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The best way to get motivated, according to science - The Week

Stashed in: Motivation, @bakadesuyo, Awesome, Stories, Give and Take

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You need to feel something

If we're really going to be motivated, we need to feel something. Having a goal in mind or thinking you want something isn't enough.

Chip and Dan Heath say that the emotional mind is key in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard: "Focus on emotions. Knowing something isn't enough to cause change. Make people (or yourself) feel something."

When we don't feel meaning, when what we're doing doesn't have a purpose, motivation goes out the window. Noah Goldstein, author of Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, reviews a study:

Adam Grant, a scholar in the field of organizational behavior, realized that workers often fail to live up to their potential because they've lost track of the significance and meaningfulness of their own jobs. He figured that if he could remind employees of why their jobs are important, they might become more highly motivated, and therefore, more productive individuals.

How do we find meaning when there doesn't seem to be any?


The stories we tell ourselves are what creates the meaning in our lives. Studies have shown that stories are key to the most fundamental parts of our lives:

Stories are so powerful they can fulfill our need for belonging when we are lonely. Fiction actually makes us into nicer, kinder people.

Reflecting on yourself and how you see yourself creates an almost immediate change in behavior. Merely looking into a mirror can cause this to happen.

What's even more interesting is the truth may not matter.

Feeling that you know yourself creates a strong sense of meaning in life — whether or not you actually know yourself doesn't make a difference.


What motivates us more than anything else? Progress.

I believe this is what makes the stories come to life. It's what prevents them from just being fiction in our heads. When we see things moving forward, it makes our stories feel real.

And oddly enough, just as the stories don't need to be real, neither does the progress.

In his excellent blog Mind HacksVaughan Bell points out that we don't even need to make real progress — the illusion of progress is enough to light that fire.

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