I often hear from people who find themselves launching initiatives with great enthusiasm, only to lose steam very quickly. They are puzzled by their own behaviour only because they are yet to realise that there is a missing ingredient. That it isn’t enough simply to be passionate about a cause or idea, without a deep enjoyment of the process. Equally, finding enjoyment in the process without connecting to what you are acting in service of, may make you feel a lack of purpose. Lasting motivation is backed by both. What’s more, there is also a direct link between lasting motivation and procrastination.
Lasting motivation has two ingredients
Lasting motivation has two key ingredients: A love of the process AND a belief in whatever that process is working in service of. You may have a great idea or vision, but hate the path involved in getting there. Is it any surprise that your motivation will start to flag? For, how can you be enthusiastic about something whose day-to-day activities you don’t enjoy? Enjoying the process is so powerful that in many cases this alone is enough to create lasting motivation. Think of an artisan who immerses themselves in their craft day-in and day-out.
Sometimes though, a connection to something beyond the process may be important. This is the question of what ‘ultimate purpose’ the activity is serving. For example, an engineer can use their skills to make farm machinery or military equipment. Both of these will be in service of different things, which may be relevant for motivating the person.
What you are acting in service of does not always have to be as literal as the above however! You may, for example, be in service of things like ‘truth’, beauty or clarity. What is important then, is not how tangible the ultimate purpose is, but that YOU can connect to it. That you can find a sense of purpose through it.
You procrastinate for a reason
That brings us to the connection between lasting motivation and procrastination. Someone on Twitter recently asked for tricks and hacks to beat procrastination. The truth is that tricks will only get you so far. What is much more fertile is looking at why you procrastinate. For, there is usually a reason behind procrastination, and it tends to be one of three things.
1) Motivation— not being that interested in the thing
2) Fear — somehow being confronted by it
3) Gestation — ideas still brewing within you and nudging you to wait
Lack of real motivation can so easily lead to procrastination even when you are consciously berating yourself for doing it. Think of it as your sub-conscious rebelling against what you are forcing yourself to do! And this may come from missing one or both of the ingredients of lasting motivation. Here, procrastination is positive! A reaction to what is sterile and boring, it is like your inner defence mechanism. Listen to it.
Procrastination can also come from fear. You find an activity to be somehow confronting, so you put it off. And, this often happens without you even being consciously aware of it. Here it is your relationship to the activity itself that needs examining. Start by noticing the unease. What about it do you find confronting? Could there be deeper roots to your feeling of unease? What might support you to feel more at ease? If you ignore a hidden fear, it will just keep appearing over and over again. Tricks will not make it go away and you will continue to procrastinate.
The third usual suspect is procrastination being the result of brewing ideas. And this kind of procrastination can be a very natural part of the process, particularly in creative realms. Ideas often take time to develop, brewing within when you aren’t consciously spending time on them. So, if you feel like delaying something, this may be because you need more time for it to fully form. Because you need more time for it to become clearer within you, before you can act on it. Some things just can’t be rushed!
Pausing before forcing
The reason why you procrastinate may not be immediately obvious. That is precisely why it’s useful to pause and consider what is really going on, before forcing action. The three usual suspects are a good place to start. The link between lack of lasting motivation and procrastination is very common. However, it could equally be fear or idea gestation. Consider each carefully. Remember too that there may be more than one reason at play.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.