We often set goals when we are not genuinely inspired to do something.
Isn’t that interesting?
To me, this statement says everything I need to know about how goal setting can be counter-productive to productivity. Goals need to exist when we’re forcing ourselves to do something we resist. If a goal is created for the purpose of motivating you to do something you don’t want to do, isn’t that like asking for stress?
Goals activate my extrinsic motivation, which for me is a tiny well of energy, mostly run off a thought that starts with the phrase “I should be _______”. Not only do I quit that fast, but while I’m looking for extrinsic motivation, my intrinsic motivation is being completely ignored.
Is There Another Way?
Another option is discovering what we really want to be doing. It might take some time, because often we’re rusty, having spent most of our adult life forcing ourselves to do something we think we want or what other people want for us.
What if we trusted that following what we wanted to do, the thing we felt genuinely inspired to do every moment, was enough?
To most people this sounds insane, irresponsible or childish. We resist doing what we want because we’ve been led to believe that if we followed our desires and simply did what we wanted we would never work, get fat on chocolate cookies and watch TV all day.
What I’ve found in my own life, is when I allow myself to tune in to what I really want to be doing, the wisdom of my desires takes over. I see that although I do have shallow impulses like eating junk food and checking Facebook, there are also deeper desires for things like writing, conversations with people I love and random acts of creativity that are not only effortless, but help me live a productive, meaningful life.
The Simple Wisdom of Doing What You Want
One of the keys to a happy, productive life is to be intrinsically motivated. This is especially true for creativity and your whole life is connected to creativity. In every moment you are inspired to do something, maybe it’s lay on a bed and relax, maybe it’s read a book, maybe it’s go for a run, maybe it’s eat ice cream, maybe it’s start a blog, maybe it’s start a company. What happens when you follow your desires in the moment is you no longer need to find motivation, because it’s already there. It’s effortless.
Look back through your life at the things you’ve accomplished effortlessly. Look at all the times you didn’t need goals to accomplish something amazing. Maybe it was learning an instrument when you were a kid, maybe it was an art project that always seemed fun, maybe it was planning a party where every moment was pure fun and inspiration.
The hardest part of all this is letting go, and it’s scary. To actually test this, you have to allow yourself to drop your agenda for what you think you want. I recommend simply taking an hour and trying it out. I’ve heard a few different versions of this exercise, so I’ll share my favorite one, it’s from Michael Neill, and it’s called “The Comfy Chair Exercise”.
The Comfy Chair Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to get in touch with your authentic heartfelt desires, something you’re really inspired to do. Start by sitting in a comfy chair. Each time you get an impulse to get up and do something, ask yourself if the impulse is coming from your agenda or your desire. If it’s your agenda, it will often come with words like “should”. If you suddenly remember something urgent you need to do, it’s probably your agenda.
When you get genuine inspiration to do something, go do it, then come back to the chair. Repeat for at least an hour, for best results block off half a day or more.
Every Moment Has A Gift
When I’m feeling a lack of motivation, I remind myself that every moment has a gift, and that I’m always inspired to do something, and my job in that moment is to discover what that might be.
I pause, I relax, and I allow myself to feel.
Sometimes I want to lie down.
Sometimes I want to read.
Sometimes I want to cook.
Sometimes I just want to take a moment and do nothing.
The beauty of this is once I discover what I really want to be doing, it’s completely effortless to act on it.