If you’re relying on willpower to make changes in your life, that’s probably why you’re not seeing results.
That’s because human beings don’t have an unlimited amount of willpower, so we shouldn’t depend on it to motivate us when we’re trying to create lasting change.
Guess what? Rewards don’t work, either.
So. What should you do when you want to motivate yourself?
Tune in to today’s episode of the FHTH podcast for the answer!
EPISODE 217 TRANSCRIPTION
Well, hello, hello, hello! Today we are talking about the secret hack to motivation, and I'm not talking necessarily about motivation with jurors. I know we talk a lot about that in terms of your job is to motivate, how to persuade, blah, blah, blah, blah. I'm talking more about how to motivate yourself. Now, parts of what I've talked about today, I've talked about in other podcast episodes, but I thought I would do a special episode to really highlight this brain hack, which is what it is to basically get yourself to do anything in your life.
Here's what you have to understand, and this one may be a short one, but that's good because brain likes short. The brain is a pleasure-seeking missile. It is going to look for anything that is easy and pleasurable. That is why watching Netflix over going to the gym or eating Cheetos instead of your chicken salad is such an easy thing to do.
Now, our attempt to override that has been a variety of things. Primarily, the number one way we've tried to avoid that is we try to force ourselves to do things. So we just have this kind of hustle culture mentality, no pain, no gain. Life should be hard. Life is hard. Just Do It, like Nike says, right? Just we force ourselves. Now, if you read anything about willpower, you will know that willpower is limited. We do not have a never-ending source of willpower, and once it is exhausted, we will go right back to the habits that our habit brain has created, and we start over again. This is why diets don't work. This is why a lot of the things that we try to do doesn't work because we're relying on willpower, which is the worst way to attempt to change anything in your life.
The second thing that we've attempted to do to motivate ourselves to do anything that we want to change in our life or whatnot, is we try to punish ourselves. So instead of just forcing ourselves, we go, "Listen, if I don't do this, then I'm not going to get to go and see my friends, or I'm not going to be able to eat the dessert that I planned. I only get to eat that if I did this or I've got to be hard on myself." This is where the saboteur comes in. We think that, I was just doing the keynote that I've been talking to you all about, and I asked in the keynote, why are we so hard on ourselves in the first place? And I believe it's because we think if we're not hard on ourselves that we will just dissolve into this lazy puddle of complete and utter lack of motivation. And so, on some level we think we have to be hard on ourselves. I mean, I was going to say go and look at parenting boards or comments on parenting.
We blame everything on parents nowadays. There was something about kids that grew up in the '70s and all the comments on that on Facebook the other day were like, "We were raised, right? We had our bottoms spanked. We had tough rules. We obeyed our parents," and so there's this big thinking about how if we are hard on our kids, if we punish them for when they're bad, if we have this authoritarian parenting, that is the answer to society's ills. Guess what? Research shows that's also not true that we need to be authoritative. Assertive in our parenting, but if we are an authoritarian that is actually detrimental to children. It does not help them change their behavior or grow up into the adults that we all guess think we are nowadays, we always look back fondly, but I actually think our parents didn't care if we lived or died, have some of the things that were happening in the '70s and the '80s, like the asphalt and the metal slides and the things. But the point is that this whole punishment culture is also not helping us motivate.
So what happened in the '80s and '90s then, or even today. Now, we went to a rewards culture. We went all the way to the other side. We're going to reward kids for doing things. For example, we're going to give them stickers, if they potty train. We're going to give them pizza, if they read books, we're going to give everybody participation trophies, all of the things. If you are a parent or an educator on any level, you must read literally anything that Alfie Kohn has written. But he has a fantastic book called Punished by Rewards, and it's all research-based. He's got so many research studies in there that blow the idea out of the water that rewards work.
In fact, what he found in that book is that rewards do the exact opposite of what we want them to do. The whole Pizza Hut and reading thing that was real popular in the '80s and '90s, the research shows that it caused kids to read less. They went and they looked at incentives in companies like win this trip, if you're the most top salesperson. They found people sold less, and when they looked at why, the brain did a really funny thing when it came to reward. When we have to offer a reward to something that is intrinsically satisfying on its own, which for example, reading is, or doing a job well done is, that's intrinsically rewarding. When we add a reward on top of that, whether it's pizza or a vacation to Hawaii, the brain goes, "Oh, this must not be a worthy pursuit and it wants to do it less." So, if we are doing this, pushing ourselves, punishing ourselves, rewarding ourselves, if those three things that society has cycled through for years do not work to motivate human behavior, what does? Well, the answer is pleasure.
The secret hack to motivation is to enjoy what you're doing.
That's it. That's the hack. You will exercise, if you enjoy the exercise that you're doing. You will meditate, if you get hooked on the feeling that it feels when you're done meditating. I was looking at things I wanted to change in my life. I'm like, "Ah, I'm so unmotivated," and then I start writing down all the things that I do naturally as habits right now, you can ask my husband Kevin, or even my daughter. I stretch every single night before bed without fell. In fact, last night I couldn't sleep, and I realized I didn't stretch, and it was midnight and I got up and I stretched. 'Cause I was like, "Oh my God, I've forgot to stretch." 'Cause I was having a sleepover with my daughter. It's something that I do now.
Do I particularly love stretching? Not necessarily. It's painful. I have very tight muscle groups due to trauma and other things that happen with my body. It's not particularly exciting. It takes a good 10 minutes to stretch all the body parts, but I am so addicted to the feeling. It's almost like a euphoric feeling when I lay in bed after stretching that I miss it when I don't have it. So, I'm not suggesting that always the actual thing you're doing is going to give you the pleasure, but pleasure has to be involved somehow. This is why Kevin and I have created lives where we do very little, if any, have to's. We rarely look at our life and go, "Well, I have to do this, or I have to do that." If it's something that we do not want to do or that feels like I have to, we either delete it and we just stop caring about it or we hire it out.
We have somebody else do it because we know that if we're going to live the kinds of lives that we want to live, we're going to be living as much as possible. 80% is where you need to start, by the way. I'm thinking 95 and more of the activities that we do are in the want to space. And if you are thinking to yourself, everybody has to do things that they don't want to do. We all have to do things. My question to you is, where the hell did you get that idea? Maybe at some point in our life, yes. Maybe when you're starting out your business, you have to do things that you don't necessarily love doing or not pleasure seeking. But even there, even back when I was writing marketing copy and all the stuff that I think I'm pretty terrible at a lot of people be like, "You were actually really good," "No, I hated it."
It still was connected to pleasure because I loved growing my business. So even there, there were things in my business that people said I should do to grow it, that I knew that on any level I would not like, even if they were good for my business, I was like, "Hell to the fuck. No, I'm not doing that," because there was no pleasure, peace. See, to me, it makes way more sense to work with our brains than against our brains. The brain does not being using willpower because it is a finite resource. There's not enough to go around. The brain certainly doesn't like punishment, and as we've just found the brain doesn't even rewards. What the brain likes is pleasure. That's how it's wired. Now, when we think about this, I want you thinking about three things that you can do to feel good.
The first one is, know what brings you pleasure. Corinne Crabtree, who is my weight loss coach. In one of her lessons years and years ago, I don't even know if it's in her course anymore, but I remember her asking this, one of her lessons, maybe it was a podcast, and she said, "I want you..." Meaning us women who are in her program, "I want you to write down 30 things that bring you pleasure." And she was talking about how when she's asked women to do this in a seminar or whatever she's working, she's like, "After women, write down two or three things, and at least one of those three things is food or alcohol." They just stop. Most people cannot write down 30 things that bring them pleasure because we are not used to welcoming that in our lives. I talked about in the last couple podcasts about how you all don't want to celebrate. There's something hedonistic that we've learned in this, that it's bad to feel good, that if we feel good, that somehow, we're going to become lazy and horrible.
So that would be my first thing is figure out what does bring you pleasure and have that be things that are not just immediate. I mean, food can bring you pleasure, but if that's all food and alcohol is on your list, we've got a problem.
Second one, understand the difference between feeling good and buffering. So oftentimes, we will do things like zone out on Netflix, or eat, or drink, and we're think, "This is what makes me feel good. This is what's super pleasurable," when really, it's just a way to escape. It's just a way to not be with emotions. Like I talked about two podcast episodes ago. Those things aren't actually pleasurable. I remember thinking, "Oh, I love certain type of food." I don't remember what is now. And then, when I started really tasting it and slowing down and eating it, I'm like, "This is shit." It was a habit I had created. I thought it made me feel good, like extremely fatty foods.
I love the taste of them, but my body feels like shit when I eat them, and so they really don't bring me pleasure. There are plenty of things, especially being married to a kick ass chef that tastes good and also feel good in my body. That's where I want to live most of the time.
And third, once you figure out what brings you pleasure and that it's not buffering, meaning keeping you away from feeling things, allow yourself to feel it. Build those things into your life. If you are trying to change something, see if you can connect it to something you love doing. If you're trying to exercise and you never exercise, then find something that you do like to do, whether it's dancing or just walking outside or Taekwondo or it doesn't have to be in a gym. If you don't love your job, see if you can get a different one or hire things out or delegate. You only have this one life, my friends. If you want to motivate yourself to do anything, because here's the real hack, is that once you are doing something enjoyable, motivation isn't really needed. You're just enjoying your life. It's funny, one of the things I wrote down on my goals for this year is I want to enjoy my life. I want to get off of the rat race of achieving and producing and merely do this thing called enjoy my life.
Isn't it the same for you, my friend? Hasn't it been too long before you've actually enjoyed this life that goes by so fast? That's the hack to motivation because once you start enjoying your life, you don't need motivation anymore. Love you, talk soon.
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