I am ambitious, talented and intelligent, but I lack willpower, discipline, and organization. I am… by Stephen Guise
Answer by Stephen Guise:
Be careful about advice—which includes the currently-top-rated answer—telling you "you have to want it." Desire and motivation are NOT your problem, nor were they mine when I was in the same boat. Your issue is your subconscious mind and current habits. You need new habits.
Motivational advice makes you feel good, but it's not consistent.
To Shana, who asked you "how much do you want it?", I would ask you both if you've ever not wanted to pursue your goals. In my years, I've always wanted to be in good shape— 24/7/365. That desire has never changed. What has happened is my motivation to pursue that goal and do the work in particular moments has always been volatile. And because motivation is based on how you feel about an activity in any given moment, it's unreliable. The "get motivated" strategy is all about trying to get into that motivated mindset, where taking action is easy, but it incorrectly assumes that when you're unmotivated, that you'll even want to "get motivated." It's a strategy full of holes, yet spewed out by all the self-help parrots.
The other lever of action is willpower—doing things even when you don't feel like doing them (i.e. are not motivated). Because your subconscious is used to doing things a certain way, anytime you intentionally veer off that path, you lose willpower energy. Studies have found that willpower is limited, and generally speaking, typical goals will burn you out and put you on the couch to watch TV (or waste time in however you're accustomed to doing it). It's too much change.
So anyway, long story short, I changed my life by doing the following:
- At least 1 push-up a day = best shape of my life
- Write 50 words a day = write 4x as much
- Read 2 pages in a book a day = read 10x more books
I call the strategy "Mini Habits," and the book I wrote on it has sold 20k+ copies and is rated 4.7 stars (the highest of any habit book)—the simple reason being that it works. It doesn't require motivation to do one push-up, it requires a TINY amount of willpower. And once you start, the dynamic changes, your motivation increases, etc. And by doing it consistently, you'll gradually change your brain's neural pathways so that your subconscious prefers the same things as your conscious mind.
Can Shana's advice work? Kind of. That's how I made mediocre progress for 10 years. Aiming for increased motivation is better than nothing and it works sometimes. She says she's the same person, and that's what you'll get with the short-term nature of motivational techniques. Though, from the sound of it, I think she's begun to develop better habits too, which is great.
I'm a different person because my brain has changed: I like exercise; Writing is easy; Reading is bearable too, which is an upgrade.
Consistency matters more than quantity, because consistency can permanently change your brain. Mini habits are habitual behaviors so small that you won't fail to do them every single day, and the results tend to blow people's minds (including mine, when I had to admit that doing one push-up a day changed my life).
Don't believe me? Read the reviews of Mini Habits (They're all unsolicited, honest reviews):
I recommend that whatever it is you're aiming for, shrink your target into something you can do every day without fail. If you can do it on your worst day, what can stop you? Nothing!
As for the meaningfulness of doing one push-up a day, etc. There are two reasons:
- It allows for remarkable consistency to change the brain
- Bonus reps (you can always do more)