Motivate Yourself to Complete the Task With This Two-Step Process

We all have tasks that we dread, and on some days it is really hard to find the motivation to tackle those challenges. To get started, Charles Duhigg , author of The Power of Habit , invites you to make choices that will allow you to be in control and connect your task to your values.

In his new book Smarter Faster Better, Duhigg talks about the connection between motivation and control. He cites a 2012 study in the journal Problems and Perspectives in Management that found that people with an “inner locus of control” tend to have higher self-motivation, social maturity, and less stress. The inner locus of control is the belief that your actions can affect your destiny. In terms of motivation, Duhigg writes:

If you can associate something difficult with a choice that you care about, it will make the task easier … turn the chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will appear.

In other words, turn your chores into choices that make you feel like you are in control of the big picture. As Duhigg says, this “activates those parts of our brain that are motivated.”

For example, suppose you are writing an article and take an hour to study one of your points. If you’re struggling to find motivation, you first want to give yourself choices so that you feel like you’re in control. Maybe that choice is with which publication you will start your research or even where you will work (cafe, local library?). These options work subtly to put you in the driver’s seat.

Second, you want to tie those decisions and your challenge to a larger, more meaningful goal. You may be completing your research paper because you want to excel in your course in order to become a pro in the topic. Maybe you are just doing it to get a good grade, get your degree, and find your ideal job so you can do what you enjoy making a living. The link does not have to be direct; it just needs to remind you of your big goal.

Of course, this may not work for all tasks. I would have a hard time finding a larger purpose, say, washing dishes. But this process seems especially useful for small tasks that are part of a larger project.

Smarter Faster Better | Charles Duhigg (Amazon)


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