Lack of Motivation Is NOT Procrastination
Sitting down to write on the very topic of motivation gets to the heart of this conundrum that many of us face; some of us only for a few minutes a day, others for days at a time.
Sitting down and taking action is what counts. Getting up and getting out is what counts. Your cognitive mind knows that water is good or that applying for that job might be a good idea. Now, do you do it? Do you stay in inaction for hours, days, years? Some would call this behavior procrastination. I will define procrastination further down.
In a previous lifetime, I worked in museums and galleries in New York City and was submerged in ideas, habits, and lingo of the arts culture of this city. I imagine that if I had a life in the finance world my habits and ideas would also be influenced by it. The point of mentioning this is that we often relate motivation to creativity, and creativity is often related to lofty, beautiful, impactful films, books, plays, and other artwork. Take a look around you and see what ideas around motivation permeate your world?
In the arts, and generally speaking, an idea or belief that is way too prevalent for my taste sounds a bit like this: “motivation just has to come to me,” or “I’ll do (blank) when I feel motivated.”
Let us place motivation in the sphere of emotions. The emotions we are looking for when motivated are those that come from a dopamine rush in our brain. That dopamine rush acts as a neurotransmitter that transmitsideas with more clarity; all of a sudden the words to the article we have been meaning to write come quicker; and somehow we manage to send that request/email/form/text pushed by an almost out-of-worldy rush. The emotions that come, if we look at a feelings wheel, can go from relief to elated.
If motivation is fundamentally dopamine activated, then how can we get that going? It sounds almost too simple: action is what gets dopamine going.Once in the act of doing, be it the first five minutes of working out or the first five minutes of grant writing, the brain begins to find it rewarding and will ask for more. That is why the first five minutes of working out may seem strenuous, but at minute thirty you may feel like you are on top of the world.
In short, bear the first five minutes and sit in front of the computer or get on the treadmill and motivation will come; it is an emotion activated by dopamine.
All behaviors require their own dedicated page, not this one today — but, I would definitely place procrastination under the category of behaviors. I have many a client with this “symptom,” or a prolonged period of inactivity. As I often tell my clients in session, “we are here to learn why we do this or why we don’t do that.” I can be a blunt about taking responsibility for our actions or inactions.
Learning about our behaviors is part of our self-development work.Behaviors can tell us so much about how the inaction is serving a person. Is it delaying a decision that may change their lives? Is not taking action allowing for others to come and save them? Each behavior carries a story behind.
Lack of motivation is not procrastination. They belong to different spheres of the self. Motivation can be activated with an action that produces dopamine even if the first five minutes feel difficult. Procrastination is a behavior that is almost crying for us to ask what is the story behind it.