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The Complete Guide to Motivation | Scott H Young

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 there are competing ideas.
  • Sigmund Freud theorised that we are largely unconscious of what drives our behaviour.

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Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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.

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.