If we are motivated, we’ll act on it, right? Surely, when we feel like doing something, we’ll just do it.
“We have a misconception that if we care enough about something, we would do something about it. But that’s not true,” leadership coach and author Peter Bregman says.
Action starts the ball rolling
In fact, action leads to motivation, which in turn leads to more action, psychology research shows. You have to start before you feel ready; then you’ll feel more motivated, and then you’ll take more action.
You know the feeling. Once you eventually start doing something you have put off for a while, you think, “This isn’t as bad as I thought. I’ll keep going while I’m at it.”
Naturally, starting before you feel motivated is challenging. But if you tackle the conditions around procrastination it helps; here’s how the experts say we do that. First, break the project down into tiny steps. Second, set an exact ‘o’clock’ deadline. Third, build in a reward like ‘If I finish the report by 10am, I can have a coffee or a quick chat to a friend’. Once you’re underway, your motivation will kick in.
Be aware of very common ‘displacement’ activities like housework (fun when you’re meant to working on a boring work project). We use displacement activities to dispel the discomfort we feel for not doing what we should be doing. This form of procrastination is common, especially with work that has a fuzzy finish line or no direct pat-on-the-back.
Block off your brain
Motivation is in the mind; the practical action is what matters, Bregman says.
The mind is essential to motivation. But with action (Bregman calls it follow through) the mind can actually get in the way, he explains. “Our mind sabotages our aspirations. We think, it’s late, I’m tired, maybe I’ll skip it today.”
If you want to follow-through on something, stop thinking, Bregman says. Shut down the conversation in your head before it starts. “Don’t take the bait. Stop arguing with yourself.”
Make a very specific decision about something you want to do and don’t question it, Bregman says. “Then, when your mind starts to argue with you – and I guarantee it will – ignore it.”
So there really is a motivation ‘fairy’, she goes by the name of Action.