“Motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar
Experiencing a profound lack of motivation can be incredibly demoralizing, sapping your personal energy and rendering even the simplest tasks arduous.
While there may be various factors contributing to this state, having a reliable method to improve motivation on demand can be invaluable.
Imagine possessing a proven practice that allows you to instantly change your motivation level when you need it most. Well, the good news is that Dr. Andrew Huberman has shared a remarkable technique that enables an instant transformation in your motivation.
The key lies in deliberately engaging in an activity that truly challenges you, something that feels worse than your current state but remains entirely safe.
By bravely embarking on this “something that sucks,” you effectively reset your motivation level, paving the way for a revitalized outlook and increased drive.
The State of Feeling Unmotivated
The terms “amotivated” and “unmotivated” are often used interchangeably to describe a lack of motivation or a low level of motivation.
They essentially refer to the same general state of lacking the drive, enthusiasm, or interest to engage in activities or pursue goals.
Both terms indicate a diminished or absent motivation, resulting in reduced initiative, effort, and engagement. Individuals who are amotivated or unmotivated may experience a lack of energy, interest, or desire to take action or accomplish tasks.
While the terms are similar in meaning, “amotivated” is more commonly used in psychological and motivational research, while “unmotivated” is a more general term used in everyday language. The specific term used may depend on the context or personal preference, but they generally convey the same idea of lacking motivation.
It’s Hard to Control the Mind with the Mind
Dr. Andrew Huberman is a well-known neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University. He specializes in the fields of visual neuroscience and brain development, studying the underlying mechanisms of the brain and their impact on perception, behavior, and overall well-being.
In our nervous system, there’s a chain of operations that goes like this:
We sense -> We perceive -> We feel -> We think -> We act
When we want to change how we feel internally, like wanting to feel better or more motivated, many people try to “think positively” or alter their mindset.
However, as Huberman wisely pointed out, “It’s hard to control the mind with the mind…”
Thoughts and feelings can be elusive and hard to grasp, often leading us into a futile struggle. On the other hand, actions are concrete and tangible.
To create positive shifts across the entire chain, we can try a different approach: we start with action.
By taking positive actions, we generate pleasant sensations that interrupt negative patterns and replace them with positive ones. This backward approach yields tangible results and provides a pathway to cultivate a more positive and motivated state.
However, we can also use this idea to change our motivation levels.
But not by doing something we enjoy…
To Change Your Motivation Level, Do Something that Sucks that’s Safe
Dr. Andrew Huberman’s main idea is that to reset our motivation and hormonal state when we are feeling amotivated or unmotivated, we need to engage in activities that are challenging or uncomfortable but still safe.
By doing something that sucks, meaning an activity that is difficult or unpleasant, we can change our emotional state and reset our motivation baseline.
The process starts with sensation, where we perceive our current state of being amotivated or lacking motivation. This perception leads to feelings and thoughts associated with that state. However, Dr. Huberman suggests that instead of waiting for motivation to come naturally, we can take action first.
According to Dr. Huberman, behavior comes before thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. By engaging in an activity that is harder or worse than our current state, we can put our body and mind into a state of discomfort quickly.
This could involve doing something unrelated to our specific goal but challenging.
By intentionally doing something that sucks, we steepen the trough or create a deeper contrast between our current state and the state of discomfort. This contrast allows us to more quickly return to our baseline level of motivation, as the brain seeks to restore equilibrium. The release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, can be more readily achieved by creating this contrast through engaging in challenging activities.
Dr. Huberman suggests that to reset our motivation and overcome amotivation, we should engage in activities that are harder or worse than our current state. By doing something that sucks but is safe, we create a contrast that allows our motivation to reset more quickly and effectively.
Practice Doing Hard Things
An amazing thing happens when you do something that sucks that’s safe. You practice doing hard things.
As you practice doing hard things, you build up a portfolio of examples in your mind of doing hard things.
You remind yourself that you can do hard things and you have a reference library of examples to back it up.
Imagine how much easier, hard things become when you practice doing hard things.
And what a great way to grow your resilience and your intestinal fortitude.
Rather than face hard things in a fearful or anxious way, you treat them like a challenge.
You take them head on and you approach from a state of curiosity and with a Growth Mindset.
By doing hard things on a regular basis, you take care of the stuff that could weight you down or block your potential.
And doing hard things becomes a powerful part of who you are.
In effect, you become more powerful, more productive, and you renew your motivation.
My Take on Do Something that Sucks that’s Safe
I like the science behind “Do Something that Sucks.” Dr. Humberman really does a great job walking through the science of how we can change our motivation level based on our neurology.
To complate the picture, let’s walk through 3 related ideas. Dr. Andrew Huberman’s idea of “Do something that sucks” to change your motivation, Brian Tracy’s concept of “Eat that Frog,” and my principle of “Worst Things First” share a common underlying principle: tackling challenging or unpleasant tasks early on to enhance motivation and productivity.
While each concept may have different nuances, they all revolve around the idea of taking proactive action and confronting difficult or undesirable tasks head-on.
Here’s how they relate:
- Dr. Andrew Huberman’s “Do something that sucks that’s safe”: Huberman suggests that engaging in activities that are uncomfortable or challenging can reset our motivation by interrupting negative patterns and replacing them. The focus is on initiating action to change our emotional state and increase motivation.
- Brian Tracy’s “Eat that Frog”: Tracy’s concept is centered around prioritizing and completing the most challenging or important task (symbolized by the “frog”) first thing in the morning. By tackling the most difficult task early on, it builds momentum, increases productivity, and alleviates procrastination.
- “Worst Things First”: I emphasize the importance of identifying and addressing the most difficult or critical tasks upfront. By taking care of the “worst things” at the beginning of the day or a project, it reduces stress, enhances focus, and paves the way for smoother progress. From a memory and simplicity standpoint, I wanted a simple, sticky slogan–“Worst things first!” stuck.
While the specific approaches may differ, all three concepts share the belief that by confronting challenging or unpleasant tasks early on, individuals can overcome inertia, increase motivation, and set themselves up for greater success and productivity.
They encourage proactive behavior and provide strategies for optimizing performance and achieving desired outcomes.
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