Motivational Tips for the (actually) Unmotivated


I went for a run yesterday.

After saying I wanted to start running for over a year I did it. I got up, put on my shoes and began to run.

My three year old has been super into riding his bike recently. We gave him a balance bike for his last birthday and he's gotten so flippin good. He can balance for huge stretches already. One of the first thing he asks every morning is "can we go for a bike ride" and then all day for the rest of the daylight hours "I want to go for a bike ride"

So the night before yesterday I asked him if he wanted to go for a short bike ride in the morning before breakfast. Obviously he agreed! So with great enthusiasm yesterday morning, he woke up "Let's go for a bike ride!"

And even though I groaned and wished longingly for another hour sleep, I also knew it would be quicker to go for the bike ride/run than to deal with the inevitable meltdown that would come from me breaking my word.

So we went, and for the first time since I was a small child I ran for the sake of running.

But wait a second, I hear you say, I don't have a three year old or a balance bike. How is this helpful??


Well my friend, the point isn't the specifics but the overall formula. The secret formula for motivating yourself to get shit done. Come closer so I can whisper it to you.

"In order to achieve your wildest dreams of succeedingness, y must be greater than x"

x = the pain of doing the thing you want to do. So the pain of getting up early, of working out, of studying etc etc

y= the pain of not doing the thing. This is where we need to give the equation a hand. Things like being unfit, doing badly on a test or project, they don't carry enough weight here. They aren't immediate enough. We are incredibly able to dismiss these consequences when it comes to crunch time.

No matter how much we think the obvious consequences should be able to motivate us they just don't. We need to create new consequences for y. Immediate, painful, often ludicrous, ones. We need to make sure the pain of not doing the thing is immediatly far worse than the pain of just doing it.

So, like in my example, a fifteen minute run was much less painful then a half an hour tantrum because I'd promised a bike ride.

Arina Nikitina tells a story on her website of how she got herself to start getting up early by making a deal with her brother that would cost her financially if she didn't stick to a six o clock wake up.

I've gotten both me and my partner to stick to our household jobs like never before by creating a consequence of no tv or screens in the evening unless they are done.

It's ridiculous I know. We are #adults. We should be able to sweep the floor and do the dishes without the threat of losing Netflix, I should be able to run without setting up a meltdown trigger. But if ridiculous works then we still win

It doesn't matter what we think we should be able to do. It matters what works. What gets us moving, striving, achieving. Our brains are complicated, we need to take advantage of ridiculous brain life hacks when we can. It's no good saying willpower should be enough because 9 times out of ten it just isn't.


OK so time to put the formula to work for you.

  • Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.
  • Write x on one side and y on the other.
  • Under x write down a goal you have you're struggling with in terms of motivation.
  • Now under y write down some ideas that might motivate you to actually do it.

Remember though, they need to be immediate. As in if I don't do that thirty-minute work out I have to give my sister fifty dollars. If I don't start my taxes tonight I have to donate my favourite dress. If I have a cigarette my partner will burn five dollars in front of me. You get the idea.

The most successful ones are when you aren't in control of the consequence. Someone else can hold you to things much better than you can hold yourself. The trick for motivation really comes down to minimising the amount of willpower you need to use, rather than trying endlessly to increase the amount of willpower we have.

I'll keep you up to date on the running. In the mean time, let me know what you come up with in the comments. The one you think of and then immediately think "Nope nope nope, I could Not Do That" is probably a winner.



I'm in the middle of creating a productivity goal smashing course specifically for people who suck at productivity and goal smashing.

Want in for the beta (cheaper) round?

Sign up for my newsletters to be kept in the loop

You might like: