Sunday, April 06, 2008


Apathy is a dangerous thing. If we do not care about our planet, who will protect it, who will save it? If we do not care about our children, who will nurture them, who will teach them? If we do not care about our friends, who will they turn to in times of need, who will be a friendly ear, a helping hand? If we do not care about what we do, who will do it, and why?

Motivation is an area that many people feel they lack in, yet they may be surprised to find just how motivated they can be when it comes to certain things. We might complain about the lack of motivation we have to go to work, but we may be highly motivated to buy a new house or new car, or even to read a book, watch a movie, or have an in-depth discussion with someone.

If we’re not motivated to do something, we rarely do it, or reluctantly and begrudgingly do it. We may want it done, but we don’t want to do the “doing”. In these cases, what do we do?

Motivation comes in two primary forms: negative and positive.

Negative motivation comes in the form of us being driven to do something for fear of the consequences. For example, we go to work so we don’t get fired, lose our money, our house, our car, and possibly our family. Someone who is negatively motivated may visualise all these nasty things happening if they don’t go to work – and this motivates them to go to work. It doesn’t sound very nice, and it isn’t. This form of motivation is about avoiding painful experiences. You’re not motivated towards riches, but are motivated away from poverty.

Positive motivation comes in the form of us being driven to do something because we want the rewards it offers. We go to work because we want the money, or maybe we like the “good job!” pat-on-the-back sentiments, or maybe we like team-work, or if we’re in a supervisory role we may like feeling in control. Whatever it is, we do it because we like what it gives us, be it money, happiness, or just personal satisfaction. We may even take up dead-end jobs because it goes towards something we’re striving for: a new apartment, a new car, that trip to a spa. We put in the overtime and do the hard work because we envision a goal we want. This form of motivation is about approaching pleasurable experiences. You’re not motivated away from poverty, but are motivated towards riches.

Once we understand this basic premise, it’s easier to deliberately motivate ourselves. “What?!” I hear some of you cry. Many people seem to think that motivation is an external force, like some big bad Demiurge pushing or pulling them towards success or misfortune. Many artists and writers seem to think that their muse is an external entity that comes and goes as it pleases, and that they cannot do a thing in their craft until inspiration strikes. They’re wrong. Inspiration and motivation work on the same system, and both are under our control. The reason they feel so external is because we’re too used to going on autopilot. Now it’s time to take he reins.

Firstly, what I want you all to do is this: think of something you want to me motivated about. Maybe you want a new job or new car. Maybe you want to write a novel. Whatever it is, get a good mental picture of what you want. This is your goal. Now, how do you get motivated about it? Try this: play out a scenario in your mind of you at the desk in your new job (if there is a desk – if not, demand one from your boss), actually there, doing the work. Imagine getting your new paycheck, and make special note to pay attention to the nice sum of money you’ve earned. Imagine looking in your bank account at the savings you have after just one year at your new job (even if you feel you can’t save to save your life). Imagine the great place you can now afford, the new TV, the new car. Likewise, imagine driving this car. Imagine picking it out in the shop and driving it home. Hell, imagine all the women or men turning heads as you glide past, sunglasses on, the wind in your hair (if you have no hair, imagine you have some, or imagine a woman or man in the back seat giving you a lovely Indian head massage). Imagine yourself smiling. Now really smile if you aren’t already. Invoke the feeling of pleasure. Let it well up inside you, let it fill you with its warmth, with its energising rays, as if the very Sun itself bows down to you and becomes a part of you. Imagine writing your book. Imagine yourself at the laptop as you complete your first 1,000 words, then 10,000, then 50,000, then 100,000. Imagine the satisfaction of a chapter completed. Imagine the greater satisfaction of the whole novel completed. Imagine sending it off to agents and publishers, and imagine receiving a lovely acceptance and being invited to a nice wine party to celebrate. Imagine reading an extract and receiving a wild applause, and maybe even a standing ovation. Imagine receiving a copy of your book in the mail. Feel the satisfaction it offers. Imagine all those wonderful praises the reviewers give: “Best thing since sliced bread. Tolkien or Stephen King, eat your heart out!” Imagine the sales figures jumping through the roof (then imagine a very high roof). Imagine the lifestyle you can live now. Imagine being able to whip out a copy of your book and finally prove you’re a real author.

Now, once you’re finished imagining all this, go out and do it. Make it real.

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