I’m seriously unmotivated to write this newsletter right now. Not in the mood at all. Some of the things I’d rather do right now than write this newsletter include:

  • Laundry
  • Bring Chloe B. on an extra-long walk
  • Play dress-up to check-in on how my “thin jeans” fit this week
  • Work on my (soon to be launched) podcast

Yeah, so it’s not like I’d rather be doing fun and exciting things, in particular, it’s just that I’m really not motivated to spend the next hour working on this newsletter, even though that’s what my calendar says I should be doing.

I was super motivated about writing this newsletter in this specific hour today when I was scheduling it last Sunday evening. I made the decision to schedule it for right now with some very responsible prioritization and very clear insight as to why this task ties into all of my big and exciting goals. I was even motivated to prove to myself that I can write a newsletter in one hour, because “I decide how long things take me”.

So I have two questions:

  1. Why am I rarely as motivated to follow through as I am when I am planning?
  2. Why do I still ALWAYS believe that this time I will be as motivated to do the thing as I am when I am planning to do the thing?

Those questions may have sounded rhetorical, but actually, they weren’t.

I can answer the first question with science. The human brain’s design is such that we are better equipped to plan than we are to consciously execute on our plans. In fact, we can even get a dopamine hit from planning, as big a hit as from having completed the activity.

Many professional procrastinators are hardcore addicts of this planning dopamine.

But here’s the thing: motivation is a feeling and you put feelings into the plan and then rely on them showing up as needed.
You can’t schedule motivation.

To answer the second question, you could assume that I’m blindly optimistic but the truth is that most of us subconsciously believe that we can hold on to motivation if we just try hard enough. But it doesn’t work that way. I think it surprises us that we can’t hold on to motivation because when we are feeling motivated, the feeling itself is rooted in a sense of certainty and determination.

There are all sorts of articles and videos on the internet on “how to get motivated”, and sure some of the tactics can work in the short term, but the advice isn’t practical in everyday life. Here are some of the suggestions at a glance;

  • Get a massage
  • Watch a Ted Talk
  • Call a friend
  • Connect to your “why”
  • Give yourself a reward…

Look, some days I feel unmotivated multiple times, I don’t have time to spend time getting motivated. And if I’m unmotivated to do the work thing, there’s a pretty big chance that I’m not going to be motivated to do any off those things on the list. (*connecting to why is critical and effective but some days it’s really difficult to find the emotional connection needed to stir motivation)

You can’t rely on motivation.

But don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this, after all, I did get through this and I am writing this newsletter right? You don’t need to wait for motivation if you have this other thing:

Discipline.

Discipline is about following through on doing stuff whether or not you are motivated or in the mood. Regardless of how tired you are, regardless of whether you can justify “deserving” a break. Discipline is not as shiny and fun as motivation, but it’s WAY more reliable. The best part is, that you can work on it and build it so that it gets stronger and stronger!

I’ve been focusing on this whole discipline thing and the most annoying part is that you can’t build it overnight. You have to start off small even if that seems a little bit boring. But it’s a total game-changer. Imagine if you knew, with absolute certainty, that you were going to do it even if you weren’t in the mood to? Ironically, you might need to find the motivation to begin training your discipline muscle, but that’s a whole other thing.

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