Motivation: universal solvent

One factor separates spinning my wheels in life and making exhilarating progress: motivation. How motivated am I to do the thing that I’m trying to do? How yummy does it feel? 

You can try all the psychological tools, productivity techniques, or rationality strategies in the book, but if you don’t feel motivated to do the thing then you’re going to suffer and the result will disappoint. Conversely, when you’re starving and seek food, you will reliably surprise yourself with the kinds of challenges you can overcome.

In the same way that water can dissolve more substances than any other liquid, motivation can dissolve pretty much any problem you can think of.

The best part is, it doesn’t matter where your motivation comes from. It doesn’t matter how it works and you don’t need to try to control it. You can pretend like it’s magical — some combination of past experiences. Given the hand you’ve been dealt, what can you do with it? Find what’s yummy and allow yourself to become an expert at that. If you’re not doing what’s yummy or trying to get yourself to find other things yummy (“wanting to want”), you are torturing yourself. This is a choice you’re making.


Also published on Medium.

2 thoughts on “Motivation: universal solvent

  1. I had always read that motivation was fickle and that it was better to rely on habits or systems instead. I’m not sure these days…

    I find building significant new habits from scratch is actually really, really difficult in the longterm.

    I also find that when I’m pretty… *internally aligned* and unconflicted about what I’m doing, then almost any system will work. Whereas when I’m not, I can spend days obsessing about designing the perfect habits/systems/routines/whatever to very little effect.

    On the other hand, it’s also really hard to work on internal conflicts or motivation directly. I guess this article points to not needing to “work” on them, but just discovering and going with whatever motivation or alignment is already there?

    1. Yes I think that’s the ideal approach. Also one effective way of working on internal alignment is by being open and curious enough to explore what it is aligned towards rather than what you want it to be. That can dissolve a lot of conflict

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