Stop telling yourself to stop doing bad things

How changes in life only come through positive self-motivation.

In the past year, I put a lot of effort into constraining myself, watching my habits to then find the ones which stand in the way of me becoming a more happy and balanced person. The second step was to trying to implement a stringent rule of the no-gos: checking news or social media when I should be working, staying too long in bed before getting up, spending too much money on restaurant meals, drinking too much alcohol or eating too much sugar, spending too much time watching stupid Netflix series.

All of this had a limited effect. A week or two of success keeping me from doing these things followed weeks of an ever so strong fall-back to old habits. Now, thinking back to this ansatz of self-improvement, I understand why this couldn’t have worked. It’s the old psychology story that negatives always work much worse than positives. Motivating a child through saying what it did well always trumps telling it what it did badly, because that way it will be trying harder into the direction of doing it well rather than not trying at all.

Positive messages always trump negative ones.

This very easy principle can also be implemented in our self-motivation. Instead of telling yourself that you shouldn’t be drinking so much alcohol in the evening, you could give yourself the positive alternative of drinking a fancy fruit smoothie or some high quality bed-time tea. Instead of telling yourself that you shouldn’t be spending so much time in bed in the mornings why not motivate yourself to do something you like directly after getting up? And the mother of all self-motivation task, the avoidance of procrastination may be a lot easier if you give yourself the task to make breaks every hour or so to go out of your office into the green or have a coffee.

This guy probably said to himself “I would love to make a handstand now instead of sitting inside watching a movie.”

The rule of yes-goes

While these little things may be a first step, this way of thinking goes even further. Most of the time it only needs a tiny bit of pushing-yourself to not do the habit you want to be avoiding and doing something else which you would prefer yourself to be doing. But in order for this pushing-yourself to be happening, you must first lay the groundwork and know the alternatives. Try to ask yourself “What are the things I would really like to do if I had a bit of time?”. Try keeping this list up-to-date and adapt it to what you actually enjoy doing. If you have this list in the back of your head at all times it really only takes a tiny bit of momentum to say “Yes, instead of watching a Netflix series now, I will go outside and draw this tree because afterwards I will feel much happier.” And as soon as this happend a couple of times it will be a natural process. You have taught yourself like a child — motivated by positive encouragement.

Trying to make sense of quantum physics with the help of green tea.

Trying to make sense of quantum physics with the help of green tea.