Trying to “get motivated” can often make matters worse.

Trying to “get motivated” can often make matters worse.

Fortunately, there’s a powerful alternative, crystallized by the psychology writerJulie Fast in a pithy eight-word phrase: “Don’t wait until you feel like doing something.” When you’re mired in negative emotions about work, resist the urge to try to stamp them out. Instead, get a little distance — step away from your desk, focus on your breath for a few seconds — and then just feel the negativity, without trying to banish it. Then take action alongside the emotion. Usually, the negative feelings will soon dissipate. Even if they don’t, you’ll be a step closer to a meaningful achievement.

This approach is one aspect of what’s known in Buddhism as “non-attachment”, and it’s no surprise that one of its foremost practitioners, the Japanese psychiatrist Shoma Morita, was heavily influenced by Zen. As James Hill, a contemporary practitioner of Morita Therapy, points out, many of our most significant achievements get done despite the absence of enthusiasm: “Is it accurate to assume that we must ‘overcome’ fear to jump off the high dive at the pool, or increase our confidence before we ask someone out for a date?” he asks. “If it was, most of us would still be waiting to do these things.”

Morita himself had some startling advice for those afflicted by procrastination and other woes: “Give up on yourself.” He meant that trying to stop being “a procrastinator” or ” a lazy person”  was a distracting waste of time; what mattered was action. “Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be,” he went on, “and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.” Don’t worry about getting motivated.

Just get going.

How about you?

What are your techniques for getting things done when the spark of enthusiasm isn’t there?

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