First let’s back up a little bit. A number of readers have emailed me about sticking to their goals — anything from exercise and eating right to being organized and productive to creating new habits — and have said they simply lack the discipline to stick with things for very long.
Positive Public Pressure
While pressure is often seen as a bad thing (“I’m under too much pressure!”), if used properly it can actually be a good thing. It’s important that pressure not be applied in too negative a way and too high an intensity. Keep things positive and at a manageable intensity, and things will move along nicely.
Enjoy Your Goal Activity
You can motivate yourself to do something you don’t like to do, using positive public pressure as motivation. But if you really don’t enjoy it, you’ll only be able to keep it up for so long. And even if you could do it for months and years … is that something you’d want to do? If you don’t enjoy it, why do it for very long?
- Marathon. Right now I’m training for my third marathon, in Honolulu this December. As I’ve stuck with the toughest marathon plan I’ve ever undertaken (last week my longer runs were 12 and 20 miles, and this week I’m doing 2 runs of 14 miles), I’ve marveled at my ability to keep at it. But it’s not hard to figure out why: I’ve publicly committed to doing this marathon — on this blog, on Twitter, and on Train For Humanity, where I’m raising money for humanitarian causes through my training (sponsor me here!). In addition to that, I’m really enjoying all the running!
- Blogging. I’ve now been blogging for almost two years (I started in January 2007), making Zen Habits one of the longest-running projects I’ve ever stuck with. I’ve worked on many projects before, but they are usually completed within a year, if not within a few weeks or months.
- Writing a book. A couple months ago, I finished the manuscript for my book, The Power of Less, that’s coming out at the end of this year. I will admit that I had some trouble writing this book, with the demands of publishing a blog (two blogs actually), training for my second marathon in March, and preparing for my wedding in June. But, you might say, what if it’s something I really want to achieve but I don’t enjoy it? There are ways to find enjoyment in most things, the key is to focus on the enjoyable parts. Focus on the positive. Find the enjoyable parts of any activity, and focus on those. In time, you can really learn to love something. Or, switch to something you love more and stick to that. These two principles, especially when used together, can be powerful motivators. In fact, in most cases, they’re all the motivation you ever need.