MOJO # 9: Procrastination: Why you can't motivate yourself to do the work.
Today's topic is: How to motivate yourself when you “can’t even”.
This one is for you if you are:
- Constantly procrastinating
- Lacking energy and motivation
- Dreading even the smallest tasks
If this sounds like you, watch this video, or keep reading to learn how to solve this.
By early 2021, I was DONE.
It was like I woke up one day, and both my body and mind gave out.
Up until that point, I was grinding out and pushing through every day, constantly reminding myself of why I was doing it:
The dream of financial freedom, when one day, I will finally be able to live my life.
But suddenly, I couldn’t get myself out of bed.
Everything drained me:
- I dreaded jumping on client calls.
- I resented the work and business I used to love.
- I had ZERO energy left, even to do fun stuff.
Heck, even 5-minute tasks became such a drag.
All I wanted to do was disconnect and stare at a white wall.
I gave myself plenty of time off but was never able to reach the proverbial “refreshed and excited to get back to work”, ever.
I’ll spare you the details and get to the core finding:
This is the natural and inevitable outcome of doing unfulfilling work.
There was actually nothing “wrong”, per se.
It’s our societal brainwashing that is.
If you’re lacking motivation, it’s tempting to blame yourself.
Your mind will make it mean something about you, that you are lacking discipline or commitment.
But before you go searching for another productivity hack, stop and consider this:
There is nothing wrong with you if you’re not motivated to do stuff you don’t love or enjoy.
Really, there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing within you that needs to be fixed.
Because it’s completely normal to not want to do stuff we don’t want to do.
The lie that we are broken if we are not “disciplined and hard working” enough to do meaningless and draining work, is only part of a bigger lie - where we humans, are considered cogs in an economic machine.
As a cog, it benefits the economy (in the short-term) if you shut down any emotion, and just do the work, whether you feel like it or not.
Better yet, if you could also spend all the money you make to make yourself feel better. That way you keep yourself locked into a vicious cycle where you never reach financial freedom.
If you don’t feel the “drive and motivation” to live that sort lifestyle, you are considered by many a social reject.
I mean, who are we without the cars and brands and Instagram-worthy vacations?
How will other people know that we’re doing so, so well?
And where does all this leave your well-being, joy, playfulness, purpose, and all the things your soul actually came here to experience?
The truth is, you do need discipline and ‘hard work’. And it’s a good thing to have drive and motivation.
But you need to deploy those tools only when it’s time to work on things that are meaningful to YOU.
Things that bring YOU joy.
Things that help you create YOUR version of success.
Your version of success is NOT to sacrifice this present moment, so that you can make more money someday, so that you can then FINALLY be free to do what you actually love to do.
Your version of success is to do what you actually love to do — today.
And yes, chances are you can’t just drop your business, and go do what you love right now.
Maybe you’re not even clear on your passion and purpose.
But you must make a commitment to move towards it every single day, starting today.
To do that, the first step is to start paying attention to how you feel at every moment.
Every task, person, and conversation, should leave you feeling more alive.
If it doesn’t, you must choose to let it go and replace it with an alternative that does.
Can I not motivate myself with a cookie?
Sure, you can use external rewards to motivate yourself. But that will only work in the short term.
Countless studies show that in the long term, extrinsic rewards lose their appeal.
In fact, they may even backfire.
For example, let’s say you’ve always loved playing music because you enjoyed it— it’s intrinsically motivating. You’re good too, so you start to receive money and compliments for your music.
If you stop playing music you love and instead begin to manufacture music for the sake of pleasing others, you will lose the intrinsic reward of enjoyment.
Eventually, those extrinsic rewards like money and compliments will stop working too, as extrinsic rewards always do. And since there is no more enjoyment, you will likely drop music both as a hobby and business.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek to make money from what you love, quite the opposite. It means that you should never override your self-expression or turn it into a currency to exchange for money.
How to motivate yourself when you feel like you have no choice
So you understand that following your heart is a must, and you plan to move in that direction.
But in the meantime, you might still have to do passionless, purposeless work to pay the bills.
How do you generate some energy and motivation while you create your exit plan?
- Clarify the task
What does “done” look like?
- Clarify the immediate benefit
If I complete this task, what will it get me in the short-term?
- Weigh the input vs output
Is the reward worth the amount of effort?
- Gauge your chances of success
If you feel like your chances of succeeding or winning aren’t high, you won’t be motivated.
Pro tip: look at people who are doing it. If they can do it, so can you.
- Get clear on the higher purpose
This is the long-term impact tied to the thing you don’t love. It’s probably not an aspirational or exciting purpose, otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing this exercise. But there is always a bigger secondary purpose to it.
Write boring copy for a demanding client that you don’t vibe with:
- What “done” looks like -> Write a description for 1 product page
- The immediate benefit -> Relief from the anxiety of having a pending task
- Input vs output -> The client will pay X for a 2-hour gig
- Chances of success -> They might ask for revisions, but likely will approve after
- Higher purpose -> This money will help me take someone I love on a trip
Please remember that this is only a temporary solution to help you get through the day.
The only way to create sustainable energy and motivation, in the long run, is by doing work of passion and purpose.
If you’re not there, keep looking. I promise you that it will be worth it.
In the meantime, I hope these tools will help.
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