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Why we fail to motivate ourselves

Why we fail to motivate ourselves

Two factors contribute to a lack of motivation.

  • Lack of drive. The object of our goals may just not be worthwhile.
  • Pain from progress. Something might be in the way of our progress. It may be fears, but most often, it is drudgery, effort or boredom.

The two factors can work separately. We may have a few problems but little drive and thus don't move ahead. Or our goal could be very desirous, but a proportionately large pain can hinder us from moving forward.

Motivation: Problems of drive

We may have a goal that we don't really desire. One reason for having an undesirable goal is explained by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci in their experiment on intrinsic motivation. The theory says that we are less motivated by rewards and more motivated by a sense of autonomy (choice and control) over our actions.

If your goal is to get good grades or exercise daily, but your goal isn't self-generated, it can lead to inconsistent motivation.

Motivation: Problems of pain

The pain of taking action can be another reason why we fail to motivate ourselves. The pain can be fear, boredom, unpleasantness or drudgery. If a task is too unpleasant, we will procrastinate on it.

This knowledge suggests ways we can make progress on our goals.

  • We can redesign our goals to make them less unpleasant.
  • We can expose ourselves gently to our fear for the task as the aversion to making progress may be due to irrational fear.

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