Forget Self Discipline, Do This Instead (Part 2/3) 

 August 6, 2018

By  Stephen Hnilica

NOTE: It’s been about 7 months since I wrote this article and it needs to be updated. There are more effective, universal theories that work more consistently. What holds true is that Motivation Is About Emotion. Specifically 13 types of motivating emotional responses. Of those, 6 are roughly covered here.

At the age of 15, I hated myself. I was overweight, lazy, watched way too much porn, and had successfully dropped out of school. Picture of success, I know.

About 4 days ago, I made a post entitled “Forget Self-Discipline, Do This Instead (Part 1)“. The response overwhelmed me. I’m really thankful that it received so much attention. That post reached over 24,000 people on this subreddit and received over 250 comments!

O.O Damn!

So big thanks to everyone who commented on Reddit.

If you haven’t read the original post yet, I highly suggest you go read that before we continue on, but here’s a quick recap:

The “Everything is your fault” theory of personal development and achievement is bullshit (And a bit heartless). Screw those guys (No offense Jocko Willink, please don’t kill me).

Taking a deep look into modern neuroscience (like Sam Harris did in his book ‘Free Will’) leads to a startling conclusion:

The “Free” part of “Free Will” is BS… Bit of a head trip if I’m honest… You don’t decide to feel the way you feel, or think the thoughts you think.
Though, when you embrace this, you can release judgment emotions, like guilt and shame. And you can stop imposing these feelings on others too.

Realizing we don’t have free will doesn’t mean that we don’t have to improve ourselves or we don’t have to work (and sometimes work hard) to get the things we want.

It doesn’t take back Elon Musk equating entrepreneurship to eating glass while staring into the abyss. It doesn’t take away the hard work, dedication, or brilliance of people like Michael Phelps, Andreana Huffington, Marie Curie, or Peter Dinklage.

Instead it suggests that we take credit for only our part in our past, and in our future, and that we walk the path of least resistance.

Our power to change our lives is created only through focusing our goals on crafting our physical environment (reducing distractions and temptations, optimizing external cues and triggers we experience) and mental environment (establishing empowering rituals, beliefs, and motivations) we can create previously-challenging change with relative ease.

This is the path of least resistance. Like a trickle of water with an infinite basin, your goals are to reshape your environment so more water can flow. First, we must create the drive to push the first drops of water down this new path.

Effort-Less Motivation Is All About Emotion

The first step in this is process is to find your primary driving emotion. Answering the question: Why do we do what we do?

We do what we do, moment to moment, primarily driven by the emotional needs we feel compelled to service in those moments. When we drink, smoke, overeat, etc, we are indulging an emotional need. The same is true when we exercise, meditate, study, write, or work.

Much like when 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions, 80% of our motivation, both positive and negative, can be traced back to a single, core emotional needs. This is our Primary Driving Force.

Understanding our primary driving force and using it to our advantage is critical in creating happiness and fulfillment in our lives. When we are happy and doing things that fulfill us, the resistance to action drops to near nothing.

It allows us to set up goals that pull us towards them instead of having to push ourselves to achieve them.

So, whatever behavior you want to change — maybe it’s studying more effectively, maybe it’s exercising, or losing weight (As a side note, don’t exercise with the goal of losing weight, I’ll get to why in another post), or starting a business, or quitting your job — Discovering and leveraging your primary driving force will allow you to make everything about that goal easier or unnecessary.

Discovering Your Driving Emotion

For motivation to become effort-less (meaning requiring less effort), then you need to tap into your basic emotions.

Depending on the theory you’re working with, there’s between 3 and 39 basic emotional needs.

In his TED talk, Tony Robbins talks about 6 emotional needs, and they’re a good basis to discover your primary driving force.

The first need is Certainty. I have a high need for certainty. Lack of certainty, lack of knowing what is going to happen, or feeling safe caused me to have incredible anxiety, and shifted lots of my behaviors in negative and self-destructive ways. It made me not want to “rock the boat”. It is also what drives us to be in long-term relationships.

Certainty is what makes us feel like being around family is being ‘home’, even if our family doesn’t provide the love and connection a family should. It’s what causes us to seek out ‘comfort foods’, and establish all sorts of habits that feed self destruction.

Certainty also can give us the confidence to move forward or to be of service to others when we’re competent and confident in a skill. When this need is met, it can also allow us to explore risk or variety.

Paradoxically, we also have a big need for variety. We have a need for new and different. For high-energy situations and experiences. Why do you think advertising with words like “new” works so well? It helps fulfill our need for variety.

Websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Reddit use variety to high-jack our brains and get us to continue to scroll through our feed, waiting, and anticipating something great to come along.

Variety is also our capacity for risk. Making risky speculations, and gambling can also help fulfill this need.

Next is Significance. Fairly self explanatory I think. Tony Robbins points out that the easiest way to fulfill this need — and really all of the 4 primary needs — is through violence.

If you’ve grown up in an oppressed area, and don’t have a lot of ways to fulfill your needs, then you put a gun to someone’s head, you feel pretty significant. You are CERTAIN that you have control in this situation, and it will trigger all of your high-energy patterns for variety, risk, and excitement. And it makes you feel connected, not in a positive way, but you’re now intensely connected to this individual, if only for a moment.

Connection is when someone will respond to you. They’ll be thinking about you and anticipating your needs and helping fulfill them. This can be like the previous example, or it can be a more positive example, like in the case of love, friends and family.

According to Robbins, we will do anything to fulfill the first 4, but the last two are what create fulfillment in our lives. This and the next two are also echoed in Daniel Pink’s work on motivation and employee performance. He bundles the first 4 together and calls them ‘Autonomy’.

The Path To Fulfillment

The last two are Growth and Contribution to something greater than ourselves.

In life, nothing stands still. This is most encapsulated in Murphy’s law and the 2nd law of thermodynamics. To paraphrase: “Everything changes. Anything left alone tends to get worse. Anything cared for tends to get better.”

The nature of life and the world is that things change. The only real option for growth and contribution is to care how this change takes place. To help guide the change as it happens.

Fulfilling these two needs are what create happiness and fulfillment in our lives. Growth and contribution are what allow us to feel like life, and what we we do in life, is worth it.

When your environment pushes you, Push Back

When I was 15, I had realized how much I had let life push me around and it was because I wasn’t caring for and crafting my environment, both physically and mentally. I found that, even at 15, I had incredible power to shape my environment if I applied myself to it.

When I realized how much I craved certainty and that the only certainty I could ever truly have was to control how my life changed, I directed my life to change for the better.

I had a temper and wasn’t welcome back in school, so I home-schooled myself and began meditating. I was overweight, so I decided to influence the food options that were available to me and said “Sugar is not OK.” And I began running every day. I got a job with my parent’s stores and started a business on the side.

The change wasn’t ‘effortless’, but it was ‘effort-less’. Using tools and tactics like the ones I’ll list in “Part 3”, and my primary driving force (For me, it was certainty, for you it may be another core emotional need), I was able to do things that I thought wasn’t possible.

In 6 months I lost 20 lbs, and was running 2 miles every morning. I was able to afford my first car, and pay for it myself. I found loopholes that allowed me to go back to school, but on my terms, taking a mix of online, high school, and college classes that gave me both freedom and challenge. I got myself on a path, where not only would I graduate, I’d do it a year early.

When you discover your proverbial carrot, and focus your goals around it, your life and your goals become effort-less. The resistance to change begins to ebb and it allows you to achieve a flow in life.

This keeps becoming bigger than I thought it would, and a lot of this is just scratching the surface. I’ve had a lot of people asking me to go into specifics.

As a result, there has to be a part 3.

In the next article, I’ll be getting into some tactics and examples of how to not only apply your Primary Driving Emotion to your goals, but also how to use your physical environment, habits, beliefs, and identity to dramatically reshape your path in life.

Stephen Hnilica

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