The other day I was thinking about some research showing that questioning our ability to reach our goals can actually increase our intrinsic motivation. (Intrinsic motivation doesn’t depend on what anyone else thinks about your project or goal—and so of course it’s the motivation that is the best predictor of success.)
I wrote out a list of questions on the topic of a project I’ve had in mind for years—a project I haven’t been able to make much progress with.
Here are some examples from my list of questions:
Will I succeed in finishing this project?
Never mind that, will I succeed in making time to regularly work on the project?
Will I be able to organize the material?
Will I find the time to do the research?
Will I be able to do a good job?
I also wrote more specific questions about my fears, but I started with general ones like the ones above.
As I wrote my list, I wasn’t surprised to find that each question brought up feelings: anxiety, excitement, doubt, fear—a host of strong feelings about my goal and my ability to achieve it. Asking questions in this way forced me to take a closer look at my fears rather than hide from them. In the process, I discovered that I really do have answers for each one—not always great answers, but hey, we work with what we’ve got, right? They were answers like, That’s not going to happen!, and So what?, and Oh well, I can live with that, and, finally, But this is what I want to do anyway. This is what I want to do, whether I reach the goal in the end or not.
One thing I didn’t feel was overwhelmed—and this surprised me. Instead, the process of raising the questions and exploring my fears, feelings, and vulnerabilities was liberating.
Arriving at that last answer, confirmation of the importance of doing this project regardless of the outcome, really did put me in touch with my intrinsic motivation. It’s as if those fears were sapping the strength of my real motivation. Or perhaps the stronger motivation emerged from putting the fears, feelings, and answers together in one document with the goal.
I’m not sure how or why it worked, but it did, and I’m looking forward to exploring this tool for change. If you decide to try it, please let me know how it goes for you.