Even the best information won’t do you any good if you aren’t inclined to use it. New research shows that a lot of the “carrot and stick” thinking about motivation is wrong. Here’s how to really get going on even the most unpleasant tasks. We found these tips on the self-improvement website LifeHack.org:

  • Consider how what you’re doing benefits others. In one study, lawyers were asked to provide services to low-income families. Half were offered a low fee, and the other half were asked to volunteer their time. Guess what? The majority of lawyers who were offered a low fee said no, but nearly all of those asked to work for free agreed to help. The take home lesson here is that having a greater purpose fuels everything we do. So, if you want to quit smoking, focusing on setting a good example for your family and friends will stop you from lighting up in a weak moment. More so than the idea of rewarding yourself with a new outfit or golf clubs.
  • Make it meaningful. Researchers at Thames River University in England studied the volunteers who kept an old-time railway running. They found that people happily completed unpleasant tasks - like picking up trash and cleaning public areas - when they saw it as benefitting their cause.
  • Think about work as something you choose to do - not something you have to do. Neil Fiore is the author of The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. He says that seeing a task as a means to an end is what causes procrastination - and limits your creativity. One study found that people who were offered a reward for doing a difficult task didn’t complete it as rapidly as those who were asked to do it just for fun.