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If You Understand This Psychological Rule, You Can Motivate Yourself More Effectively

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If You Understand This Psychological Rule, You Can Motivate Yourself More Effectively

How many times have you started a new habit, with a goal in mind, determined to make it happen, and then gave it all up after just a few days? You began something very excitedly about your goal, but the pain of failing to have enough discipline was greater and sufficient to put you off the whole idea.

So how can you keep yourself more motivated, even if you think you’re not a disciplined person?

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If you want to stay motivated to achieve your goals, you need to feel the pain of not achieving them.

Sounds confusing? It’s actually quite simple. Pain is the strongest indicator that our behavior needs readjustment and our brains are wired to be highly reactive to it. When trying to escape pain, the brain triggers psychological processes that aim to change the situation and avoid the source of pain, activating creative and decision-making processes. So instead of adopting a “carrot and stick” approach, and having your eyes on the price only, it’s important to evaluate also the impact of the potential losses you’ll experience by not achieving what you’re aiming for. The pain of those potential losses will be a powerful motivator to keep you going in the pursuit of your goal. Even more so than the desire you have to achieve that goal will.

Loss aversion, and the idea that “losses loom greater than gains”, explains why the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful than the pleasure of gaining.

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The concept of loss aversion, introduced by Kahneman and Tversky in 1979, explains why, for example, if you lose 10 dollars, you feel twice as upset than you are when you gain 10 dollars. And it’s is also why sometimes penalty frames can be more effective than rewarding frames when motivating people.[1]

And while pain plays a role in motivational states, motivational states also influence the perception of pain.

The pain you might feel on your morning jog will be totally neglected if you’re running to escape from an assailant. In a similar way, the pain of waking up early to go to the gym will be greater if you’re only thinking about having a nice beach body. But if you remind yourself that not being fit is costing you health, self-confidence, and stamina, you’ll likely be less upset and ruled by the discomfort you feel getting out of bed.

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As we’ve seen, even if you should have your actions be motivated by what inspires you, and not fear, when working on self-motivation it’s not only beneficial to keep an eye on what you’d like to achieve but also on what you’ll be losing. So if you want to strengthen your motivation, ask yourself questions that will help your brain to perceive the status quo as a loss, more than focusing solely on future gains.

For example, ask yourself:
What do I stand to lose if I don’t reach my goal?
What is the path I’m on costing me every single day?
What will my future look like if I don’t change?

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Be clear on what not going after your goals will cost you and let that evaluation inspire you to take action.

So next time you’re setting a goal or need a little help to stay on track, remember that your goals are made of two parts, those things that you want, and those that you don’t want, bearing in mind that to not want something is, in fact, a more powerful motivation than it is to want.

And when pain presents itself in your game, remember that has a function for you: to get ahead.

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Reference

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Ana Sofia Batista

Psychologist | Mentor | Writer | Yoga Teacher

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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