When motivation doesn’t help

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I have been developing myself for years and as a trainer I have shared my experience and knowledge with others. As I coach people, read, study and research, I have noticed one common line: greater and more lasting progress is made when you are pushed against the wall and you have nowhere to retreat. All kinds of well known success stories often start with the hero being poor, in some kind of trouble or with some kind of big problems. Finally they pulled themself together, did a lot of work, and eventually made a fortune. Like Charles Dickens, who after his father was imprisoned, had to go to work while a little boy and live with filthy rats somewhere in a messy warehouse. His dream was to become a writer, he didn’t give up and everything else is history. Or, for example, Charlie Chaplin, a silent film superstar whose father died and his mother was put in a madhouse, and had to make a living independently at the age of 10. He did.

But where are the stories of the ordinary, well coping people who make great breakthroughs?

Considering myself to be a completely normal and self-sufficient person, I have a strange desire to become even better and more skilled. Going to various trainings for years, reading books, watching films and applying new knowledge (being motivated for a while) has brought results, but mostly short-term. No major breakthrough or completely new levels have come. Why?

Because I have been relying purely on motivation. Motivation, however, is a strange phenomenon that is never permanent. It fluctuates constantly. It is not possible for motivation to be constantly high. It may float up there for quite some time, but eventually it falls. However you motivate yourself, soon your willpower muscle gets tired and you need to rest. So what to do?

Motivation is not permanent, but fluctuates constantly and requires a great deal of willpower to keep it going.

After working in this field for a long time, I finally found the topic of habits. As I studied the principles of how habits work, it became clear to me that they do not require motivation. Habits are activities that we do completely automatically without paying much attention on doing them. Our brain is sly like a fox and tries to conserve resources at all costs, so it makes routine activities a habit. Then he no longer has to think about them and can save energy. Pretty smart, right?

For example, brushing your teeth. As young children, I believe most of us have run around the room mother’s following us with a toothbrush (at least I hope I wasn’t the only one :). We had no habit of brushing our teeth, it was a boring and tedious duty. But because mothers are very consistent, they like us brushing the teeth,  they were faster and more cunning than us and got us every night, finally brushing our teeth has become a habit for us. Right now, we are scrubbing our teeth completely automatically and without thinking about it.

Habits are activities that we do completely automatically and do not require motivation.

But does our brain pick the activities that become habits or do we have a say in it? Fortunately we have. We can consciously develop habits for ourselves. It’s not easy, but it is doable. Let me say straight away that there is no one single formula that works in every situation, and that allows you to program a couple of new good habits every day. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we are all different, each situation and every activity is different, and habit formation can depend on 100 different factors. For consolation, I can say that scientists have worked hard and made clear how habits work. By understanding how and why habits are formed, we can intervene in this process and create new habits that we like and replace those that are not so useful and necessary.

It is possible to consciously create good habits.

I’ll write about how to do all of this in the future.