Whenever I advertise my availability to take on people’s problems on this blog, one subject comes up more consistently than any other. In a word, it’s motivation. It was all right in the nineties, when we had a strange lycra-clad man to supervise motivation (if you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, do a google search for the name of this blog. But I hope you’re not). These days, a lot of people find it difficult to get – as they say – their shit together sufficiently to revise for exams, start writing that book that’s crying out to be brought into the world, eat dinner, and so on.
Now, this is one of the few problems I feel in some way qualified to comment upon (not that a lack of qualifications has ever stopped me commenting on everything else). If there’s one thing I am noted for, it’s effort. Effort has been the key to my career so far; it’s kind of my equivalent of talent. I throw myself into things, often a lot of things at once, with no real consideration of how I and my loved ones will be inconvenienced. I attempt far more than I can ever accomplish. I am often deterred from doing things by a breakdown in confidence, but never by not bothering. So I’m going to suggest a few motivational tips, for the benefit of all those who have asked for them.
START WORKING! - Odd, even stupid as it sounds, one of the best tips anyone ever gave me was: ‘the best way to start working is to start working’. In other words, people find a lot of ways of shuffling around the task in hand. You can always send some emails, tidy the room, reorganise your desk, make a work timetable and so on. When it comes down to it, none of this is as good as just bloody doing the actual work. Even a few lines written feels like a huge success compared with a lot of petty tasks. So try and force yourself to do something, anything, that actually takes you closer to finishing the job. Make yourself write something down or learn a couple of definite things. You’ll feel so much better. Nothing’s ever as intimidating as it seems before you start.
TRICK YOURSELF – …on that note, if you’re writing an essay, use a big font. Write a pointlessly long introduction which you won’t actually use. Leave gaps. Do anything, in other words, to con y0urself into feeling that you’ve actually made progress. Even though it’s you tricking yourself, it still kind of works. A blank page will always discourage you. Fill it with anything.
FEAR FACTOR – We all know the extraordinary amount that can be achieved when you’re scared, i.e. 48 hours before an exam. Try to produce this (positive) fear before it actually gets to the critical stage. Imagine what it would be like going into the exam now-this-minute. Maybe look at a past paper and embrace the terrible feeling that you can hardly do any of it. Too much fear will de-motivate you, but a little is a good idea.
COLLEAGUES OF A KIND - Some people love working with a friend, others find it impossible. I always found it impossible; you can’t concentrate properly. But you can be aware of what other people are doing, and try to keep pace with them. For example if you have a friend you talk to every day, let yourself be psyched out by what they’re doing; try and match it. Be competitive. It’s one of the most powerful impulses making you do things. It may not be entirely positive but it is so powerful.
REMEMBER IN THE END IT’S YOUR LIFE – This is the toughest tip of all, but it’s worth saying nonetheless. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility how much you make of your own opportunities. Life tends to be quite unforgiving when it comes to excuses. No-one really cares how great things COULD have been if you’d done this or this. No one is too bothered about ‘potential’ when it’s too late to fulfil it. If you don’t make the most of things, you will tend to be trampled by those who do, even if in other ways they’re less deserving.
IT’LL BE FINE – I can’t really leave it on that note, though, so just to finish off: remember, things will be OK. Hard work doesn’t always bring the rewards it deserves, but more often not it will. Most often, making the effort will pay off, even if perhaps it pays off in ways that you weren’t expecting. Back yourself. Go for it.