In a sense, intrinsically motivated people enjoy the process of what they are doing, whereas extrinsically motivated folks see the eventual goal as their primary motivating force, even though the process of reaching it may not seem particularly fun or even worthwhile.
Goals are useful because they help to focus attention and energy to act effectively, but process is what gets you to the goal. This is equally true for career goals, fitness goals and all other personal goals. By disregarding the process, or enduring an unpleasant one, your entire effort may be undermined. If you don’t truly enjoy the process of doing what you do, you risk burnout and run a greater chance of eventually abandoning the goal. Because no distant reward, however glittery, can provide the same kind of day-to-day, experiential sustenance required for optimal performance that moment-to-moment passion, enjoyment and engagement can.
A Simple Rule
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that the more you enjoy doing something, the more of it you will do. So, it’s important to think about how you can find or make more enjoyment in what you’re already doing.
First, it’s essential to realize that nearly anything can be enjoyable. Washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, even brushing your teeth can be made fun if you have a plan – an approach that focuses your attention. For example, you could start by washing all the small things, then moving to the larger ones. Or you could vacuum the floor by making a different pattern in the carpet each time. By making mundane things a game, you can restructure how you experience them, so that even if they aren’t the most thrilling activity, at least they are tolerable.
Second, don’t overload yourself. Let’s take the example of a workout routine. I’m a bit of an imbecile when it comes to working out, or at least I used to be. My old approach could be summed up as “do as much as I can as fast as I can.” Usually, I’d end up feeling tense, miserable and sick after trying to run around the track as many times as I could at a fairly quick pace.
Admittedly, this was really mindless, unpleasant and ineffective. But this obsessive approach is a common one. A more gradual approach is much kinder and more effective. The key for me was getting my mind off some external benchmark and onto enjoying the evolving experience of the activity.