The Secret to Accomplishing More4 min read
Motivation is a myth.
It’s 6 pm, and I’ve just arrived home after a crazy day in the hospital. I’m tired; I’m smelly; I’m hungry. Of course, food is the most important thing because it’s what I am thinking about the most. I can imagine a luxurious frozen pizza bubbling away in the oven. My mind screams, “eat, eat EAT,” so eating must be the right thing to do.
Afterward, I considered exercising but couldn’t exercise on a full stomach. As a soon-to-be doctor, I know that, even though there is no objective evidence behind it. But, because I think it’s true, it’s true. So, because I’ve had such a hectic day, I throw my clothes aimlessly around my apartment, put on the most enormous sweater I see, and flop onto my couch. To wait while the food is settling, I’ll watch some TV. I’ve worked too hard today. I can’t read; that’s too much. I can’t study, that’s too much. I need to rest. My brain has worked hard. The recent Netflix original is so fantastically captivating I fall asleep 10 minutes into it only to be awoken to the smell of a burning pizza. I awaken, scarf it down, and realize it’s nearly 9 pm. That’s too late to get to work or do anything; I need to sleep. Without even showering off the coating from the hospital, I crawl into bed. I wake up 7 hours later, and it’s time to get ready for another day.
About a year ago, this was me most of the week while on my clinical rotations. There was no way around it, though, right? I was working tirelessly in the hospital and needed physical and mental rest when I came home. Or did I? Was I eating a pizza and falling asleep on the couch? What was best for me? What about this whole YouTube thing? Or learn about the most recent research on NSTEMI treatment, antibiotic choices, or surgical techniques. Or exercising my body?
Depending on a motivation to study, a motivation to work on your side project, or a motivation to exercise is a failing strategy. The motivation, often, is not there. Therefore, you don’t do it. By not doing the hard work, you reinforce the habit of doing nothing. Making the initial energy to do hard work the next time bump up just a little for the next time because you are a habit. If you make it your to do nothing, you will likely do nothing. The next time, as always, you depend on motivation, and none is there, so you don’t do anything again. The energy requirement bumps again.
Motivation is not the answer. Inspiration isn’t the answer. Michael Phelps doesn’t swim when he wants to swim. He swims because it’s who he is. It’s what he does. He is a swimmer. What are you?
The difference between the hobbyist and the professional is the professional shows up when he doesn’t want to. The hobbyist doesn’t.
Here’s the big secret: the secret to accomplishing more does not depend on motivation but on routine, habit, your schedule, what you are, on what you are meant to be. Are you an athlete? A writer? A YouTuber? A musician? A computer scientist? Are you a professional? When it’s written down, scheduled, paid for, or decided on, you do it. You don’t do it because I feel like doing it. You do it because you must do it.
Concentrate every minute like a Roman – like a man – on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can – if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells youMarcus Aurelius
Stop letting your emotions win. Evolution has given us the most powerful brain of all known time. Use it. Emotions have been with us since we were lizards. Ignore them. This big fancy part in the front, however, the prefrontal cortex, that’s new. That’s amazing. That’s what has let us create the fire, the pyramids, spaceships, and rule the natural world. Don’t be a slave to emotions. Don’t be a slave to motivation. Use what has made the human species the dominant species of the earth, your brain. Struggle, strain, and persevere to make your thinking brain the dominant force. To win over the emotions, to override motivation, and motivation, eventually, will become irrelevant.
Plan every month, every week, every hour. Do what you plan. Motivation doesn’t matter to you anymore because you are strong. Because you are a professional. It is in your nature to do what must be done. And what must be done is scheduled, it’s planned, you know what must be done. So do it. What are you waiting for?