I have to...

One thing that I set out to do with the blog a few months ago, and that I´ve kept doing since, is writing a new post each week. As you can imagine, sometimes I find it harder than others to keep it up... I usually write during the weekend, when in theory I have more time, but then in practice, it´s not unusual to get as far as Sunday evening without having written the week's post, as it happened today. And at the end of the day, tiredness and laziness start to show up...

woman typing on laptop

But hey, here I am, writing, as it couldn´t be any other way. Tiredness and laziness are going to have to wait for another little while.

But how do you achieve that? How do you get to keep up a habit when that moment arrives, the moment when you don't feel like doing it at all, and instead you feel like skipping it?

One option is resorting to willpower, as we very often do: you remind yourself all the reasons why "you have to do it", you beat yourself up for wanting to skip it, and you force yourself to do it even if you don't feel like it. After all, you "have to do it", right?

Yes, that option will probably work, at least at the beginning, but at the cost of giving you a hard time (and you suffer it twice: when you beat yourself up, and when you end up doing it without any motivation). So then in the long run, how can you stay strong and keep up the habit if you see each step as an obligation? How can you not stop feeling like doing it?

Maybe the trick is to make it look not like an obligation, but something we have decided to do ourselves, because that's the reality - even if it's something that somebody has imposed on us, if we have committed to it, it's because we have accepted that commitment, for whatever reasons.

In cases like this, it may be useful to ask ourselves what we made that commitment for. And please note I'm saying "what for", instead of "why"; the "what for" makes us look forward and find motivation, while the "why" leaves us looking back, searching for justifications. If we continue with the example of this blog, I keep writing a post every week to nurture my most creative side, to keep the blog alive and not let it be forgotten again, and to share my thoughts and experiences, in case they other people find them useful.

Then, once we have remembered the "what for", and it's clear in our mind that the habit is worth keeping, we can use some language tricks to flip that perception of obligation, simply by choosing the right words, inside our heads as well as outside.

I recently heard in a conference that if we say "I have to..." or "I must..." whatever it is, the simple fact of thinking like that already stresses us out and demotivates us, because we don't usually like being forced to do things. On the other hand, if we swap it with "I want to...", then our brain accepts it much better, and we feel much less resistance.

But what happens when we don't feel right saying "I want to"? The speaker offered a third option for that particular case: just saying "I'm going to..." without getting into whether it's something I want or something I have to do. I'm doing it, and that's all. No need to mull it over, it's time to do it, which is what I tell my youngest daughter when she fights back something I ask of her :-)

And, as a final point, something else that helps me a lot is knowing that the biggest resistance that I have is really towards getting started, towards breaking that inertia that I feel before I begin. Then once I'm on the task, in this case, writing, I know that I really enjoy it, that the ideas keep coming with little effort, and that after finishing I feel really happy for having published an article once more.

What about you? What tricks to you use to stay motivated and keep up your habits?

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