Why Motivation is Not Getting You Anywhere — Atomic Habits

Focus On the Start, Not the End.

Motivation is not enough

It sounds like the universal truth. You might be nodding your head right now. Most of us are motivated to accomplish something but are also the masters of procrastinating things forever. Understanding why this happens was a huge revelation for me.

Motivation gives you a sense of accomplishment. Feeling pumped about something feels like you are on the right track and you are actually doing something great with your life. But, what you are actually doing is watching GoT. Though you feel shitty at the end of it, the anticipation that you will work on something great tomorrow will feed the sense of accomplishment right back into your brain. Hence, you are stuck in the never-ending loop of

Motivation -> Sense of Accomplishment -> Procrastination

The second huge revelation was that we often feel motivated because we are excited about the end result. I will become a great writer, an amazing artist, a sophisticated software engineer, etc., but how many of us are excited about writing that first chapter of the book, painting that first stroke, writing that first line of code.

In the excitement of reaping the benefits, we often forget to see the road that will take us there. The change of perception to look at motivation as a start of something is truly great.

In Atomic habits, James Clear provides you with a bunch of practical techniques that help you make and stick with these micro-changes which evolve into a habit.

Focus on the START, not the FINISH. Then build systems and habits — your process — that can organically take you where you want to go.

How to overcome it?

  1. Habit Chaining

Habit Chaining is a great technique shared in the book where you chain the habit you want to acquire in the middle of your existing habits.

For eg., If you want to take up writing seriously and always dreamt of becoming a great author, but had never taken the effort to write daily, insert it into your everyday schedule.

It can go something like this. I will wake up in the morning, get my coffee, open up my laptop writing for 15 minutes, take a bath and so on. You can do this for multiple habits at different times of the day and alter the time as you become more acquainted to the habit. Habit chaining is a seamless way to accommodate better habits into your life.

2. Early Rewards

The motivation can be rewarding, who doesn’t feel good about being in a good shape or being that famous author. But these rewards from imagining the best outcomes are not enough to keep you hooked. The moment you take that first step, fear takes over and you will think of million ways of why it would not work.

Split the motivation into time-bound tasks and announce it publicly. Reward yourself as you accomplish each of those milestones. Accomplishing each of these smaller goals will improve your confidence and kills the fear factor right at its doorstep.

For eg., I wanted to learn NLP technology for a long time. Though learning a technology excites me, I never made to move to actually do it. Until I stumbled upon the #100DaysOfMLCode challenge where you openly commit to learning ML for 1 hour every day. Now I had to just focus on what needs to be done in that 1 hour every day. The more I learned about it the more confident I felt about the topic.

3. Becoming that Person.

This is the most simple but powerful trick. It is so simple yet gives you a sense of complete control over your life. Instead of using the words “I want to” use “I don’t”. Let me give you a few examples,

I want to lose weight. => I don’t eat junk food.
I want to become a writer => I don’t start my day without writing.

You get the point, right?. By using the words “I don’t” you are assuring yourself and others around you that you are not that kind of person.

Next time when you’re pumped but not pumped enough to move your ass and get things done, remember. You just have to get 1% better today.