From struggling with motivation and willpower to using joy as fuel for your dreams – Integrally Alive Podcast

Do you struggle with sticking to a habit, or procrastinate on a task you need to do? What if instead of using motivation and willpower, you could tap into joy to do it?

Today, in the series on starting your year right off with a sustainable mindset, we go beyond motivation, and use kindness for ourselves to create a resourceful state that beats willpower.

How can I get motivated to do a job I hate?

Two weeks ago I was talking with a young man who is finishing his studies.
And to sustain himself, he is teaching English, which is not his vocation. And he asked me: “How can I motivate myself to teach for two more years? I really don’t like it, and my students make me crazy!

And I said to him that for sure, from this point of view, that was going to be difficult and painful! I also said that I don’t really believe in motivation and willpower. Willpower will only last until it breaks.

But in the conversation, he had told me that he loves seeing the face of his students when they understand something new. And also that this job makes him feel like he is doing a difference for good in the world. He knows that here in Vietnam, his students will have significantly more possibilities in their life by speaking English.

So instead of playing with willpower, we found how to use this to create a state of joy from which he will teach them. Now can you imagine the difference for him, and his students, between those two scenarios:

  • He shows up frustrated, using willpower, driven by one idea: Thanks to this job, he will get the money to study what he loves, and get a better job… in two years.
  • He connects to what he like in this job, even if it isn’t what he wants to do forever: How can I teach today, so that I open this understanding in my students and they get a chance to a better life?

Which one do you think would be more powerful?

The Marshmallow test

The Marshmallow test is a study from the sixties to study the effect of delayed gratification: They give a kid a marshmallow, and said:”You can eat it now, or wait until I return and get another one.” There are plenty videos of poor kids doing all kinds of things to distract themselves.

In the original study, they followed the kids for decades, and observed better scores at school, better jobs, less divorce, better social life and so on, for the kids who had waited.

And that is our classical view of motivation, based on incentive: being able to painfully wait for the future reward instead of instant gratification.

Beyond delayed gratification (revisiting the Marshmallow test)

In a new study in the nineties, researchers found that delayed gratification wasn’t so important than the economic well-being of the families of the kids.

It is way easier to wait for the second marshmallow if you are used to things around you being stable, and promises being kept. But if you live in a family where you never know if you will have money to end the month, how much are you going to trust that the second marshmallow could never come, let alone this one could even vanish?

And that has all to do with the emotional state this kids are in, which influences their thoughts, and even their physical body. If the way to your goal is going to be hell, you will never want to do it. And if you persuade yourself to do it, it will be difficult and with great efforts.

What state do you need to be in to create your intention?

Going back to my student friend, we changed the way he perceived the situation to create the state that would support him through the next two years. The outcome stays the same: “Work as a teacher two more years, while he finishes his studies.”

The journey is very different. And because now he is looking at this teaching experience from a place of wanting to create the best experience for his students, he might even learn a few things that will help him in future jobs, even non related to teachings.

How can you use this to go from willpower to joy?

Remember last week’s exploration to use instead of affirmations, reminders? You did it, right? Instead of finding tricks to motivate yourself, I guided you to find the joy behind the willpower.

Remember the “Hell YES!” emotional state that I was talking about? That is the state that will help you create from a place of joy. So once you have your reminder, use this as a tool to create that state.

What is the state you need to automatically make you want to move forward?

All the episodes of the “Start a sustainable intentional year (and decade)” series:

Resources cited in the conversation

Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test

Affluence—not willpower—seems to be what’s behind some kids’ capacity to delay gratification.

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Stay tuned for the next episode, à bientôt. 😉

Joyful Power letters