Our mind consists of two systems, a conscious system and an auto-pilot system. We spend most of our time in our auto-pilot system, which I dub Goliath. Our conscious system is intelligent, but not energy efficient. Therefore, we avoid using this system to the extent possible. I call this system David.
Most of the personal development strategies are based on our conscious system. There’s a problem with that, because we don’t spend most of our time using our conscious system. When we read about these strategies, they make sense to us. A few minutes later, we switch back to the auto-pilot mode and completely forget what we have just read.
“If we want to succeed in life, we need to use the auto-pilot mode of our minds.”
In other words, we need to convince the Goliath in our minds to work towards our life goals, instead of doing whatever he pleases to do.
What Motivates the Goliath in Our Minds?
The Goliath in our mind is motivated by pain and pleasure, in other words by rewards and punishment. When we wake up early, take a shower, dress up, go to work, work for eight hours, and then go to the gym, Goliath perceives this as punishment. Goliath feels pain throughout these activities, because he doesn’t see any rewards or pleasure.
When we sleep the whole morning, eat junk food, play video games the whole day, and hang out the whole evening, our Goliath perceives these activities as pleasure and rewards.
How Can We Motivate Our Goliath to Serve Our Life Goals?
Luckily, there’s a way to motivate our Goliath to serve our life goals and avoid the behaviors that harm us. This method is twofold.
“First, we need to associate harmful behavior with pain and punishment. Second, we need to associate beneficial behavior with pleasure and rewards.”
Suppose that you spend at least an hour a day surfing the Internet and you want to quit that habit. Your Goliath gets pleasure from that activity. We need to overwhelm our Goliath with equally or more intense pain and punishment. I’m not suggesting you to go masochistic and slap yourself every time you waste time. There are more intelligent ways of doing that such as confronting your Goliath with statistics.
How to Quit Bad Habits
If you’re wasting an hour a day, you’re wasting fifteen days a year. If you add that up, you are wasting a complete year every twenty four years. Do you really want to wake up one day and realize that you have wasted a complete year of your life? Is this really what you want to do? It’s almost like having spent a whole year of your life in a jail cell doing nothing useful. Do you get what kind of a punishment and pain that realization is? What could you do in that year if you were completely free?
“It’s almost like having spent a whole year of your life in a jail cell doing nothing useful. What could you do in that year if you were completely free?”
If you have internet addiction or any other addiction that results in waste of time, memorize the content of the paragraph above. Repeat it to yourself regularly until you associate the time wasting habit with sitting in a jail cell for a year. I know it’s dramatic and that’s why it works.
The same technique works for bad habits like smoking as well. Whenever you feel like smoking, look at one of those horrible images that picture the lungs and other organs harmed by smoking. If you make that association in your mind, soon smoking won’t be that fun.
How to Motivate Yourself to Do What You Know You Should Do
We don’t do what we know we should do, because our Goliath perceives those activities as pain and punishment. We need to associate those activities with pleasure and rewards in order to motivate ourselves to do them. The first step to make that association is to have a direction in our lives.
I want you to come up with a set of life goals that you are excited about. These life goals need to be perceived as rewards by your Goliath. Moreover, you need to associate those life goals with the activities that you need to carry out on a daily basis. In other words, you need to create a perspective in your life.
“Excite your Goliath about the rewards and pleasure he will get at the end of the road.”
Once you have your life goals and your daily activities, you need to reinforce the connection between them every day. That way that connection sinks into a gut level in your psyche. Your Goliath isn’t a quick learner. It takes a lot of repetition until he gets something. That means you need to go over your life goals and how you are going to achieve them every day. This will excite your Goliath about the rewards and pleasure he will get at the end of the road.
Moreover, you can also promise your Goliath rewards for the achievement of intermediate milestones. You can do that even on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. You can promise your Goliath a nice movie every weekend, a nice vacation every year, a nice car when you make your first million. Just make sure not to overextend your budget or engage in harmful activities.
How to Proceed
Now that you know how your psychology works, it’s up to you to do the work to motivate yourself.
- What are the habits and behaviors that you want to quit?
- Which pain points or punishments are you going to associate with them?
- What is your direction in life? What are your life goals?
- What is your perspective in life? How are you going to achieve your life goals?
- Which actions do you need to incorporate in your routine?
- Which rewards are you going to give yourself on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis for carrying out those actions?
- Which rewards are you going to give yourself, when you achieve certain milestones in your life goals?
Answers these questions, read your answers every day, and see your performance skyrocket!
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.