You resolve to make a change for the better in your life.You tell your friends about it. You put your resolution in writing.You actually make the change. It works. It feels good. You’rehappy about it. Your friends are happy about it.Your life is better.And then, you backslide.
Why?Are you some kind of slob who has no willpower?Not necessarily. Backsliding is a universal experience. From George Leonard’s Mastery
You can attribute it to the Motivation Wave. Motivation TimeWhat is a motivation wave?A motivation wave represents the natural high and lows that peopleexperience with their motivation as time goes by. See BJ Fogg on Motivation Wave
In the book Mastery, George Leonard describes fourarchetypes to doing anything. The dabbler, the obsessive, thehacker and the master.The Dabbler starts with enthusiasm, makes rapid The Obsessive starts with robust progress. Whenprogress but then gives up after the first falloff in faced with a plateau, he redoubles efforts. This leadsperformance and plateau. Then he is off to the next to sharp highs and lows until the big drop-off.thing. The Master stays on the path to mastery. HeThe Hacker gets a hang of something sees brief bursts of progress, each of which isand then happily stays on the plateau followed by a slight decline to a plateau higherforever. than the one before. From George Leonard’s Mastery
Instead of seeing these as fixed types, we can see them asdifferent modes.We dabble, we obsess, we hack and on occasion, we masterdifferent things.These curves then reflect the shapes of our motivation waves.
Can we anticipate motivation waves?If we can, we can also buffet ourselves against the lows.Following is what I think.
Initiation starts with a dissonance event INITIATIONA dissonance event is something that gives you a new perspective on something youwant to do, but is at odds with your current approach to it.It can be something as simple as tweet asking you to do a neck stretch, to somethingas life changing as marriage or death.The magnitude of motivation is directly proportional to the gravity of the event.
Continuation happens when expectations are met CONTINUATIONIf the results are up to our expectations our motivation is maintained. For example, iftennis game improves as expected, the motivation level is maintained.
Amplification happens with breakthroughs and breakdowns AMPLIFICATIONWhen we hit a breakthrough, the wave is amplified. Often a breakdown leads toincreased resolve and will also amplifies it.
Decline happens due to plateaus DECLINEPlateaus represent moments where you are not making expected progress and feelstuck. This might cause a steady decrease in motivation.
Fall-offs happen due to extended plateaus. They may alsohappen due to breakdowns and even successes FALL-OFFWhen people are stuck on a plateau for a while, their motivation may see a steep dip.Breakdowns, while they can amplify can also attenuate. Interestingly, when peoplehave reached a level they are satisfied with, their motivation may also drop.
Don’t fight the wave. Ride the wave.Knowing that such waves are natural, the only way to be on the pathto mastery, or sustained behavior change, is to ride these waves andnot fight them. Three good pieces of advice from the work of BJFogg & George Leonard.Take a step back. BJ Fogg says that ability, not motivation is the key to behaviorchange. When your motivation is low, do something easier and simpler. For example,run 10 minutes instead of 30.Build a support system. We are social animals. As George Leonard says ‘you cando it alone, but it helps a great deal to have other people with whom you share the joysand perils of the change you are making’.Make it a habit. This is not as easy as it sounds but it relates back to taking a stepback. As long as you keep doing something you will find an upswing in the motivationwave.
Essential ReadingBehaviour Design Principles by BJ FoggMastery by George LeonardSend feedback this way:Ashish Goel@ashpodel