Forget the law of attraction, the 7 habits, and any other system you’ve ever tried. This is the ultimate secret to productivity, to happiness, to life itself.
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“You don’t take action because you’re motivated – you’re motivated when you take action.”*
[Pause for effect]
Do you realise how powerful that is?
It goes back to the “shoulds” I wrote about last week. I SHOULD do some vacuuming, I SHOULD exercise, I SHOULD eat more healthily, I SHOULD bla bla bla. It’s so easy to sit on the sofa and think these things, and so easy to stay sitting.
On the other hand, if you actually DO get off the sofa and get the vacuum out, more often than not, you get into the flow, you feel virtuous that you’re doing something good; maybe you even get inspired to do some dusting, or clean the windows, while you’re at it. (“Scrub the floors, Cinderelly…”) Actually doing the cleaning makes you more motivated to do it.
It’s a great tactic, actually. Don’t feel like going for a run? Tell yourself you’ll just go for ten minutes, and once you’re out there you’ll probably keep going. Don’t want to pay the bills? Just do a few, and you’ll probably do the rest while you’re at it. Too tired to play the piano? Just sit down and play a couple of songs, and you’ll find that you’re enjoying it so much you keep playing for an hour.
Before my sabbatical last year, I signed up to an online travel-writing course to get some pointers before blogging about my trip across South America. I stalled on the mid-term (perhaps it wasn’t the best timing, what with rehearsing for Chicago, leaving my flat, quitting my job, moving countries) and months passed without any progress. Then a few weeks ago I bit the bullet and uploaded my article about Geneva, received comments from both students and faculty and proceeded to complete the rest of the course with the final assignment uploaded today.
The other day, I finally thought, enough is enough, and started a strict eating plan (I still blame the South American backpacker diet. As soon as I started eating well, of course, I immediately felt good about the difference I noticed in how I felt and looked. Likewise with exercise: I’ve just started Insanity for the third time, I’m seeing the results, “I’m smiling because I love it”, and I’m sticking to the programme.
And it works with bigger decisions, too. Having ummed and ahhed about it for a very long time, when I finally made the decision to quit my job last year, I felt relieved, empowered, and fully motivated to make my new plan work.
In fact, often any decision is better than no decision, so that you stop wasting time and energy on exploring all your different options and instead go full throttle on one path.
So there you have it, simple but oh so powerful.
Don’t wait for a flash of inspiration, for a sudden urge to do whatever it is you’ve been putting off.
As my friend Mr Nike would say: JUST DO IT. The rest will follow.
*The quote is an indirect one from Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race by Linda Formichelli, originally coming out of an interview with a happiness expert.