How to motivate yourself and finally do the things you’ve always wanted to.

A lot of self-help books, speakers, and other resources mention pleasure and pain as drivers of human behavior to motivate ourselves. They are absolutely correct, these are the driving forces behind our decisions. To boil it down our choices are based on avoiding pain and gaining pleasure. Tony Robbins gives the example of taxes. We see the process of doing taxes as painful, so we put it off. Taxes stay at the bottom of our priority list until the very last minute when the pain of NOT doing them becomes so strong that we finally sit down and do them. Tony talks about a kind of mind hack in which we consciously flip the pain switch in our heads to make things like taxes hurt more before they become a crisis. Decide to make it painful not to do them and you will do them sooner.

As I understand that concept, it is a method of trying to break patterns by reframing our pain and pleasure principles. But the process is a little abstract to me in practice. What steps do I take to make something I don’t want to do more painful not to do than to do? I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot to ask my brain to flip around and keep straight. It’s a lot of words but I’m not sure there’s a clear, simple thing to practice in daily life to motivate myself.

I’ve come up with a couple little games for myself that are way easier for me to get. Basically, I see all my “should’s” as ammunition I use against me. They are the cannons aimed, locked and loaded, ready to fire. But instead of getting worried, I decided to look at that firing squad as a kind of game, an opportunity to disarm the cannons before they fire. Let me give the example of running again. So, I’m driving home from work, I am tired and I remember it’s running night. Ugh, I think, can I really motivate myself? I then ask myself a question, “Will I beat myself up for NOT running tomorrow?” The answer is yes, so I tell myself that I will run then, taking away the ability of the cannon to fire. I see taking away ammunition as a game. And now it’s become such a game where I look for the things ahead of time that I will potentially fire at myself and knock them out before I can ever do so. Then I find myself talking myself into running saying things like, “It’s only a half hour, you will be done before you know it.” Or, “Just put on your shoes and get out the door, it won’t be that bad.” It has become natural for me now to talk myself into it, whereas before I would usually talk myself out of it.

By removing the ammunition from the cannons, the motivation to do the things you really want to do becomes increasingly easier. This works and works really well. I guess we could pick it apart applying the pain and pleasure principles, but I really don’t care HOW it works, I’m just happy that it does. In fact, the game of taking away the ammunition has worked so well I finally reached the bottom of the to-do list that has been full my entire life. Yup, I finished and was super happy and proud of doing so. I literally had nothing to do for the first time in my life. I learned to sustainably motivate myself. I had nothing left to beat myself up about, not a single shot of ammunition left. I had taken it all away! And I looked around my life and realized that I was running regularly, I was working out, I was eating right. (And I mean eating super fucking clean –I had even cut out sugar!) When I stopped and observed my life, I was literally doing ALL of the things I had wanted to do forever but had never done and had beat myself up about. I was doing everything and it felt great! And all I did was focus on taking away the ammunition. That’s it, and suddenly I was living some other person’s life. 30-plus years I had been wanting or telling myself I “should” be doing these things. 30 years of cannon fire, beating myself up and making myself feel like shit and it all changed instantly. I kid you not: I changed everything in one month! I even bought a sewing machine to hem five pairs of pants that were a little too long, I mean it when I say I got to the very, very bottom of my to-do list. Things that weren’t even that important but they were in my head, I would knock them out so I couldn’t use it against myself for NOT doing them. I gave the cannons nothing to fire. It was like flipping on the lights in an old storage locker and clearing out every little corner. My ammunition room was clean and the cannons sat disarmed for the first time EVER!

And it wasn’t that I had to trick myself into liking running or liking giving up sugar, all I had to do was ask, “Will I fire cannons at myself for NOT doing this?” And then I just did it to take away the ammo. That was WAY easier than flipping negatives and positives and tricking myself.

by: Josh Ritcher

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