Motivation and emotion: “I don’t feel like doing it, but I knew that it would be good. ”
Sam was like most high school students. Being motivated to do her homework wasn’t a problem when she felt like doing it. Her big problem was that she didn’t feel like doing it very often.
Then summer came, and she was planning on studying for her SAT’s and ACT’s. Feeling like doing her workbook, especially in the summer and especially for a test that was still months away, was turning out to be impossible.
What Sam learned: basing motivation on feelings does not work!
When I met with Sam earlier this week – now late-summer – for our coaching session, she told me she’s about halfway through her workbook. Her progress isn’t as far as she hoped or planned at the beginning of the summer, but it’s still a feat of motivation to get as far as she has without her parents nagging her on the process.
She has learned to motivate herself to do dry work during a beautiful summer in Portland, Oregon. Which is no small feat!
I asked her what she’s learned about herself and motivation. Below is a transcript from our coaching session:
Sam: When I looked at my workbook, I just didn’t feel like doing it, but I knew that it would be good. I mean, I knew that I needed to. My scores weren’t where I wanted them.
Me: So how did you find the motivation did you do?
Sam: I learned to expect the feeling and to just do it.
Me: Wow. That’s no small feat.
Me: Really, how did you do it?
Sam: I knew that I wouldn’t feel like it, but I knew that it wouldn’t feel that bad once I got started.
What Sam did, didn’t occur to us in the session. We moved on. But reflecting back on the session and what we uncovered afterwards, Sam learned how to be motivated by thought as well as by action. In other words, she separated her feelings for not wanting to study from the thought, I need to study.
The bottom-line: basing action on feelings works. And can work well sometimes. However it’s fickle, and basing motivation on thought is much more sustainable.