6 Techniques For Self-Motivation (When You Don't Want To)

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.

#6. Reward

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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."

#5. Fear

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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.

#4. Achievement

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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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Chris Bucholz

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