Geetanjali Mukherjee

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Motivating Yourself To Get More (Creative Work) Done

I have been reading Adam Grant’s latest book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, and found much of the research and ideas profiled fascinating. One idea really leaped out at me though, and I wanted to share it.

In a chapter about parenting, Grant discusses the difference in the logic of consequences versus the logic of appropriateness. The way I understood that is the logic of consequences involves thinking about how taking a certain action will impact you, or rather what is the consequences of taking some action. On the other hand, logic of appropriateness means thinking about you - is this something appropriate for me to do, would I do this?

And to me this concept seemed revolutionary in changing how I think about certain things. Let me explain.

If I decide whether or not to write a blog post, I might think oh I always write a post on Saturday. Or if I write a post, so many people will read it. Now if you’re starting out and you don’t have ‘real’ consequences for not writing a post, i.e. no one will write to you and complain, or not many people will read them, you might think to yourself, why bother, I can skip it today. The same logic goes for many things - I often think, oh today I might skip the gym, or I might eat this brownie, because surely one day won’t matter.

And this kind of thinking can be useful - for instance, most people go to work everyday because if they don’t there will be consequences. Ditto for many other things in our life. But for things that are optional, voluntary, thinking this way might mean that most of the time the behavior we want to ensure happens, might not happen.

But what if you link the action to who you are as a person? For instance, I am the sort of person who hates the idea of ever getting too drunk, or not being able to handle my drink. In fact, I would rather not drink at all, than not be completely in possession of my faculties. Which means many times I have turned down drinks, even when they are free, because I see myself as a person who can hold my drink, or as a person who doesn’t drink very often. To maintain my self-image, I take certain actions. And it doesn’t matter how much I would love another glass of wine, or whether others are drinking a lot more, or whatever. No exceptions. (This isn’t an indictment of drinking, just an example).

Now what if I were to apply this to other areas? If I go back to that blog post writing example. If I were to think of myself as someone who writes blog posts, or writes a post every Saturday, then I would, even if no one read it, or liked it. If I thought of myself as someone who works out no matter what, I would hit the gym even if I were tired. If I decided that I always eat healthy, or that I was going to someone who doesn’t eat sugary foods, then I would decline the brownie every time. You see how linking it to how you see yourself, how you think of yourself, matters?

And how does this apply to being an author? Simple. I often try to get myself to write, or do other tasks writing-related, and sometimes when I don’t want to or put it of, I try to scare myself with consequences. Turns out I would be much more effective if instead I framed it as a question of the person I am. I am an author, and an author writes, so I should write. Or I am the kind of person who blogs every week, or wakes up early and writes 500 words first thing, or whatever I am trying to get myself to do.

Changing the logic or thinking from do this or else there will be consequences, which is no fun and really ruins the experience of working on something that you’re choosing to spend time on, to do this because this is the kind of person I am is much less stressful and more effective I think. I never really have to police my drinking, my subconscious does it for me. Or to see it another way - I see myself as someone who reads voraciously. So when I find myself not making time for it, or falling behind on my reading, I do whatever I can - stay up late, read on the bus, cut out TV whatever - to maintain the self-image I have of being a bookworm.

So if you’re finding it hard to get your writing done (or painting, or designs, or whatever creative endeavor), maybe the thing to do is frame it in terms of your self-image, of who you are as a person.
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