Motivation doesn’t work: Outsource your brain

Having facts just isn’t enough.

We’re in the first day of a new year and people last night made their resolutions, but we know that the majority of us won’t stick to it.

For example the number 1 resolution is weight loss, but despite a relatively simple starting point that will guarantee progress, people still don’t lose any weight. Or they do for a little while, and then put it back on. We KNOW that a calorie deficit, eating less calories than we use, will lead to weight loss. And it’s pretty simple, it’s NOT doing something. If you sit on the sofa and stare at the TV you can meet this goal, by doing nothing. So why do most people fail to do what they want?

I think its because they WANT to do something, they don’t  NEED to.

There’s a stark difference between someone who wants to drop inches off their jean size and someone who’s been told that their excess weight is a contributing factor in their heart problems. One of these people will definitely meet their goal to drop a few pounds. It’s the guy who needs to, because otherwise he’ll die.

This is because motivation is a weak driver of behavioural change. Imagine how fucked up your teeth would be if you only brushed them when you were ‘motivated’ to do so, by a Toothpaste advert, or you woke up in a good mood.

Routine bourne out of discipline is the only thing that helps us to change. Mark Manson describes this process as ‘just starting’ a little thing that leads to what you want. Anything that gets you a little closer, and you’ll build momentum. B.J Fogg calls them Maui moments. But its all the same idea.

I wanted to do an ironman, and spent three days while I was sick with covid creating a very detailed training plan that I would use. It didn’t work because it relied on me adapting it each day depending on how I was feeling. Telling myself an excuse was easy, and it was no issue to me to blow it off. I found out that planning a reactive and adaptive training plan exhausted me as much as the exercise. So I outsourced it. I got a coach that would send me weekly plans, changed according to my feedback, and I took my brain out of it. I just do whatever the plan says, on the days it says to do it.

I’ve been doing this for over six months now, and my brain is wired differently. I tested it by buying Oddbox, a vegetable delivery service. They deliver random veg each fortnight, and I eat them all. Whether baked, boiled, smoothied, or something else, I eat all the veg in the box because its there. I don’t have to think about what to buy, I just think how I’m going to prepare these veg to eat. Its quite liberating.

Every post like this should have some advice. So here it is:

• Activily choose a goal that you care about. Dont try and get abs or become a crypto trader because twitter morons are doing that. Pick something you actually want. If you like film, make a short one this year and get it shown somewhere. Or write a screenplay. Or learn how to resole those old shoes your dad gave you that you want to keep using. Anything, but it has to be your choice.

• Decide what success looks like. Using the above examples, when that short film you shot on your mobile is shown in a local film competition, you’ve succeeded. Or when you’ve written ‘end’ on your screenplay. Or you lace up your new shoes and go for a walk.

• Don’t rely on motivation to get to your end point. Decide what you want to achieve and do ANY little thing that moves you closer to it. Every day. Do it when you’re pissed off. Do it when you raise points with yourself about it not being important anymore. But do it for six months at least. By then you will have some results and you can quit on a high at least. If you can, automate some of it. Hire a coach, buy one of those meal boxes, something to take some pressure off your brain.

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