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Motivation should be quantified

26 June, 2020 - 5 min read

I have always found myself struggling to maintain consistent motivation when in pursuit of my goals. I would find that motivation would come in bursts, and then exponentially dissipate over time.

I think it could be agreed upon that motivation is finite; it is something equivalent to a "health bar" or a "mana bar." It would be something that increases over time and is depleted when used up. An example would be learning a certain skill. In order to do that act of learning; some sort of motivation is required to initiate and sustain that act, and as a result motivation is depleted with time.

An occurence occured on one of my runs. I had taken up the challenge to run 40km in a month and found myself absolutely struggling in the initial phases. Yes, one can argue that there are gains that occur after each iteration in terms of ability and therefore overall feel. But something different happened at the halfway point, something I would not attribute to gains in overall ability.

The day before, I had run a 3km, 5.5min pace and felt like absolute ****. It felt like I had drained my entire "motivation bar," I was certain that I'd be done for and would not have enough in me to be able to finish the initial challenge of 40km in a month.

The day of, I somehow managed to muster enough motivation to go for another run; probably slept really nice and rejuvenated just enough motivation points. I ended up running a 3km, 6.5 min pace; now one may conclude - wow you suck, how are you going to get a WORSE pace. Shouldn't consistent iterations yield BETTER results? However, I felt something different, I still felt motivated. It was almost as if I had not used up any points in my "motivation bar" to accomplish that run.

This is when I came to the big realization for myself that I will try to explain with an example:

"GOOD RUN"

  • 5.5 min pace
  • efficiency: 5.6/5.5 = 102%
  • initial motivation = 20/100
  • final motivation = 0/100
  • motivation loss = 100%

"BAD RUN"

  • 6.5 min pace
  • efficiency: 5.5/6.5 = 84%
  • initial motivation = 20/100
  • final motivation = 19/100
  • motivation loss = 5%

Till this point in my life I had always been striving for that 100%+ efficiency, in ALL aspects. I had been so infatuated with the term "min-max" a term used often in gaming to describe maximizing efficiency; that I would disregard all other aspects that are involved with any task.

A "GOOD RUN" to me, was all about the numbers; If I did not maintain maximum efficiency, instead of rewarding myself for completing the task, I would punish myself. I would feel bad about my results and thus define it as a "BAD RUN".

That day I had ran a slower pace, yielding a efficiency of 84% (A metric of previous/current) so higher than 100% efficiency meant that I had a better statistic that the previous iteration. So based on my old ideology, I had ran a "BAD RUN," but for some reason I felt good?

I took time to really analyze what had happened. When looking at just efficiency only, one would define a "GOOD RUN" to be one of higher efficiency; an ideology that I stood by for so long. What I did not realize was the other stats involved. I was actually losing more with my defined "GOOD RUN" compared to my "BAD RUN."

I think this correlates to the notion of always looking at things from a macro perspective. There's often much missed when looking into the micro perspective (basically, look at the bigger picture).

So back to our initial topic of motivation, after this realization I realized how important it was for me to quantify motivation. Which was such a big development for myself because for so long it had just been the unknown variable that was consistently changing and I just couldn't figure out why.

If we go back to my example and look at it in another way:

"GOOD RUN"

  • 5.5min pace
  • efficiency points: 102
  • motivation cost: 20/20
  • total points gained over time: 102

"BAD RUN"

  • 6.5.min pace
  • efficiency points: 84
  • motivation cost: 1/20
  • total points gained over time: 1680

Without quantifying motivation, one can easily justify why 102 points is better than 84. However, with the quantification now; one can argue that that over time a "BAD RUN" will yield 1680 points in comparison to the 102 points of a "GOOD RUN."

Of course this example may be a bit of an extreme, I would want to emphasize the main point of the example is to illustrate the importance of quantifying motivation. How it can be used to get out of that negative feedback loop of always feeling unmotivated. In essence I believe the key is to really simply just pace yourself, and I think the hardest part only becomes apparent after this realization. Since now:

  • How do we actually know our proper pace?
  • How can we accurately gauge the motivation values themselves?
  • Can we quantify a singular underlying motivation category?
  • Does this motivation value exist in multiple categories?
  • etc.

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