The Science of Success

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How to Make Yourself Do It When You Just Don't Want To

You really can get better about not putting things off, if you use the right strategy. Read More

Really Inspiring!

This article really inspires to push up my limits to achieve incredible heights of success in life. Thanks author!

Excellent article, especially

Excellent article, especially since it provided me with yet another excuse to put off what I really should be doing for another 5 minutes. Thank you very much!

wrong advise to "use" anxiety

"What you need is a way of looking at what you need to do that isn’t undermined by doubt —ideally, one that thrives on it. When you have a prevention focus, instead of thinking about how you can end up better off, you see the task as a way to hang on to what you’ve already got — to avoid loss. For the prevention-focused, successfully completing a project is a way to keep your boss from being angry or thinking less of you. Working out regularly is a way to not “let yourself go.” Decades of research, which I describe in my book Focus, shows that prevention motivation is actually enhanced by anxiety about what might go wrong. When you are focused on avoiding loss, it becomes clear that the only way to get out of danger is to take immediate action. The more worried you are, the faster you are out of the gate"

Heidi this advise is a sure fire way to end up needing some serious antianxiety medication!!.
Using my fear of something has never ultimately helped me, and resulted in an increase in anxiety attacks over time. I ended up unfunctional by doing precisely what you just described!! Facing my fears by asking myself what the fear is and deciding if I want to continue to believe that or not, has helped. Which I learned from life and the Aniexty Phobia work book.

Please readers don't heed this articles advise to use anxiety to motivate you. Its like using a pimp for protection.

...except, not everyone reacts to fear/anxiety in the way you do.

Not everyone experiences Anxiety Phobia, so, yes, readers, please DO consider using the prevention-focus strategy which the author suggests. At age 58 now, I've constantly used it successfully for decades (without having a term for it such as the author gives it) to motivate myself in various tasks and activities, and it's never induced anxiety attacks, caused dysfunctionalities, put me on medications, nor been detrimental in any other way. One of those activities has in fact been exercising -- my considering the consequences of failing to continue to exercise regularly has kept me consistently exercising in order to maintain the physical condition I'd previously developed.

I think, too, that there's an important difference between "facing fears" and "facing consequences" -- the former usually deals with complex psychological issues (such as "I fear making this public speech"), while the latter usually involves simpler, more logical elements (such as, "if I don't file my taxes now, I'll end up paying a late penalty"). I think the author is intending the latter to be the motivator.

So, while I agree that those with phobias and anxiety issues won't function well using consequence as motivation, I expect plenty of others will find preventative-focus very helpful.

If we don't "need" to "feel

If we don't "need" to "feel like doing it" to do something, how is this reconciled with the ever so popular adage of "do what you are passionate about"?

This is meant as an honest question and not meant as an attack or refutation of the writer.


My opinion is that that

My opinion is that that popular Oprah-style adage, which while making a useful point, probably hinders more than it helps most people, especially young, naive people. I believe that it can't be reconciled with "do what needs doing whether you feel like doing it or not" in the reality of most lives.

Life requires a large amount of effort for "survival" -- among other things, we need to procure food, we need to shelter and clothe ourselves from weather, and we need to attend to hygiene. In modern westernized societies, those needs are typically addressed, directly and indirectly, by means of money. Typically, that money is earned by means of "work".

So, if a person expects to survive, that person is usually going to have to work at some "job".

IF a person happens to be passionate about something from (s)he is able to earn at least adequate money, the adage is useful. A person who's passionate about building bridges or skyscrapers may happily find a comfortably-paying career as an engineer doing just that.

But, if a person is passionate about nothing; or,if, as often happens, a person is passionate about something by which they can NOT earn at least an adequate income; then that adage is merely wishful idealism. For many if not most people, their means of income can't or won't be by means of "what they're passionate about".

For example, a young man passionate about basketball who stands only 5'3" tall cannot earn adequate income as a professional basketball player; he's going to have to work at something he's not passionate about in order to have an adequate livelihood.

Likewise, even a 6'6" man who's passionate about basketball may not be able to play professionally simply because only a limited number of professional players are hired; he also may have to work at a career he's not passionate about in order to survive.

So, the reality of life is that job opportunities and market demands do not cater to "passion" nor even talent; unfortunately, reality is that even the many people who are passionate about something won't be able to earn sufficient to pay for a cheap shelter nor their groceries if they insist on following a passion which provides no livelihood.

In some idyllic, fantasy alternate reality, "follow your heart" and "do what your passionate about" may be the rule, but in ours, throughout recorded history, only a small minority of people get to make an adequate living doing so. Many if not most people have to "settle" for doing other than what they're passionate about, because earning a living is what needs to be done even if we DON'T feel like doing it, if a person expects to survive.

That's a nice explanation of

That's a nice explanation of accepting reality. It works best if one starts to accept reality, that to win some of the good things in life, one will need to act on things that he/she doesn't feel like. Else one would think there will be some better circumstances in life that will make 100% of acts to be based on feelings. And wait forever.

I think I was always stuck (and still stuck sometimes) in this fallback. I wasn't feeling like doing things and that was strong on me and made me procrastinate till I feel like doing things. But the reality is, you will encounter a lot of things in life where you won't feel like doing them. Even if you had a dream job, there would be specific parts that you wouldn't like. Hell, I even have a creative hobby that I don't feel like doing it anymore (well more than a hobby, something to make life worthy). I could either quit with all the stuff I don't like or find ways to also do sometimes the things I don't feel like.

One way I am trying right now is to do small easy tasks first. Or say to myself, just do the thing you don't want to do for just 5 minutes. What is 5 minutes? Then you are free to do everything you want. Sometimes the 5 minutes grow into more, you start and it doesn't feel that bad. Even though I am working on it, sometimes I feel like I am cheating myself, persuading him to work for 5 minutes on something while I know the result will be more, so myself reacts. It works and doesn't sometimes. But it's a good start. Or I jump from small activities to others, fulfilling even part of it instead of doing absolutely nothing for the day helps you feeling better with yourself, so maybe it fills up your depleted willpower for the next day.

That's my current theory. Also, I believe this "I act as I feel" motivation is more strong in specific individuals. There are people who are robots and just sit down and do stuff. And there are others with high sensitive self who struggle with the whole thing. While my logic tells me "If you just did it, you would succeed", my emotions feel so extremely strong, I feel a negative pressure every time I try to do/act even if I don't feel like. Even for the 5 minute burst technique, while it has better success rate, I still feel an inner pressure against it. And sometimes in some days, this makes me avoid doing even the 5 minutes tricks, denying doing everything. I cannot fully understand this, it's not about physical exhaustion, but some mental/psychological force that feels so real and against acting.

But I think this is the right way to go and solve this, to accept that some things must be done even if not feeling like doing them and maybe there is no other way.

I agree...

...with your thought that "...this "I act as I feel" motivation is more strong in specific individuals." I hypothesize that people's "brain wiring" differs along a spectrum. Consequently, some experience much more difficulty "just doing it" than those whose genetics, epigenetics, and nurture have wired them to just do it.

I expect every person can improve their ability to "just do it", but I also expect that, just as with physical capacities such as muscular strength, each individual has a genetic limit to which this psychological capacity/ability can be developed, and that some people have much higher initial and potential capacities/abilities than others.

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Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.


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