When we want to get something done, especially something we aren't looking forward to, we often recruit the help of a big, bald, tattooed, bouncer-like bully to kick us in the rear and force us to get to it. A lot of people call theirs Will, I call mine Charlie. Any time there's something we 'have' to, instead of 'get to,' Charlie shows up to make sure that the have to's get done. Charlie can manifest as any number of “productivity tactics” that use pain as a motivator. For example, "I can't watch this show until I do my language study." "If I don't do this assignment I'll fail the class." Even something as simple as “I can’t eat this cookie.”
Each time we do this, we are hiring Charlie to go stand intimidatingly in the room in our mind where each assignment lies. Then when we want to do that thing (or not do that thing), we have Charlie punch us in the gut to motivate us. The method might get us to the gym a few times, or push us to finally get that one assignment done, but every time we use it we’re motivating ourselves with pain.
And if there's anything we humans are good at, it's avoiding pain. So good, in fact, that we're able to completely stop any progress towards a goal and still think we’re making progress - because who wants to keep getting punched in the stomach.. Whenever we think about the thing that we want to be doing - but aren’t (and we’ll see why not soon) - we get Charlie to slug us in the gut with “GUILT” and maybe some “STRESS.” And it’s painful.
So, since not doing the task but still thinking about it also causes us pain, we have to trick ourselves into thinking we're still heading towards that goal, despite taking zero actions in that direction. We still want to be healthy and successful, but dealing with Charlie can be pretty exhausting. "I'm not quitting my workouts, I've just had very good reasons that I couldn't go for the last few weeks."
Charlie is best described as a PUSH motivation as opposed to a PULL. When we enjoy something, we often find ourselves thinking about it even when we aren't doing it, and catch ourselves thinking "I wish I were doing that right now." It's almost as if that activity is drawing us toward it, whereas with Charlie, we find we have memorized the first 26 posts on Instagram, and haven't even started that paper we've known all week was due tomorrow.
But what's the point in bringing this up? We all know that Charliepower, I’ve heard some call it Willpower, is the only way to actually get things done, right? Actually, while that statement is true, we do all know that, we're also all wrong. We hinted at it earlier, but it turns out that the most effective, best, optimal way of getting something done is to enjoy the process. The part that might be news to you is that it's possible to enjoy EVERY process, not just the few that you are enjoying currently.
You may have heard the phrase 'happiness is a choice.' Well I'm here to tell you that's a flat-out lie.
Ok nothing that dramatic. Happiness is no more a choice than being a master violinist is, but they are both skills, which means they're learnable. Making the choice to be a master of the violin doesn’t make you one, and neither does choosing to be happy instantly make you so. But while an unfulfilled master violinist may tell you different, it's nowhere near as difficult to learn to enjoy as it is to master the violin.
It's not about how hard you try or how much you can force yourself to work, for this skill it's all about the approach. Which is why you so often meet people like our unfulfilled violin maestro who are phenomenally skilled at something, but have yet to even make a small breakthrough in an area that everyone wants to be better at. The problem isn't in you, it's in the approaches we've tried up to this point. The biggest shift in perspective for me was realizing that no matter the task, goal, or pursuit, the best way to pursue it, the one that brings consistent results, is to enjoy it.