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Motivated, Wise, Productive

Strategies and goals

Self-motivation has a lot to do with wisdom and productivity, but they’re not the same thing, and sometimes they come into conflict–as when I’m motivated to do something constructive, but it’s not the exact right constructive thing. For example, a few days ago I got an idea for a novel that I thought would be lots of fun both the write and to read, a playful and entertaining piece of writing, and I wanted to start writing it immediately. I guess it’s not surprising, considering how thought-intensive most of my writing work is for me these days (what with the neurology and psychology and all that), that I’d be tempted by something lighter. But I have plenty of projects on my plate right now and definitely don’t need to be writing a humorous novel, at all. It’s true, I was motivated to do something constructive, and if I had used that motivation I would have been productive, but it still wouldn’t have been a wise decision. I might have been happy with the novel I produced, but I wouldn’t be happy that I’d had to neglect other priorities to write it.

Or consider meditation, a practice that yields positive results and that takes motivation to stick to (though it’s funny that to meditate properly we have to put aside thinking, including thoughts that motivate us), but that doesn’t produce anything directly. Or work that we might do only because someone else keeps urging us to and that we’re glad to have done in the end, but that we’re not motivated to do ourselves: wise and productive, maybe, but not motivated.

The point in my philosophizing is that while it’s powerfully useful to have motivation and it’s usually rewarding to be productive, it’s also important to know how we’re directing our energies and to put a lot of thought into how we’re prioritizing all the demands on our time. If we’re moving toward our goals, are they the right goals? Are we trying to accomplish too many at once and therefore not accomplishing any as well as we want to? If we have chosen the right goals, we can harness that knowledge to become even more motivated. If we’re not moving toward our goals, is it because of what the goals are? But here we’re getting dangerously close to asking “What’s it all mean, anyway? Why are we alive, and what’s important?” which at the very least isn’t the subject of today’s post.

One thing today’s post is good for, for me, is to help me get my head on straight for the subject of tomorrow’s post, which is a challenge to myself that I hope will interest you. I hope today’s post is also interesting enough to you to make you sit back and spend just a few minutes with this question: are my goals the best goals for my life right now?

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