Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Liquid Carrot: A Motivational Investigation

A couple of weeks ago, I bumped into this little sliver of wisdom buried in a guest post on Procrastinating Writers: 

In a break down of the procrastination equation, which was "Greek to me" on my first pass through last March, I found this advice for dealing with the impulsivity that makes toast of so many of our good intentions.  
[M]ake it feel really, really bad to do something else. 
And one way of doing that is to
[f]ind something you can’t live without, and take it away if you don’t do the work.
The author, David Kassin Fried, gave this example from his own life. 
This past summer, my wife and I started a 60-day workout program, the sort of thing that, if past performance was any indicator, we had about a negative three percent chance of actually finishing.

But this time, we said that if we missed even one day, then we couldn’t watch the season premier of Grey’s Anatomyever! Turns out, that was the thing that got us out of bed in the morning. . . .
In thinking about how I might apply this strategy, I realized that I am not currently having much difficulty getting work done.  But my personal goals related to self-care--the maintenance piece that's going to keep the whole machine running--are getting shoved further and further down the list these days, and some aren't being addressed at all.  Even this blog--part work, part labor of love--has been pushed from its early morning spot, and is too often getting published long after the sun has gone down.

So I thought it would make sense to test the approach on my week's focus goal.  Last week, I decided that I would not allow myself the one glass of wine at day's end that is my ritual reward for making it through, unless I had made time to meditate. 

The result?  Three wineless evenings. 

I'm not sure if Buddhists would approve of this seemingly contradictory pairing.  But I do know that I am more determined this week to meditate each day. 

It remains to be seen whether this little trick will really work.  And I should say that regardless of the outcome of my motivational experiment, I don't plan to use alcohol to induce all desired behaviors.  

Now, if you'll excuse me, my cushion is calling. . .

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