I was putting the pro in procrastination.
Perfecting my stall tactics, I switched coffee shops, buried my cellphone in my backpack, and refreshed cnn.com more times that I can count. While the CNN headline changed, my lethargy didn’t.
“Well, Matt, maybe you are having one of those days,” the voice in my head rationalized.
And, sure, there might be some truth to that well-worn adage. But as I fiddled with my latest cellphone app, I wondered how I could improve my floundering motivation. Today’s Psych Central column wasn’t going to write itself.
As I contemplated my sinking motivation (and, of course, scanned ESPN for the latest sports headlines), I wondered how I could improve my motivation without YouTubing the latest Gregg Popovich pep talk. And, in my case, produce a thought-provoking column within the next couple hours.
Here’s the Cliffs Note summary: find a motive to increase motivation.
For some, external motivators (fame, money, status) incentivize behavior. If you diligently work on this project for six months, you will earn that coveted promotion. And with those extra Tubmans, you can finally purchase the latest, greatest consumer good.
But at least for me, crass consumerism is greeted with a half-hearted shrug. “So you have an iPhone 28, a shiny Beemer, and a sprawling McMansion? That’s great but does your job provide a sense of meaning, autonomy, or opportunity for growth?” I ask.
As these scattered ideas raced through my mind, I identified my own motive — and motivation — for my Psych Central articles. With all due respect to Psych Central, the publication’s stipend is far from a get rich quick scheme. But, for me, purpose is my currency of choice.
I write because of a burning desire to offer insightful, provocative mental health commentary. Touching on my own mental health trials and tribulations, I want to inform and inspire those struggling with their own mental health demons. Through email conversations with readers and researchers, I believe my contributions have a significant impact.
Intrinsic motivation — like my unflinching commitment toward mental health — is life’s most powerful motivator. And, I suspect, its most powerful currency. Your intrinsic motivation may be different than mine — perhaps you crave respect or knowledge or adoration. But its origin is the same: a tireless devotion to excellence. Your reward is more than fortune or fame; it is a sense of personal investment–one that is more enriching than any 401(K).
As mental health consumers, our intrinsic motivation differs from most people. Family members wonder why money and its flashy accoutrements are greeted with a blank stare. But we understand life’s fragility — and crave a purpose-filled existence.
That’s our motivation. And once we find our purpose, those pesky columns really do write themselves.