Jordan B. Petersen's Secrets to Motivation (Especially if You're Lazy)


We all have an all too-long list of things that we recognize would make our lives substantially more fulfilling if we only took steps to accomplishing them, but for some reason, we’re too busy, too exhausted, or simply too lazy to take action. It might be cleaning your basement, going to the gym, or starting a passion project, like writing a book, or taking a painting class. Clinical psychologist Jordan B. Petersen addresses the tendency to procrastinate when it comes to taking steps towards our goals, and he offers the solution in his book 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos. Here are his tips to help you actually get things done.

1.Know yourself & be honest about your nature.

It can be hard to look at yourself, really look and be honest with yourself about what motivates you, how you are in relationships, or what it would take to really go after your goals, but it’s necessary if you’re actually going to achieve them.

“You have a nature. You can play the tyrant to it, but you will certainly rebel. How hard can you force yourself to work and sustain your desire to work? How much can you sacrifice to your partner before generosity turns to resentment? What is it that you actually love? What is it that you genuinely want?”

2.Give yourself a reward that you actually care about.

While I might find myself willing to wake up early to run if I knew I was going to treat myself to sushi later, that might not work for everyone. You might find it rewarding to take some time off work, splurge on a new outfit, or give yourself permission to watch a full-day marathon of Christmas movies.

“Ask yourself what you would require to be motivated to undertake the job, honestly, and listen to the answer.”

2.Be ruthlessly honest in your quest to have a meaningful life.

Being truthful can be difficult, as you might not want to follow in your parents’ footsteps, go back to school, or have a traditional life with a 9-5 job and two children. Before achieving your goals, you must first be willing to be honest about what would really give your life meaning.

“Dare, instead, to be dangerous. Dare to be truthful. Dare to articulate yourself, and express (or at least become aware of) what would really justify your life.”

3.Don’t bother with shoulds.

It’s easy to procrastinate on working toward your goals when they are a byproduct of obligations you have to others. Instead, choose to recognize the obligation you have to yourself.

“When do you dislike your parents, your spouse, or your children, and why? What might be done about that? What do you need and want from your friends and your business partners? This is not a mere matter of what you should want. I’m not talking about what other people require from you, or your duties to them. I’m talking about determining the nature of your moral obligation, to yourself.”

4.Stop comparing yourself to others.

Your meter of whether you’re meeting your goals and living a life of meaning is probably the result of a series of comparisons you’ve made between your life and the life of others.

“When the internal critic puts you down using such comparisons, here’s how it operates: First, it selects a single, arbitrary domain of comparison (fame, maybe or power). Then it acts as if that domain is the only one that is relevant. Then it contrasts you unfavorably with someone truly stellar, within that domain.

Jessica Leon