As our regular readers know, I frequently have permission to republish part of my friend, Jean Moroney’s, newletter. This month’s article that I particularly liked is “Wishing for Motivation.” Since I’m a firm believer in the power of thinking positive, this reaffirms what I think from a different approach. Naturally, I enjoy those articles that affirm what I believe.
Jean Moroney teaches managers and other professionals how to tap their own knowledge bank to solve problems faster, make better decisions, and communicate more effectively. Corporations hire her to train their managers in “Thinking Tactics” to help them get more done with fewer resources. This article originally appeared in her free email newsletter. Subscribe at Thinking Directions or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing for Motivation
Wishful thinking doesn’t solve problems. But it can transform your
motivation when you are not “in the mood” to do the next task on
your agenda. I stumbled upon this fact while on a long trip.
At a certain point, I thought I should dig into four annual reports I
had brought along. But I felt, “Ugh. I don’t want to.” As I paused
on that depressing note, I felt a little wistful. I said to myself, “I
wish I were motivated to read those reports. I’d really like to clear
that backlog.” (They were the last from a large pile.) Suddenly, I
wanted to finish. I reached for a report, and read them all through
I was surprised by this painless about-face, so I reflected on it later.
Let me explain why it happened and how to replicate that success. I
call the technique, “wishing for motivation.”
Wishing “worked” because I was not in serious conflict, just feeling
a little lazy. In that low-key state, I could sense a wisp of desire at
the back of my mind. By “wishing,” I gently turned my full
attention to that desire, which in turn triggered good reasons for
reading the reports.
Emotions follow from values. Once those values were front and
center, desire followed.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t passionately excited to read the
reports. I didn’t need to be. Mild interest can overcome
I turned this observation into a technique: If I notice I’m delaying
getting started on something, I know I need a nudge. I immediately
set a timer for 3 minutes and do some “thinking on paper” using
these words as prompts:
–I wish I felt motivated to …
–I would like to feel the way I do when …
–I wish I were motivated because …
These prompts ensure you wish for the right thing–to be motivated.
If you wish for the task to go away or for someone else to solve the
problem, you won’t trigger a desire to start.
Chiding yourself with “I should want to do this” also won’t work.
That’s more likely to trigger resistant moans and groans and
Once I feel some desire, I’m willing to consider a microscopic step
I could take toward starting.
Here’s a literal example, transcribed from my notebook. I went to
lunch in the middle of writing the draft of this article. When I came
back, I knew I should resume writing. But I was feeling post-pizza
lethargy. Ugh. I hesitated, and then I chose to start a timer, open
my journal, and write the following:
“I wish I were in the mood to finish this draft. It’s so much easier
to come back when you’ve reached a definite end point. I wish I
still had that easy feeling [from when I worked on it earlier] of
enjoying telling the story. [I paused with the pen in the air.] I could
spend the rest of these three minutes re-reading.”
When the timer rang, I was already hooked. I finished the draft
Note that I used an act of will to get started. The timer didn’t turn
on by itself. The journal didn’t fly to my desk and magically start
recording prose. But I needed only a wee nudge of willpower to
start, not the mighty heave I’d have needed to overcome true
This “wishing for motivation” method won’t succeed when you
have a serious conflict about starting. Then you need more powerful
thinking tactics to help you identify the conflict and resolve it so
you can move forward.
But what’s the downside of the method? The next time lethargy
strikes, spend three minutes wishing for motivation. Your wish may
For those interested, Jean has a “Thinking Tactics” workshop coming up in San Francisco, September 25, 2010.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Hampton Inn San Francisco Airport
9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
In the morning session, Concentrating the Power of Your Mind,
you will learn:
–How to use small chunks of time for big thinking tasks
–How to break through the two most common thinking blocks in
three quick steps
–How to spot when you’re floundering, then get your work back
on track fast
In the afternoon session, Making Complex Tasks Fit in People-
Sized Brains, you will learn:
–How to survey your own mental databanks to get yourself started
on a complex task
–The secret to making large, amorphous projects fit in limited
–The #1 thinking tactic that helps perfectionists turn in good work
–What you need to take the strain out of thinking and make it flow
This is an interactive workshop. During the day we will work
through exercises and processes in the 70-page workbook using a
combination of lecture, discussion, group exercises, and individual
“I use Jean’s methods on a daily basis, at work and in my
personal life. They help me work through my hardest problems
and get control of the most stressful situations. I wouldn’t
be as effective or efficient as I am without them. I highly
recommend Jean’s course.”
–Jason Crawford, Co-founder & CTO, Kima Labs,
San Francisco, CA
Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, “$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,”