We all know exercise is good for us. But how good exactly? It’s difficult to quantify. Will it extend my life? Well, studies indicate it will, but those results are so far off. I rarely exercise thinking about how I’m extending my life. That outcome doesn’t motivate me because it seems so far away.
I do, however, know I feel better about myself when I exercise. Studies indicate we have more energy and greater positivity when we work out.
Sometimes, then, I’m able to trick myself into exercising by reminding myself of how good I will feel shortly afterward.
This is the hook that brings me back.
I even write down these positive feelings in my notebook. Writing it down helps me to remember those feelings later. When I know I will feel great after a spin class (I’m a Peloton addict, y’all), I’m willing to put up with the pain in exchange for the good feelings and the sense of accomplishment on the other side.
The same is true for practicing an art.
If I sit down today to work on my novel, it’s typically hard to see the end in sight. It’s so far off. If my primary motivator is a very distant outcome (e.g., finishing a draft, or, even worse, publication), then I’m going to lose motivation because I’m not seeing the results now. I’m not getting that immediate gratification.
Our motivation, then, often comes from something more short-term. Ask yourself two questions:
- Can I find joy in my practice?
- How do I feel when it’s done?
Some writers, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, claim the act of writing is excruciating. It certainly can be, but what’s the hook that brings you back?
Next time you have a practice session, take a few moments to write down how it felt. Did you feel a rush of endorphins? Did you feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment?
Put these little notes in a journal and revisit them some time. Remind yourself that we can find our joy in the practice, even if it’s sometimes painful.
Creativity can be a painstaking process, but, ultimately, it’s life-giving.
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