How To Motivate Yourself Without Coercion

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image"Coercion, after all, merely captures man. Freedom captivates him." — Robert McNamara

Don’t kill your motivation with too many "shoulds" or "oughts."

Don’t say, “I’m doing this because I should.”

Instead, say “I’m doing this because I choose to.”

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes about how using coercion takes away motivation.

Coercion Is a Deadly Enemy of Motivation

If you or others try to coerce yourself into doing something, you take away your motivation.  It becomes oppressive and you undermine your ability to make your own choices.

Burns writes:

“A deadly enemy of motivation is a sense of coercion. You feel under intense pressure to perform – generated from within and without.

This happens when you try to motivate yourself with moralistic ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts.’ You tell yourself, ‘I should do this’ and ‘I have to do that.’

Then you feel obliged, burdened, tense, resentful and guilty. You feel like a delinquent child under the discipline of a tyrannical probation officer.

Every task becomes colored with such unpleasantness that you can’t stand to face it. Then, as you procrastinate, you condemn yourself as a lazy, no-good bum.

This further drains your energies.”

Focus on Your Ability to Choose to Defeat Coercion

Don’t ruin your motivation with "should" and "oughts."  Create choice for your actions, and exercise your choice.

You can avoid coercion in a very simple way.

Focus on "choice."  Focus on your ability to choose.   Focus on your freedom to make choices and take actions.

Additionally, focus on the benefits that you’re moving towards, or the pain that you are moving away from.

What you should or ought to do are inputs, but ultimately you choose to do what you do.

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  1. Don’t should or ought yourself to death.  This drains your energy and takes away your choices.
  2. Make it a choice.  Drive for results by choosing your actions.  Sure they may still be the things you should or ought to do, but the key is that you’re exercising your freedom to choose.

As a dentist I know says, “You don’t have to floss all your teeth.  Just the ones you choose to keep.”

Instead of feeling the pressure from friends or within, fuel your desire by your own ability to exercise your choices.

Choose your way out of coercion and rekindle your motivation.

The more you exercise your choices throughout the day, the more you build your ability to motivate yourself with skill.

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