Motivation Addiction: A 12-Step Recovery Program
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“With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.” ~Mark Victor Hansen
Motivation seems like a magic elixir. If we could bottle it and take a swig every hour or so, we could move mountains, build empires, accomplish great and small things daily. When motivation is running through your veins, your energy is high and your focus is intense.
Think about times when you've procrastinated or failed to do something you wanted to do. Most of us announce sadly, “I'm just not motivated enough.” Or “I've lost my motivation.” That's a victim mentality.
“Motivation” is just a word. It represents an emotion — an amorphous, biochemical reaction in our brains. The emotion behind motivation can be enthusiasm and excitement, or it can be fear or dread. Those intense emotions drive us to take action. When we lack those intense emotions, we often fail to act — even if we really desire the outcome.
For now, let's pretend that motivation is not available to you at all.
How can one create momentum and stimulate the actions necessary to get the job done without motivation? Take exercise as an example. You know it's good for you in so many ways, but you just don't have any real motivation to get your butt out the door. You don't feel enthusiasm about huffing and puffing through a workout. Nor have you been threatened with imminent death if you don't get your body moving.
In situations like this that aren't charged with fear or excitement, must a lack of motivation serve as an on-going excuse for lack of action? Absolutely not. In fact, the vast majority of successful people in this world rarely rely on motivation to achieve great or small things.
Both the lack of motivation and the reliance on motivation to take action are addictive and deceptive.
The more you focus on your need for it, the stronger your need becomes. So what if you shifted your thinking about motivation? Instead of being addicted to motivation to generate action, what if you didn't count on it at all?
Think of motivation the way one might consider a perfect, sunny day in Seattle. You don't expect it, but it's nice when it shows up. Motivation is just one small tool in a toolkit of mental supplies that can generate action.
What other mental and emotional tools do you have at your disposal? There are plenty, and here are just a few:
- your intelligence
- your common sense
- love for yourself
- your concern for those you love
- your integrity
- your values
- your dreams and goals
Let's use these tools to start to break the motivation addiction and find other ways to get things done. Try this 12-Step Recovery Program.
Step 1. Choose something that you want to do or accomplish — something that previously required the “M” word for you to take action.
Step 2. From the list of tools above, determine what makes this achievement or goal important to you. What tells you that it is a valuable endeavor?
Step 3. What kind of person will you be if you accomplish this thing? How will it improve your own self-image and/or the perception of others? Write down your ideas.
Step 4. In what ways your life will change for the better if you accomplish this thing?
Step 5. Visualize yourself accomplishing this goal. How would feel if you accomplish it?
Step 6. Are there any negative emotions attached to this endeavor such as lethargy, fear of failure, agitation or anxiety, hopelessness, or avoidance? If so, what are they? Write them down.
Step 7. For now, mentally put these negative emotions in a box, and remove them from the equation. You can deal with them later. Push them back in the box if they start to pop out. Force yourself to ignore them. In fact, write them down and literally put the list in a box and place it out of your reach.
Step 8. If you have determined that it is valuable to pursue this endeavor, write down the first action that you must take to accomplish it. It might be putting on your sneakers, writing the first sentence, typing “business plan” at the top of a page, or getting a storage container.
Step 9. Pick a time within the next 24 hours to take that one action. Don't think about it or acknowledge any feelings about it. Just take that one action.
Step 10. After you have taken the first action, think about and then write down the 2nd and 3rd actions.
Step 11. Again, pick a time in the next 24 hours to take those two actions. Don't think ahead about finishing the endeavor. Just take the actions.
Step 12. Repeat the steps with all subsequent actions, doling them out to yourself one, two, or three actions at a time. Nothing overwhelming. No emotional commitments. Just small actions, one after another in your own time.
By this stage, you will see that it doesn't take motivation to create momentum. It just takes small, manageable actions that are not weighted down with the addictive powers of emotion. If you use reasoning to determine the value of an endeavor, you can use incremental action to start the ball rolling.
With each step, you are propelling yourself forward and replacing motivation with action. Repeated actions become habits. Repeated habits create successful accomplishments.
The first action is the lever. The next action generates more power, and by the third or fourth action, you might find that motivation shows up unexpectedly. Even if it doesn't, that's OK. Motivation is not necessary.
Does motivation help? Of course it does. Having the added boost of enthusiasm can skyrocket any endeavor. But steady, slow, focused forward movement is enough to get the job done. Don't become addicted to motivation. It is a fickle friend who will seduce you with power but rarely appears when you need it most.
Instead, replace the need for motivation with common sense and small, manageable actions. Box up your limiting beliefs and emotions, and put them away until you reach your goal. Before you know it, you will be on the road to recovery — and success.