You Don't Want To... and You Do: Unpacking the Motivation Dilemma

Sep 20, 2023

The struggle to turn intentions into actions is a familiar dilemma for many. We often find ourselves in a curious paradox: we don't want to do something, yet we do it anyway; or we do want to do something, and we don't. Understanding this intricate relationship between desire and motivation is crucial when it comes to addressing follow-through issues. In this blog post, we will explore the psychology behind this motivation dilemma and uncover strategies to bridge the gap between what you want to do and what you actually do.

The Motivation Paradox

Have you ever noticed how sometimes you really don't want to do something, but somehow, you still manage to do it?  And yet other times you really want to get something done,  but somehow, you can't seem to manage to do it?  It's a paradoxical situation that can leave you scratching your head. This paradox highlights the complex nature of motivation.

The motivation dilemma can be summed up in two contradictory statements:

1. You do want to do it:  This reflects your initial desire to start a task or make a particular decision based on a desired result.

2. You don't want to do it: This reflects your (often) in-the-moment resistance or lack of desire to move forward on the task or making of the decision.

Which will lead to one of two movements:

1. You do it: Whether you stay tethered to your initial desire or despite the in-the-moment reluctance; you find a way to muster the motivation and take action.

2. You don't do it:  Whether you postpone, delay or put off entirely; you don't move forward and take action.

So, why does this happen, and how can we harness this phenomenon to improve our follow-through?

The Psychology of Motivation

Motivation is not solely dependent on your desires. It's a dynamic interplay of various factors, including:

1. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation: Intrinsic motivation comes from within, driven by personal values and interests. Extrinsic motivation arises from external factors like rewards or recognition.

2. Immediate vs. Delayed Gratification: Sometimes, we prioritize immediate pleasure over long-term benefits. Other times, we're willing to delay gratification for future rewards.

3. Emotions and Cognitive Processes: Emotions, thoughts, and beliefs significantly influence our motivation levels. Negative emotions can hinder motivation, while positive ones can enhance it.

Strategies to Navigate the Motivation Dilemma

Understanding the complexity of motivation is the first step towards overcoming the motivation dilemma. Here are some strategies to help you bridge the gap between not wanting to do something and finding the motivation to do it:

1. Set Clear Goals
    Clearly define your goals and break them down into smaller, manageable tasks. This can make the overall objective seem less overwhelming.

2. Find Intrinsic Motivation
    Identify what aspects of the task align with your personal values or interests. Focusing on these aspects can boost intrinsic motivation.  In other words, tap into your motive to create the motivation.

3. Visualize Success
    Imagine the positive outcomes of completing the task. Visualization can help you connect emotionally to the desired results.

4. Create External Motivators
    Set up rewards for yourself at various mile markers and check points.  Reward yourself for work done not just results created.

5. Build a Routine
    Establishing a consistent routine can reduce the reliance on motivation alone. Habits can carry you through tasks even when motivation is low.

6. Practice Self-Compassion
    Be kind to yourself when motivation wanes. Acknowledge that everyone faces moments of low motivation and avoid self-criticism.

The Balance of Desire and Action

The motivation dilemma is a testament to the complexity of human motivation. By understanding the psychology behind this paradox and implementing effective strategies, you can bridge the gap between your intentions and actions. Remember that motivation is not always constant, but with the right tools and mindset, you can achieve your goals and follow through on your commitments, even when you "don't want to."

Find more amazing free content about self trust and the three steps it takes to achieve anything (make decisions, follow through and have your own back) here:

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