever result in anyone bowing or scraping the ground at your feet. Not normal people, anyway. But if you can find someone incredibly gullible, someone impressed by the completely mundane? Then it might work.

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But who could be so simple?

Yes, kidnapping several children to watch you do chores is an extreme step, and yes, I childnap my way out of a few too many problems, but you want those dishes done, don't you?

Social Factors

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This is a bit of a catch-all category that encapsulates the motivation we sometimes feel to do something that will impress others. It can also, if we suck, include the motivation we might feel to avoid humiliation.

How This Works In Practice:

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"I'll be straight with you: If you're really a team player, you'd get your ass kicked and bleed all over the carpet while we laugh and point at you."

How To Fake It:

Because this combines elements of both reward and fear, we need to proceed carefully, and with full knowledge of the ... OK, it's fear. We're going with fear. Fear of something is a powerful motivating factor, far stronger than the motivation that possible rewards provide. So if there's ever a choice, go with fear.

So let's say you've got some dishes to do. Well that sucks, and you're right to avoid it.

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You're nobody's dream, dishes.

So engineer your life so that some social calamity will result if your dishes aren't done. Like, invite some friends or some ex-lovers or your lawyers over to a party. Gotta clean then. And this is yet another case in which kidnapping several children is one of the smartest things you can do. Not only is that fun and inspirational on its own, but you'll also know you have get those dishes cleaned up for your house to look its best when they feature you on Dateline.

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"Shaken, though thankfully unharmed, the children reported that it was much nicer on the inside."

Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and gets off his ass many times a day. The author of the science fiction novel, Severance, his next novel, Freeze/Thaw is available for pre-order now! Join him on Facebook or Twitter.

Deep inside us all behind our political leanings, our moral codes and our private biases, there is a cause so colossally stupid, we surprise ourselves with how much we care. Whether it's toilet paper position, fedoras on men or Oxford commas, we each harbor a preference so powerful we can't help but proselytize to the world. In this episode of the Cracked podcast, guest host Soren Bowie is joined by Cody Johnston, Michael Swaim and special guests to discuss the most trivial things we will argue about until the day we die. Get your tickets here!

Learn how Judd Apatow used revenge as his motivation in 5 Famous People Whose Best Work Was Motivated By Revenge, and read about the company that used waterboarding as a motivational tool in 6 Motivational Exercises That Went Horribly Wrong.

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