Using motivation to convert a sloth into a gazelle


Using motivation to convert a sloth into a gazelle

Before I started this blog, I thought to myself, what am I going to do with my spare time now that I’ve finished studying (…for now). I realised that there were things that I wanted to do, so I set myself some goals to complete. Once I had decided on them, I started working on them, but found that I couldn’t keep my motivation up and I would soon stop working on them and find myself in the same position that I started in.

I soon realised that my wanting to do something was not enough to achieve what I had set out to do. I then started this site, to help me keep track of my goals and to force myself to work on them. This worked to some extent, but I still had on and off periods (I still do now). As time has gone on, I have asked myself why I continually stopped doing the things I wanted to do and am striving for. I knew the reason why I stopped was that to achieve the things that I want required me to put in significant effort to get to the end. The next question was, how to overcome the lack of forward momentum and get myself working towards completing the things I had set out to accomplish.

I started to look into motivation and I discovered some interesting aspects. Without some form of motivation or desire to reach the goals I had set out for myself, I was never going to be able to stick with them and achieve them.  Yes, there would be days where the level of motivation I had would differ, but I still needed to have a reason to be motivated to keep working towards achieving them.

When thinking about how to motivate myself, I felt like there were two sources of motivation, internal and external; motivation that comes from within and motivation that comes from the environment around you. These are known as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. These are well defined and in simple terms, intrinsic motivation is the motivation to do something simply because you find it inherently enjoyable, whereas extrinsic motivation refers to do something because it leads to some form of outcome such as being paid, receiving an award and so on.

I started my own bucketlist, which in itself seems unmotivating, as there is no set end date to achieve the goal; as the final date is unknown. However, in just writing them down it feels like the goals are now real. The main ones that I want to complete are:

  • Publish a novel
  • Compose and release a song
  • Increase and maintain my fitness

The rest are things that I will do in good time, some that are easy and trivial, others that are meaningful, with more to come. Even so, I still felt that there was something missing.

Earlier this year I finally worked out the missing piece. I wanted to know WHY I wanted to do these things. Using a problem solving approach, I continued to ask why to get to the real reason behind why I wanted to do these things. Once I knew this, it helped me understand whether or not I really wanted to achieve these goals. If the outcome of achieving the goal was something that I didn’t want to achieve, the goal was removed from my list.

Take the fitness goal for example. I have always enjoyed sports and all through school I played different sports during the year. However when I got to Uni, I didn’t have time to keep playing and as I focused more on study, I had less time to focus on keeping myself healthy. I gained 16 kg and felt extremely tired. When I finished Uni, I knew I had to do something about it. I slowly started to regain my fitness, but I still didn’t have the desire to work hard at it.

However, when I started working and interacting more with adults, I saw how many people become overweight as life becomes more hectic.  I realised that I didn’t want to become overweight and inherit the health problems that come along with it. Now that I had a real reason, I had a motivator that I could quantify and keep in the back of my mind to remind myself of why I want to improve my fitness.

I guess unconsciously I asked myself the 5 Whys.

Goal: Lose weight and increase my fitness.
Why? Because I don’t want to become overweight.
Why? I don’t want to inherit health problems.
Why? I don’t want to feel exhausted and unhealthy when I am not fit.
Why? I don’t want to be unhealthy simply from being lazy and making the wrong choices.
Why? I don’t like feeling disgusting and I want to make sure I maintain my fitness.

If you can’t drill down to the real reason why you want to do anything, the likelihood that you will complete what you set out to achieve is slim. So ask yourself, of the goals/ projects that you want to complete, can you drill down to the real reason why you want to achieve them? Try it and see!