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The Myth of Motivation: How to Get Unstuck

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Many of us get stuck in the trap that motivation is something we need to have first to start or finish a task. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

I am sure you’ve been in situations where your mind wanted to accomplish something, but your body said, “Nope, not today.” It’s almost like you are fighting yourself for the very thing you said you wanted to get done.

Many of us procrastinate until we don’t want to think about the task anymore or unconsciously find something else to do to keep our minds preoccupied.

American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson is famously quoted as saying, “Do the thing, and you will get the energy to do the thing.” In translation, even if you don’t feel like writing or working out now, once you open your laptop and start typing or tie up your running shoes and walk out the door, the energy you are seeking to get it done will come after you start.

Even though this quote was said in the 1800s, science is proving what Emerson noted so many years ago.

Here’s the thing about motivation

For so long scientific research associated the dopamine neurotransmitter with pleasure; however, new research confirms that it is also responsible for motivation.

Many of us wait until we feel inspired or motivated to start a new task or habit.

We patiently wait for the dopamine to be released into our brain, hoping it gives us the motivation to work out or start writing that new book. And we all know it rarely comes.

Here’s why: motivation comes after starting a task, not before.

So, if you desire to start writing a book or hitting the gym after work – try focusing on what David Allen calls the “2-minute rule.”

The rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

So how does this work? When you want to develop a new habit, just focus on the first 2 minutes of the task, and once you do, the motivation surge comes!

If you want to read more, just focus on opening the book and reading one page. If you desire to run after work, just focus on lacing up your shoes and walking out the door. In both of these examples, you will find that once you get started, the rest of the task will flow quite easily.

The idea behind this strategy is just to start; then, your brain will start working for you, giving you the motivation you yearned for prior to starting the task.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, stated, the greatest amount of friction for any type of new task is in the beginning. But when you set a goal just to lace up your shoes and walk out the door or just open your laptop and start writing – you make it so easy it’s difficult for you to say no.