Reflecting on motivation and passion

Sep 08 2021

I was motivated to write this by my lack of motivation to write anything else here a year since. Generally this post doesn't bring much new if you previously had plenty of read on motivation and procrastination, in that case you may just find it relatable at best. I also have to apologize if the post may seem too cynical. There's also no proper structure in this post.

Reasons for motivational issues and procrastination

Fear of complexity was common for most of my issues, combine that with fear of unknown and it's incredibly difficult to start doing anything or proceed. Makes sense when dealing with some of the programming problems. While writing this post, I was also in process of moving places, which I never did before and involved both of these fears.

In case you question if such fears are reasonable, you may come to conclusion that there's no point in doing whatever you planned to do, or that it's not worth the effort right now. Sometimes it's important to be able to stop and let go of the idea instead of feeling guilty of not having any progress, granted you haven't just fallen a victim to whatever bigger fears you had.

Trying to conquer these fears can lead to losing excitement (not to confuse with losing the entire "passion"). Either the goal is taking too long to reach so you're losing patience, or the struggle of dealing with the complexity and all the unknowns ruins all expectations. Funny advice I remember on how to deal with this in gamedev: spice up your early prototypes with sounds and assets somehow related to the final product - it's a cheap way to make the game look alive early, hopefully making you excited to see final product.

Lack of energy as a reason can be questionable. While motivated, I believe you're more at risk of exhausting yourself out of your passion instead of outright not caring anymore and losing motivation. There are also mental and depression-related disorders that could affect motivation as a whole.

Fighting procrastination is procrastination

I used to joke that if I were invited to some random place to do a pretend TED talk about procrastination and motivation, the only thing I'd do on the scene is to callout all people who came here and the fact they came here, because that is the part of the real problem - the desire to fight procrastination being a part of procrastination itself.

There's an enormous amount of paid books, courses, even masterclasses on topic of procrastination, motivation and productivity, yet do they actually help? It's one thing to figure what procrastination is and how it works, which you can do on your own for free, unless you procrastinate on that too, but I don't believe investing money into solving motivational problems will work. If anything, I think it's yet another way for someone to capitalize on your problems. I have similar impression about any paid materials on how to get wealthy, how to get a job, how to learn C++ in 21 days. You spend money on any of that - chances you have already lost and were never meant to win, because the real problem lies in the mindset that made you attempt to fix the problem with someone's else guidance too much.

I see no point in fighting procrastination, most of the times there's a specific reason for it, which is not necessary going to last forever, otherwise it's probably some other mental issue requiring different kind of treatment.

Motivation by frustration

I don't need to do any research to see that good kind of frustration results in extremely good motivation. Frustration can act as emotional pain, and pain is supposed to indicate a problem that may require your part in fixing it. If you're continuously frustrated over something, most of the times it's still up to you to do the first step to fix the problem.

While all of this seem quite obvious even if you never gave it a direct thought, I wonder if sometimes we don't recognize why we want to do something in our lives. Recognizing your frustrations and everything you're unsatisfied with may refuel the motivation to do whatever you were previously postponing.

The false passion

I came to dislike the concept of passion in modern culture and how the word is being used around. If you present yourself as being passionate at anything, I'm biased to think it's either not gonna last forever, or that it's bullshit.

That's because I used to associate passion strictly with love and all the intimacy that comes with it, and that said passion is hard to sustain and eventually fades away. Everyone loves that kind of passion, unless maybe they're not the ones experiencing it. When you're passionate, you're ready to spend time on what you're passionate about at the expense of something else: time, money, relationships, health, rationale? Notice how I go from mundane to life threatening things, the latter representing the burnout outcome people may have today. Yet you're still encouraged to be passionate by job postings, media, some other blogposts, paid books.

"Everyone has something they're passionate about" - but for some reason you don't and risk feeling guilty about it. "All our employees are passionate about X" - except you and maybe feeling guilty about it. Job-related passion offends me the most because you may even see it in job posting's wishlist. Being professional shouldn't imply the extreme and true case of passion, yet I'm afraid some people may still hold to an idea of being passionate as if giving up life for the job completely.

How can we even talk passions when there might be tons of other issues to deal with in our lives.

Goals full of guilt

Being a regular person and setting goals with deadlines for yourself seems to be unproductive most of the times, be it new year resolutions or anything mundane you've spontaneously got on your mind. If you're the only one expecting to get the job finished - there might be not enough pressure to actually meet the deadline, so for most people it's a recipe for disappointment, just like with any other high expectations.

Another issue I really don't like is cultural: I noted people thinking very bad of theirselves because they're not spending enough time being productive or meeting some standard. Depending on the environment where you live and/or work, the competition and people around may put a huge pressure: every second lost - your competitors achieving a double of what you might have. The whole slacking off and procrastination end up being stigmatized, guilt tripping a struggling person into forcing theirselves to do more, only to get trapped in anti-productivity loop that in worst case culminates in burnout and mental issues.

By accepting the procrastination as natural issue, none of this should be the case, but disregarding cultural expectations might not be as easy.

Hell, I even I stopped working on this post almost four months ago because I was focused on moving places. Part of me could have felt bad about to start writing and then losing motivation to finish it, but instead I told myself that I have fine excuse with other things to worry about and there's no rush. This is the exact moment when I could feel guilty of not finishing the work but have chosen not too. I knew I would finish it when time comes - you're reading this post now after all.