The Game: Motivation vs. Slothfulness


I started a sort of “game” when I was a teenager that I've always gone back to whenever I find myself adrift in slothfulness—if I need extra motivation.

I have always been a sports fan, for as long as I can remember. One of my first memories was of a baseball, though it was just a random object then. I was at one time (though not anymore) a statistics junkie. I wasn't satisfied reading the stats in the paper. I watched the games and kept track of the stats for my then favorite player, Andruw Jones.

I was also an avid goal setter and it did not take much thought to connect the two together—goals and stats. I devised a points system. I would get so many points for doing something, and lose so many points for not doing something, and at the end of each day I would write down whether or not I “won” the day according to the difference in points. This is probably not an original idea, as ideas go, but for me it was groundbreaking.

What this did for me, other than to please my perfectionist tendencies, was to give myself an idea of what I was getting done. I could judge whether a certain week was good or bad based on my record. 7-0 was a great week. 0-7 wasn't.

It's been a few years since I've used this method, but I'm now putting it back into service. I've been in a funk lately, ever since I published “Rising”. That was over a month ago, but in the last week since I've begun my method, I've noticed very positive improvements. I've only had one day, and really only a single night, in which I wasn't directing my attention toward one of the goals on my list, motivated by having a positive score.

This is arbitrary, and I don't win anything other than personal pride. I'm not even promising myself incentives (I'll buy myself X if I complete Y for a month). But using this method has a positive effect on my mood. Not only does it keep me motivated, but it gives me a record by which I can remind myself how well I've been doing.

An example of what I'm talking about:

If my goals are “Play guitar. Write. Read.” I will give myself a point for accomplishing each for the day, and if I fail to spend any time on these activities I'll write down a -3.

So it's +1 or -3. If there are 10 things on my list, and if I do most of them, I can get away with not doing two of them, and still let myself write down that I won. My score will have been 8-6. I write down a W and turn my focus to tomorrow.

~*~

This is really nothing more than a game I play with myself, pinning motivation against sloth. Sometimes sloth wins, tallying more points than motivation did, but usually I'm eager enough to win that motivation will go the extra mile. I don't cheat, but I don't enjoy giving myself a Loss, and so I will often do whatever is necessary to put myself over the top.

The biggest advantage I gain is in consistency. I've been trying to learn Spanish for years, and though I can read it okay (so long as I have a dictionary ready), I cannot understand or speak it. My main problem is consistency, as it is with most of the things I try to accomplish. I'll study one day, then I won't study again for two weeks.

By breaking things down into statistics, I'm now sufficiently motivated to study every day. This goes for writing, reading, playing guitar, working out, meditating, etc.

You may ask “if you enjoy doing these things, why do you give yourself points?” Or even “if you're a Taoist and your ideal is to live spontaneously, why do you give yourself points?” The simple answer to both questions is that I enjoy watching TV as much as I enjoy doing anything else, let's say writing stories. Sometimes writing stories becomes a bit like a chore, and I need some way to sit down and do it anyway. This is a method that works.

It may not in and of itself be spontaneous, but I find the direction it gives me to be spontaneous. I'm not glued to schedules and I “flow” through my day knowing that I can do what I want, when I want to do it, so long as I am more motivated than I am lazy.

It's a bit of pressure off my shoulders.

And it's fun kicking sloth around!

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16 Responses to The Game: Motivation vs. Slothfulness

  1. I'd say my vice is Envy.
    The more great works I read, see, hear, or experience, the less I accomplish because I think and feel "I'm not that good", so my inner energy fades and nothing gets done.

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    1. That's a ruthless master to please :(

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  2. Well sir that seems like far to much like hard work to me. I do however get what you mean. I love writing but I love my x box and books and dvd collection. All these things take less mental effort then writing so after a long stress filled day at work its just to easy to take the path of least resistance.

    Baldychaz
    www.baldychaz.com

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    1. You get it! haha.

      It is "extra" work but not if you like planning and plotting and organizing, which I find fun ;)

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  3. I have a lot to get done today, as I'm going away for a long weekend on Thursday, and work a long day tomorrow.

    I am playing this game. LOL thank you!

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  4. I cut my list down to the barest of bones. Life is fully loaded and complete with distractions, which we easily swallow. Each one of us has our own systems. What works for me is to focus first and foremost on my writing, followed by reading, then social media. Of course, I have a full life, a day job, family, etc., and I do juggle several balls, but writing comes first. Do I fail? Everyday. But then the next day rolls around and I start fresh.

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    1. I've mastered the art of limiting distractions when I "feel" like it, which makes it a bit hard for me to understand when some people claim they can't do what they enjoy because they have to do XYZ. It usually always boils down to the fact that they watch too much TV or are too tired after a long work day.

      That you're able to simplify the list and still focus on the few things that matter to you is both rewarding and admirable!

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  5. A point system - nice. And holding yourself to your points - also nice. You get kudos from me. Give yourself a point for this post. haha

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  6. Hello.
    We each have our own way of motivating ourselves. There never seems to be enough hours in the day for me what with working 10-12 hours/day, being a supportive husband when I get home, writing, maintaining my blog and catching up on social media. The main point I get from this is not to beat myself up if I haven't accomplished my goals. After all, if we can't motivate ourselves, then will we ever be motivated? Nice post. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Andy!

      I totally agree about not beating ourselves up over not being motivated. Living a Taoist lifestyle I do my best to avoid this. I "flow" with the day, and if something doesn't get done then it obviously wasn't as important as the other things I did.

      Delete
  7. It's a good way of keeping your mind active, motivating yourself and keeping you from idleness. As you said, you have to be consistent and play the game fairly of course. I'm not sure if I could do this one but it is a good idea.

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    1. Yup! If I cheated I'd only be cheating myself :P

      I usually can't keep up with the "game" for more than a few weeks, but it usually always gets me in gear, and that lasts much longer than my writing everything down.

      Delete
  8. I've been in a bit of a slump this week and the title of your post really intrigued me. I guess if it works for you, then great! We all have to find a system of reinforcing ourselves. I'm not too sure though if this will work for me but then again, who knows?

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    1. You won't know if you don't try, and I'll say this about myself, when I'm in a funk I'll try just about anything ;)

      Delete

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