Every day I feel like I need more motivation.
Motivation to go to work. Motivation to work on my dreams after work. Motivation to go to the gym every now and then. And the motivation to do it day in and day out…forever? It’s supposed to be forever right?
That’s assuming I’ve already found the motivation to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and walk around with any semblance of good posture. It’s a big assumption.
And that’s just the basics of “being an adult”.
It’s difficult enough as it is. But to make matters worse, a lot of that motivation has to come from inside me. Naturally generated. I’ve heard reports from others that you can occasionally get motivation from an external source, like a calling to a higher power, or an inspirational boss or mentor or parental figure. That sounds like it would be nice. But for now, it’s just me here, trying to pump myself up every morning.
Also, with the current state of productivity and health-related content, it feels like I’m constantly coming across more things that sound exceedingly worth doing. Eating clean leads to working out. Moisturizing leads to a full skincare routine. Reading an article about the health benefits breathing through your nose leads to reading an entire book about it. Which leads to mouth taping, or jaw exercises, or whatever. It’s enough to fill up an entire day.
(In fact, a journalist once wrote a book about this phenomenon, and chronicled his pursuit to do as many healthy things as humanly possible. Near the end of his experiment, he came to this conclusion: doing everything you needed to do every day to be a perfectly healthy person, stop aging in its tracks, and reach elite levels of performance…took more than 24 hours a day.)
So the infinity of it all is real. That doesn’t make it any less worth pursuing, but it does make it significantly more overwhelming. So much motivation needed, all the time. And I can only listen to my “Super Hardcore Pump-Up” playlist so many times.
There has to be a way around it—a way to neutralize this “motivation problem”. And I think I’ve found it. Caveat: it’s a little unconventional. And instead of the usual “thinking really hard about tackling a problem” routine, it involves something a bit different—turning your brain off.
Here’s my advice in three words: become a robot.
So much of our lives, both productive hours and leisure hours, are spent going through the motions. We do the same things, and go to the same places, because we’re supposed to. Healthy lives are built through healthy habits, we’re told.
Who let us buy into the lie that maintaining our health or being productive is so painful? And that laziness is the only way to feel good?
Who told us that the only reason we do anything is because we feel inspired or specifically motivated to do so?
You know what you need to do. Put it another way—you know what needs to be done.
You know what would happen if your arms and legs were operated by a separate, unbiased entity, given the directive only to do the correct, healthy thing. So just let them do it! And take your brain out of the equation.
Lately, I’ve started walking into my house and going straight to where I need to be. Not stopping by the fridge and getting something I don’t need. Not stopping at Taco Bell on the way home or giving in to whatever junk food calls my name.
There’s this sense of momentum it creates that’s extremely gratifying. You’re always where you’re supposed to be. And everything you do has the bonus of being healthy. You don’t have to feel guilty about where you are and what you’re doing. You don’t have stop to think about whether or not this is silly. (It’s not.)
I realized that you can continue to sing little songs to yourself, have your thoughts, be lost in thought even, and still effectively go through your motions. Still do the things you need to get done. Still go to the post office, or sort through emails, or go on a three-mile jog—whatever! You can even have a podcast on most of the time! It’s like an easy mode for your life.
You should be “waking up” in the middle of things already happening. Already at the gym. Already typing a sentence into your computer. “Who put me here?” Robot You did. Take the guesswork out. Take out the need for constant motivation. Here are the three easiest places to start.
Get into your car, drive to the gym
The gym. Working out. Probably one of the number one things most of us would like to be able to automate; to be able to push a button and already have completed a workout. That’s not a possibility for us (yet) but our robot selves can get us as close as possible in the meantime.
Every day, my 45-minute workout takes, conservatively, an hour and a half. Every day I sit there, standing next to various workout equipment, or on the floor in my house, trying to drum up self-motivation from a variety of sources.
Listening to the pump up music. Thinking about how healthy this is for me. Fantasizing about how attractive and in-shape I’ll look once I finish. Wanting to prove something to myself. Appealing to my discipline.
There we go again with the self-generated motivation. And it’s constantly depleting. It even goes away between sets. Any time something is particularly hard, my brain goes, “I don’t want to do that again.”
It may technically be an infinitely replenishing resource, but man, is the refill time a slow one. And we don’t have that kind of time.
Instead, let your body take over. Runners talk about a disassociating feeling after they run a certain amount of time (I mean, how could you not after 15 miles?). Let the same happen to you with the chest fly machine, or the elliptical. Your arms are moving, your eyes are open, but nobody’s home. Muscles burn all the same.
Walk to your desk instead of your couch
There’s one place in my house I should almost always be: the home office, at my desk, typing, pursuing dreams. I know this about myself.
But instead I’ve fallen into this habit of walking in my door after a day of work, ceremoniously throwing my keys onto the counter, plopping down on the couch, and being stuck there for hours until bedtime.
I’ve been destroying any chance at progress in my life between the hours of 7pm and midnight.
So one of the first thoughts I had when I started thinking about Robot Me was, why not let the robot you take you on one last short walk when you walk in the door? Just sitting at your desk and opening the word processor on your computer would get you very close to the starting line.
When you get a break in your normal work your instinct is immediately to break out your laptop and start typing on your passion project. Not consult yourself, think “I’m kinda tired…” and let that feeling dictate what you choose. Self-care is important, but for me, I want to spend more of my personal time working. Cue the robot.
Put it on the calendar and show up
If we’re ever feeling lazy, or unambitious, or maybe a little less social than we know our best selves can be, it’s tempting to say no to plans or cancel on plans we’ve already made.
But what if someone else had signed you up for them? Someone you knew had your best interests at heart? You could lay back and just give them control, right? Trust that they would take care of your calendar?
Let Robot You sign up for something that betters the real you. Agree to plans without thinking too hard (within reason, of course) and then refuse to let yourself cancel.
This is great if you hate going to parties, but it can also extend to other areas of your life, like your work and health. I now put my workouts, and even self-appointed writing sessions, on my calendar as if they’re events that other people are invited to. If I miss the “appointment,” going back into the past and clicking “delete” on something I committed to and then failed to do? That’s a painful moment and one that I’d like to avoid.
It might be a bit of a silly approach, but sometimes you need something a little bit more out there to have something really stick. And I like the “giving your mind a rest” aspect of it. I’m interested to see what happens when you try it. See what good you can accomplish just by setting your intentions, scheduling things in your calendar, and watching your legs take you there.