I ran today. This is not an exciting fact in and of itself, except that I have not attempted to workout for months. This also does not make me unique.
The problem is that next weekend I am supposed to run a half marathon. My friend and I signed up together and until a week ago, we were still intending to run/walk the race together, so I should have been training for months.
Our plans fell apart, and she, through no fault of her own, will not be coming to town for the race. I have no intention of running it without her, which begs the question as to why I ran today.
I currently lack motivation.
I was doing a self-assessment today trying to determine what’s dragging me down and stopping me from moving forward. I thought about the writing that I want to get done, the fitness level I want to achieve, and the projects sitting idle in various areas of my life.
Then I realized that I was writing full time, I never missed a deadline. If someone was paying me to write, I was always able to get it done. Was it the pay or the external motivation of not letting someone down?
I have tried to set up external consequences before but have fallen through. When I said I would make a contribution to an opposing candidate if I did not workout a certain number of times in a week, and I asked my friend to hold me accountable, we both decided not to stick to it.
We both disliked the candidate enough to agree that breaking the promise was the better outcome.
There are external sites that will hold you more accountable, but even those require you to self-report on progress.
So how did I get myself to run today?
I told myself that I had to transfer $5 to my kid’s bank account if I did not run today and write an article by midnight.
Why did this work? Because the consequence was enough that I didn’t want to have to transfer the money, but the outcome was not so unpalatable that I know that I have no intention of following through.
Additionally, it has the added benefit of inducing the fear of loss which is a more powerful motivator than the hope for gain.
Did I tell my kid about my intention? No, because I didn’t want to encourage him to thwart my efforts.
I didn’t want to workout today, and I probably won’t want to workout tomorrow.
But knowing that it will cost me something was enough today, and I think it will be again tomorrow.
What have I learned from this?
It’s possible to overcome inertia.
You just need to find the motivator (not motivation) that works for you. For me it’s deadlines. For others it’s promises to a friend, spouse, or accountability partner.
Deals do not have to be public to work.
My kid knows nothing about this and would probably not notice an extra $5 in his savings account. But I know, and that’s what matters.
If you have no intention of following through on a promise, it will not motivate you.
My earlier attempts to find external motivation did not work because I never really intended to make the donation if I failed.
Goals need to be specific and measurable.
In order to not have to pay the $5, I need to run/walk a 5k and write an article by midnight. Both items are specific and measurable, and there is ambiguity involved in determining whether I accomplished the day’s goal.