How to Trick Your Brain into Being Motivated
In Judo, you use your opponent’s energy to your own advantage.
If you struggle with motivation, your own dumb brain is your toughest opponent. Rather than rely on your very limited willpower, use Motivational Judo to use your brain’s resistance to your advantage.
Kanō Jigorō, Judo’s founder, said:
“…resisting a more powerful opponent will result in your defeat, whilst adjusting to and evading your opponent’s attack will cause him to lose his balance, his power will be reduced, and you will defeat him.”
Your brain is full of biases that can prevent your own motivation. But, you can use those biases to your own advantage.
Here are a few ways your brain will keep you from being motivated:
- The Fortress Fallacy: Your brain has a grand vision of what something could become, so instead of getting started, your brain fools itself into thinking it’s productive by dreaming more about this “fortress.” The more you think about the fortress you want to build, the bigger and more grand it becomes, making it more intimidating to get started.
- The Starter’s Block: Getting started on something is absolute agony. This often leads to “Shiny Object Syndrome.”
- Shiny Object Syndrome: This is where your dumb brain gets excited about a new project. To reduce the cognitive dissonance that results, it then rationalizes that this new project is indeed a more worthy pursuit than the one you abandoned.
Here are some Motivational Judo “throws” that can help you not only overcome these biases, but also use your dumb brain’s weaknesses to your advantage:
- The 10-Minute Hack: Pick a task, set a timer for 10 minutes, and work on that one task for 10 minutes without stopping. This “throw” takes advantage of your own ego protection mechanism: you’d feel so bad about yourself if you couldn’t work on something for 10 minutes, that your dumb brain won’t be able to rationalize checking Facebook or email, even if “just for a minute.” By the time the 10 minutes is up, you are IN the project and don’t want to stop. (More here.)
- The Whip: A whip cracks because energy has travelled from the base of the whip, gaining momentum until the tip breaks the speed of sound. That’s right, it just takes a flip of the wrist to create a sonic boom. Similarly, don’t think about your projects linearly. Go straight to the part that is the most enjoyable. This creates more potential directions to continue on, and builds momentum.
- Be Your Own Boss: Deciding to do stuff, and doing stuff take different parts of your dumb brain. This is why companies have executives, and your prefrontal cortex is known for “executive control.” Dedicate time to planning and scheduling in advance what you’ll do (this can get overwhelming, so start with just one daily session — maybe a 10-Minute Hack — of your most important work). Productivity is about Mind Management, not Time Management, and this will take a load off your brain.
By learning the ways your own dumb brain tricks itself, you can develop tactics to use its biases to your own advantage. This is a key component of taking the right action at the right time for Perpetual Productivity.