This concept that I learned from Dr. Justin Sung (icanstudy.com) has broken a significant belief that I carried for the longest time that:
"I must be motivated to succeed in order to succeed"
And folks... Good news. It's not true!
Alright, folks – I am about to share with you a way of viewing your work that will eradicate burnout – forever.
Alex is a budding entrepreneur. A young Steve Jobs type of entrepreneur. Incredibly intense, severely emotional, and very clever.
Alex has the goal of starting a business. A tech startup to be more exact. He knows that he has got to work REALLY hard. Like phenomenally hard. And so he feels all FIRED UP!
He whips out a planner and starts writing down tons of things he needs to do.
He creates a schedule that is broken down quarterly, monthly, daily, and hourly.
He keeps a vision board in his office – just above his monitor. And he has posted a series of posters all over his office to help increase his motivation.
Day 1 – Alex is ready to rumble.
For the first few days, Alex has tons of momentum. He's working so hard that he can finally start to see some results!
Upon seeing this, his motivation INTENSIFIES. He is really on fire now.
Time goes on.
And slowly, but surely, his motivation starts to droop a little.
As a result, his progress starts to become a bit more uncertain. He's not quite sure – but he feels like things aren't happening so easily.
Begin – Death Spiral
So a little more time goes on and Alex's motivation drops a bit more. And that leads to more ambiguous results. Which leads to procrastination.
More time passes -> less motivation -> more ambigous results -> more procrastination
Eventually, Alex begins to procrastinate so much that his productivity reaches an all-time low.
"Uh Oh!" Alex thinks. He risks not reaching his goal.
That's no good.
So Alex does what he does best. He tries harder.
He reinjects his productivity system with MORE motivation.
Ah... Progress. He begins to see results again and continues on his way.
He never realizes that his motivation & productivity have been hopelessly tied together. Stuck in a devastating loop that will continue to plague him forever.
Alex now despairs over his condition. "Why can't I maintain my motivation?" "What if my motivation runs out again?"
What Alex doesn't realize is that he's been stuck in a rather terrible cycle:
He has a burst of motivation that he eventually spends on working. Eventually, enough time passes and his motivation decreases. He suddenly gets scared and realizes that he might not achieve his goal – which results in him reinjecting motivation back into the system.
He will go around and around until...
After getting scared once more – he won't reinject anything back. Because he can't
What did he do wrong?
Alex made the mistake of
Relying on motivation to be productive.
He decided to base his entire system of work on something that is inherently variable in nature. Motivation always fluctuates.
He was doomed from the start.
What should he do now?
Alex should've started with the following question:
"How can I plan for the days when I am not motivated?"
He should begin to think critically about what motivation means to him and all the different factors that play into his own productivity.
The High vs Low Motivation Plan
Alex's mistake was creating a plan that required a "high necessary motivation" in order to execute.
If we look at the graph – you'd only be able to complete work for about 10% of the time.
Instead, he should've created a plan that required incredibly LOW motivation. And completed his work 100% of the time.
This plan should be realistic, easy, and something that can even be achieved on your worst day.
Your Ticket To Success:
The key to decoupling your productivity from motivation is to rely on: habit.
Habit doesn't require effort. It doesn't even require motivation. It's what you do on autopilot.
The most successful people in the world rely on habit. If you ask anyone of them – none of them will tell you that their results were caused by a sheer force of will.
That is an unsustainable strategy.
So to beat procrastination -> build habits.
And so – if you refer back to the low motivation plan – you essentially want to pick the actions that you will do EVERYDAY that form a habit.
You no longer leave your success to change. Leave it to habit.
Become Will Power Enhanced Not Dependant
Alex now realizes the error in his ways and decides to refactor his working life to optimize for consistency over output. He knows that some days he'll feel icky, so he plans for those by creating habits that are SO easy that they could be done in his sleep.
When you're motivation/willpower dependent:
- you will reach willpower exhaustion -> eventually burnout
- when things get difficult you -> force your way through
- when you face challenges -> try harder
- procrastination -> acquire more motivation
When you're motivation/willpower enhanced:
- you rely on habits
- when things get difficult -> you get better habits. better process.
- facing challenges -> calmly evaluate
- procrastination doesn't exist
Instead, you can now INVEST willpower wherever it's needed and still have lots left over.
Good news: Habits can be trained!
Alex finally understands what he needs to do. He looks at all the successful people in his own life and realizes that they too rely on their good habits to get stuff done.
He remembers that bad habits are just as easily trained as good habits.
And off Alex goes. With the knowledge that he can be successful regardless of motivation. He feels calm, cool, and collected.
Ready to take on the world!