Imagine you’re at a water park. There are water slides everywhere of varying sizes, each of which empties into a pool of darkness.
Meaning the slides take you to a liquid, but you don’t know what’s underneath the surface. There could be nothing. There could be something. It’s unknown.
These are our “behavioral slides,” and there are two things that get in your way of sliding down.
But to better understand these two things, we need to first revisit motivation.
I likened motivation to diarrhea earlier by saying the the more motivation you have, the easier a behavior slips out of you.
This explains the output of being more or less motivated, but it doesn’t dig into the multifaceted phenomenon.
Here is a deeper look at some of the things that impact motivation.
The strongest motivators have deep biological ties. We’re smelly moist machines with ancient software.
Evolutionary biologists say there are two things we care about above all else: survival and sex.
Meaning those two things have great influence on our motivation to do things.
Humans are also risk averse. From an evolutionary standpoint, the humans that were prone to engage in risky activities were the ones that stuck their head into a noisy bush where a black bear was having sex.
And if there’s one thing I know about black bears, it’s that they don’t take kindly to interrupted sex. (I know nothing about black bears.)
Risky humans didn’t live long enough to pass down copies of their genes. So, typically, more risk = less motivation.
We also shy away from judgement and criticism.
Likewise, we tend to avoid punishment and pain and seek pleasure and reward. The more pain and punishment we associate with a behavior, the less motivation will have.
(An important note: sometimes extrinsic rewards [like winning money] and extrinsic punishments [like losing money] are de-motivators. More on this later.)
Your interest in both the behavior(s) and the expected outcome(s) influence motivation. I don’t care about my lawn all that much, so I wouldn’t be motivated to read a book on lawn care.
Your ability influences motivation. You’ll be more motivated to do something you’ve already proven you can do.
Ability ties into expectancy, which is a biggie.
Do you expect your efforts to make a difference? Your past matters.
You tell yourself, “I’ll start Monday!” And you do. Hardcore. You feel fresh. You feel good. Tuesday comes, and you hang on. Wednesday, you feel a little…off. Your grip starts to fail. Thursday, well, uhh, you see, something came up, and, uhh, well, I just couldn’t.
“I’ll start Monday!”
You can only start so many Mondays with motivation. Before long, even if you’re consciously ready to (finally) be consistent and get shit done, your subconscious identifies the charade.
“Oh, great. You’re doing this song and dance again. I know what this is all about. You’re going to quit two days later. No need to get excited. It’s just a passing phase.”
Your subconscious expects another failure. Your motivation is low.
Another influence to motivation is timeliness. The longer it takes to see or own a result, the less motivation you’ll have. Your brain gets hooked easier when there’s immediate feedback. Too bad in the Land of Bod, things don’t happen fast (except injuries).
I’m sure motivation is even more multifaceted, but I’ve done my job and pretended to know enough (for now).
Also, keep in mind: the less motivation we have, the more we then rely on willpower. And know willpower is unreliable.
What follows is the nugget nectar (good beer, Troegs) of this entire debacle.
We struggle to Do Work and Get Shit Done because of how all of that motivation junk applies to
Meaning everything it takes to initiate and do the behavior.
Meaning what’s waiting for us once we do slide down.
IN OTHER WORDS_
So if you take a behavior throw all of that motivational gooeyness towards
(a) what it takes to initiate a behavior, the climb
(b) the expected result of a behavior, the splash
what’s the output?
Is there fear and risk associated with the initiation or conclusion? If so, bye bye motivation.
Is there some kind of reward awaiting you at the initiation or conclusion? Maybe you’ll have more motivation.
If you struggle Getting Shit Done, there’s (
probably) pain, risk, or negative emotions associated with either (a) the act of doing whatever behavior[s] you need to do, or (b) the potential outcome[s] of said behavior[s].
“pain” “risk” “negative”
Could be actual physical pain. Like delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). But it doesn’t have to be.
Maybe it’s the time you have to invest in the behavior(s). Maybe it’s that the things you’re eliminating (beer, cake, chips, cookies) make you happy. Maybe it’s that you’re a newbie in the gym and you don’t know how to use the equipment, which is an awkward situation (unless you have Z2B).
Maybe it’s that you’re afraid of how your friends or spouse will perceive the changes you want to make, the fear of judgement and criticism.
These are all “pains.”
There are a billion examples we could run through, but this is a totally personal process because some people have different mental wiring.
In other words, some people see risk and such as an adventure and something to dive into (as opposed to something to shy away from), which opens up an entire new ball of wax.
We’ll get to that, but not right now.
The important part being:
YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND YOUR THOUGHTS MATTER.
YOUR PERSPECTIVE MATTERS.
A lot of people see Ralston’s story and say, “He was able to chop off his arm, I should be able to _______.”
But that’s an unfair comparison to yourself. To your perspective. Ralston’s life was on the line. Humans are motivation by survival.
It was much easier for him to do what he did as compared to, say, as if he were just in his kitchen cooking dinner.
When you compare yourself to others, you ignore the ever-so-important perspective.
For instance, just about everyone goes to a job every day. A lot of people dislike their jobs. But they go. By all of this behavioral slide business, this doesn’t make sense.
The caveat being, most people feel like they don’t have a choice. And choice is the ultimate breaker fuse. Motivation and willpower don’t matter if you have no choice.
If you move to Antarctica, into a tent, a place where there is no cake, then you can’t eat cake. You can’t do drugs. You can’t….
But most people DO have a choice as to whether or not to go to work. They just don’t think they do.
Perception > Reality
Since I opened up a choice can of worms, I might as well squat down and talk about it.
Choice is the ultimate weapon. If you’re struggling to change your behaviors, you can put yourself in a position without choice.
IE: Don’t have any junk food in your house. Because then you absolutely can’t eat junk food no matter how much you want to.
This is useful to know, but it’s a struggle to apply because, in today’s world, we always have a choice.
Don’t want junk food in your house? Okay. You have to choose to throw your current junk food away. You have to choose NOT to buy more when you’re at the grocery store.
Don’t get me wrong – these ideas are GOOD. Because you then only have to make ONE tough decision.
Save up all your willpower to NOT buy cookies. That’s much easier to do than wanting cookies and having them in the pantry and then telling yourself, every two minutes, “I can’t eat the cookies.”
But eliminating choice (usually) isn’t bulletproof.