7 Motivational Mental Hacks
Do you find motivation elusive?
Do you start a new project and work intensely for a few days, weeks or months only to lose steam before seeing the project through to fruition?
Here we’ll break down seven mental hacks for mastering motivation…
7 Motivational Mental Hacks
Do you find motivation elusive? Do you start a new project and work intensely for a few days, weeks or months only to…
1. Negative Visualization
You hear endlessly about positive visualization, but fear is a stronger emotion and it can be yielded for motivation. Fear can be our friend when it comes to motivation.
We tend to hope for the best and try to stay positive but anxiety builds and our unconscious mind rebels when we mentally retreat away threats into delusional cognitive dissonance. In the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic, examples of this are abundant, we all know someone who is choosing navette, they claim “It’s no worse than the common flu,” they refuse to food prep and are totally cavalier about their immune health. But they are far from unworried, they are noticeably anxious, stressed and binging on fear-mongering media all day long. Maybe they share memes on Facebook acronymizing fear into…
They are misapplying the advice of the stoic philosopher Seneca, who wrote
We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.
The stoic philosophy is NOT to ignore fear, but instead to face fear, visualize the worst possible scenario and if possible find a way to simulate that scenario, then take deliberate action. Seneca, apparently, would spend time regularly living like a homeless derelict even though he was a wealthy man, just so that he could immunize himself psychologically to the possibility of abject failure.
Fast forward to the present, how would a stoic face the global pandemic?
Imagine the worst. Imagine you and your family getting the disease. How would that feel? What would you have to do to stay alive? What if the crisis causes civilizational collapse? How bad could it get? How would you keep a roof over your head and food on your plate? How would you protect your family?
- Instead of just doing negative visualization, journal, or write it out.
- Once you have a worst-case scenario start preparing for it, take action!
- Don’t overindulge in rumination and negative visualization. Once you’ve countenanced the worst-case scenario, take action, prepare, and move on mentally.
“Visualization is the human beings vehicle to the future — good, bad or indifferent. It’s strictly in our control.” — Earl Nightingale
2. Meditate in a Cemetery
People always look at me funny when I suggest this. A lot of philosophy of psychology revolves around this idea of existential anxiety — that we all have an inescapable fear of death. That is all theoretical of course, but considering our own demise has a tremendous motivational and clarifying effect.
How would you live if you knew that you were dying in 5 years? 1 year? 1 week? Tomorrow?
Deeply considering that, one day, you’ll have no more time left, would you want to spend your finite time using social media, playing video games, watching sports, or in crappy relationships with low-quality people.
Death really puts all the silly distractions, amusements, and trivial worries we have into perspective.
To yield this fear of death as a motivational tool, search for a cemetery near you and go visit on. Find someplace quiet and semi-private to sit (sitting in the grass is not great as bugs will crawl on you) and do 20–30 minutes of meditation.
- You would want to start with eyes-open meditation, just take in the scene while breathing deeply. Listen to the birds chirping and the wind rustling the trees. Cemeteries are usually serenely beautiful places.
- Look at the tombstones around you, consider the dead. Imagine all those coffins in the ground that surround you. Imagine the decomposing bodies within them. Death literally surrounds you!
- Consider that you will eventually be just like them. You will be in a box in the ground. Philosophy and science and are pretty divided on the possibility of an afterlife, it’s certainly worth hoping for but death may just end up being eternal slumber.
- Meditate on gratitude, be thankful for being above ground. Give thanks for the good things you have in your life.
“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.” — Nelson Mandela
3. Don’t Fantasize, Plan
It’s all too easy to while our lives away looking at pretty girls, expensive cars, or travelporn on Instagram or television. Perhaps you go to bed wishing you had the perfect girlfriend or boyfriend, or house or dream job. All this fantasizing doesn’t accomplish much other than making you feel inadequate. Instead, plan and create medium-term goals for yourself. I suggest using a mind-mapping tool to visually map out what you want your future to look like. Make realistic, yet optimistic predictions of how your life could look in these areas…
- What you’ll do for work — how you will make money.
- What sorts of hobbies will you have?
- Your health condition. How you’ll stay in shape.
- Where will you live?
- What sort of relationships you’ll have. Will you have a girlfriend, wife, husband, or maybe even a family of your own?
4. After Planning, Habituate
A flowchart that visually breaks down a best-case 5-year outlook is useless if it’s not accompanied by a lot of action. You need to translate your 5-year goals into daily and weekly must-do’s which you can habituate and measure, like
- Spend an hour daily working on my book.
- Go to the gym three times a week.
- Make love to my wife four times a week.
- Limit alcohol consumption to twice weekly.
I like the tool Coach.me for this it. It’s a free (and ad-free) smartphone and web app for habit tracking. I’ve used it for years and it’s made me remarkably disciplined.
Coach.me is like having a coach in your phone: with you every second of your day with motivation, coaching and…
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” — Warren Buffet
5. Do a Productivity Sprint
1–3 month productivity sprints are a lot more effective than marathons. If you say to yourself…
For the next 5 years, I’m going to wake up at 6:00 AM and work to become a successful entrepreneur!
You are almost sure to fail. You want to plan your year around several productivity sprints lasting not more than three months.
- Come up with an ambitious goal that you can realistically accomplish during the sprint.
- Stay totally disciplined, commit to doing all your positive habits daily.
- Importantly, during the sprint abstain from everything that makes you weak; junk food, alcohol, weed, and porn along with timewasting and petty friends or family.
It’s a whole lot easier to stay motivated and consistent when you know that you only have to do this for 90 days or less. You can look forward to savoring some well deserved indulgent hedonism when the sprint is up.
“Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you” — Thomas Jefferson
6. Don’t Brag, Yet
In the first week of January, what do you see a lot of on Facebook? People announcing their New Year’s resolution and maybe posting photos of themselves taking those first steps toward them, like getting a badly needed workout in at the gym. A deluge of Likes and supportive comments reward Jim his first week sober and Susan for her first month off sugar but consistently they backslide. Six months later Jim is hungover on a Wednesday and Susan is back to enjoying her daily $9 mocha-frappucino venti with an insane amount of sweet additives in it. This is because often, the bragging demotivates us, we get a bunch of praise from our friends and family and as a result, we stop working so hard. Social validation is a hell of a drug. And social media is a scary good technology for tricking us into thinking that we’ve accomplished something meaningful. Think of a guy who would like a girlfriend but he’s addicted to porn, he’s getting his needs met digitally so he never really makes the necessary effort out there in the real world. The same thing happens when you brag about your goals on social media.
Instead, keep your goals to yourself, let the bragging about your goals be what motivates you to makes some progress. And don’t start bragging until they are actually habituated or you’ve made some real progress.
“Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it” — Mahatma Ghandi
7. Get Sunk-Cost Working for You
Sunk Cost is when you spend money on something; a car, a new laptop, or a summer trip to Europe.
The best lifehackers know that Sunk-Cost is a powerful motivational tool. When I was a young struggling Wantrepreneur I would see all these “Make Money Online” courses promising some easy formula profit. Not having much money to invest in that sort of thing, I would just find torrents of these courses, download them and they never really made me much money. Then I found an appealing course on Domaining, buying and selling domains for profit, I couldn’t find a torrent for it so I shelled out the $100 for it. I went through all the modules and videos, followed their instructions, and managed to sell a domain I bought for $9 to an attorney in Arizona for almost a thousand dollars! I went on to have several other profitably domaining transactions — that hundred dollar investment really paid off.
This is sunk-cost at work, if there is some goal that frustratingly has eluded you for months or years, that you just can’t seem to make any meaningful progress toward, find a way to spend money on accomplishing it. Hire a coach, buy a course, travel to a conference, buy a new computer, or whatever. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to cost you a meaningful amount of money and you’ll find yourself a lot more motivated.
If health matters to you and there’s room for improvement demanding just a bit more discipline on your behalf, spend money on it!
It’s almost guaranteed to be a better investment than spending it on a fancy electronic toy or going to an overpriced restaurant. Spending a not-insignificant chunk of change on your health will make a difference in the discipline that you need to bring to bear.