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Should You Even Try to Motivate Yourself? | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2020/07/13/motivate-yourself/

scotthyoung.com

Should You Even Try to Motivate Yourself? | Scott H Young
Why can Elon Musk launch an automobile revolution and actual rockets, while most of us struggle to go to the gym? Would life be better with more motivation?

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Theories of motivation

Theories of motivation
  • Rational motivation, which reflects our preferences. We're motivated by the opportunities we can notice.
  • Biased motivation. We often ignore obvious ways to better our lives because we're short-sighted and lazy. We may be better off boosting our motivation.

We often lie to ourselves about our true motives to save face with other people. We have a hidden logic that fuels our motivations. If we don't feel motivated, we may have reasons we don't consciously understand. If we are hesitant, it may be owing to our options and not our character.

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Why we miss opportunities

Some theories of motivation claim we're naturally biased. It may happen because we can't consider all the angles. At other times, as the world advance, the usual criteria no longer apply.

There may be only a few exceptional people like Elon Musk because we can't grasp the idea that one person can create wealth or drive progress. We don't notice opportunities and more easily dismiss them.

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Motivation: listen or nudge

If you think motivation is mostly rational, pay attention to what motivates you. You might not feel motivated because your current opportunities aren't that good.

If you think motivation is biased and nudging is necessary, create rules, systems, and habits to move you ahead. If you can't motivate yourself for months or years, your project may be at fault.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The first views on motivation

The first views on motivation
  • At first, psychologist William James thought that only the initial act was conscious, thereafter behaviour was a spontaneous cascade of habits. He suggested we struggle with motivation when ...

Mathematics of motivation

When Ivan Pavlov and his dogs led to the discovery of learned behaviour through repeated exposure, and Edward Thorndike discovered the Law of Effect that stated that rewarded behaviours tended to increase, many psychologists were impelled to separate psychology from armchair introspection and formulated their theories as mathematical formulas.


  • The Drive x Habit Theory. Clark Hull's formula was sEr = D x sHr, which states that excitatory tendency (E) is the result of the drive (D) combined with the habit (H). The drive is nonspecific, such as hunger or thirst. The habit, however, depends on the stimulus (s) and response (r). But the theory turned out to be wrong and even opposite in many cases. 
  • Expectation x Value Theory. Drawing on ideas in economics and game theory, Edward Tolman and Kurt Lewis formulated an alternative account by evaluating motivation based on expectations. Tolman expressed the ideas as the mathematical formula: Subjective Expected Utility = Probability1 * Utility1 + P2U2 + P3U3 + … where subjective expected utility of an action equalled the motivation to act. But, if you expect a reward, why act and not simply passively wait for the expected reward? 

Motivation as change

Donald Hebb realised that existing theories were too focused on reacting to the immediate environment. Thoughts, ideas and goals could be just as strong for triggering action as sights and sounds.

Together with John Atkinson, they noted that the study of motivation had undergone a "paradigm shift", where motivation couldn't be seen as how actions get started, but how the organism decides to change its behaviour from one thing to another.

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Taking action = eventual success

Taking action = eventual success

Inaction is the biggest cause of our failures and our miseries. If we could consistently do the things we know we should do, we would be more successful, and our lives would be better. Yet w...

Explaining inaction

Some possible but weak reasons why action is hard:

  • Talent. But the world is full of brilliant stars that flame out and mediocre minds that build empires.
  • Preferences can explain our failure to try, but don't explain our inner struggles with inaction.
  • Capacity for effort. If your capacity for doing things is lower, it does not explain chronic bursts of activity with inevitable crashes in your goals and projects.
  • Motivation. Some people with the most reason have the hardest time taking action. 

Confidence

Motivation and expectation of success create a feedback loop:
  • Your motivation to complete a task depends on the value of the reward and your expectation of success. 
  • Your expectation of success depends on your motivation.

If your projects tend to fail, your expectations are low, and motivation fades. If your projects tend to succeed, your expectations go up, and motivation stays strong.

Why we can’t seem to motivate ourselves

Why we can’t seem to motivate ourselves

At a basic level, there are three elements of motivation.

  • Self-confidence or self-efficacy. The feeling that you can do this.
  • Finding the task unp...

The right way to set goals

We are awful at long-term planning. We can stay motivated for a couple of days or a week, but we find it hard to plan a semester-long paper or a retirement plan.

It is essential to have definite goals, in well-defined words, and measured hours. What matters is if you can visualize yourself working on the goal.

Motivating yourself better

You can't have complete control over every outcome. You may not always have the best set of cards, but it shouldn't stop you from playing those cards the best way you can.

Learn to work with what you've got. Just like a poker game, you can maximize your chances. It starts with basic elements, like getting enough sleep and eating well.