I’m Just Not Feeling It
So, I asked, “You have to wait until you’re able to “get into” doing a chore before you can do it?” “Yeah, that’s right,” he said. So I asked if he was getting about 10–15% of his chores at home done. He said ‘Yes! How did you know?” I asked him, “What would it be like for you to go home and wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, and start a load of laundry and you don’t have to like doing it or want to do it? In fact, what if you only expect to enjoy getting chores done about 10–15% of the time, but the rest of the time you just do them because they need to be done?”
A client in therapy was explaining to me that he was having a very difficult time trying to get motivated to get things done that needed to be done, specifically, things around his apartment. I asked what kinds of things and he said “You know, washing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom, and doing the laundry.” I asked if he enjoyed doing any of these things on a regular basis and he said that he was able to “get into” doing chores about 10–15% of the time and enjoyed getting them done then. But the rest of the time, he just didn’t want to do them. He couldn’t find the motivation to do them, because he just wasn’t feeling it.
He hadn’t considered tackling chores this way before but said that just might work for him and would experiment with it. Like most people, my client wasn’t actually having a problem with motivation. He was feeling motivated to do chores he didn’t like doing about 10–15% of the time, which is pretty good, actually. Because who likes doing boring chores consistently?
You Don’t Have to Want To Do It
My client was having a problem getting motivated because he thought he had to want to do something before he did it. He was defining motivation to include desire. The problem is that we are usually attempting to motivate ourselves to approach situations or do things for which there is less-than-optimal desire. In fact, there may be fear or disgust or some other valid reason to avoid it. Like there are a million other more interesting and fun things to do besides chores.
To restate the motivation problem: How are you going to get yourself to want to do something you really don’t want to do? The answer is: You can’t. You can’t get yourself to want to do something you really don’t want to do. Try to play that mind game with yourself. Go ahead. I’ll wait. You can’t really fool yourself that cleaning the bathroom feels as good as watching another episode. Of anything.
But You Can Do It!
But you CAN do something when it comes to motivation. You can get yourself to DO the thing that needs to be done that you really don’t want to do, first by removing the requirement that you need to want to do it. Second, by removing the requirement that you need to enjoy doing it. Then, there’s just doing the chore list to tackle. Dishes washed. Check. Bathroom cleaned. Check. Laundry started. Check. All humanly possible.
Wanting to do them is not required. Smiling, singing, and dancing while doing said chores is also not required. (But you get bonus points for doing what needs to be done without having a bad attitude.)
- Do you have to want to do any of these things? No.
- Do you have to like doing any of these things? No.
- Do you have to like that chores need to be done or your apartment ends up looking and smelling like a dump? No
- You just have to do the chores. That’s all.
No motivation required.
Dr. Anita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist
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