Saturday, September 8, 2007

Coercion is a Deadly Enemy of Motivation

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes that using coercion takes away motivation:

“A deadly enemy of motivation is a sense of coercion. You feel under intense ressure to perform – generated from within and without. This happens when you try to motivate yourself with moralistic “shoulds” and “oughts.” You tell yourself , “I should do this” and “I have to do that.” Then you feel obliged, burdened, tense, resentful and guilty. You feel like a delinquent child under the discipline of a tyrannical probation officer. Every task becomes colored with such unpleasantness that you can’t stand to face it. Then, as you procrastinate, you condemn yourself as a lazy, no-good bum. This further drains your energies.”
It’s a subtle but important distinction between being driven by shoulds and oughts versus driving for the results you want. I think the key point here is to focus on your freedom to make choices and take actions. What you should or ought to do are inputs, but ultimately you choose to do what you do. Rather than tell yourself “I’m doing this because I should,” say “I’m doing this because I choose to” and focus on the benefits you’re moving towards, or the pain you’re moving away from.

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