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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse


In order to drive a car, it is necessary to have fuel, the burning of which provides the car with the energy and power necessary for its proper functioning, namely its propulsion to move forward. The hardest part of driving is getting started, since this is the point which requires the most energy and power from the vehicle as well as the most attention and control from the driver, while maintaining speed is relatively easy, since one does not need to worry about the fluctuations on the road and the necessary manouevres that one needs to make. In much the same way, physical/mental fuel is necessary for our endeavours and pursuits, and in order to get going with our lives, we need to regularly refuel our tanks with much-needed fuel that can propel us forward. It is easier said than done, though, since physical/mental fuel may not be easily obtainable in the same way that driving fuel can be obtained from the petrol station. One needs to find a way to re-energise oneself, which, again, is easier said than done, since how do we find this abstract metaphorical fuel that we so badly need in order to propel ourselves forward?

I know of no secret to this (or I would be super-productive by now), and I suspect that everyone may have an idiosyncratic way of getting going, but one can also speculate on some generalities. The simplest, most direct way of motivating oneself is to use force i.e. force oneself into doing whatever needs to be done. I have written before how circumstances often drive us into doing things that we would not otherwise do, and it is this desperate necessity for change which makes us explore uncharted territory and seek improvement. As the famous saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of all inventions‘, and this does not really have much to do with one’s will i.e. in desperate situations, one simply has to move, whether one wants or likes it or not. This may be an effective strategy, though it is hardly sophisticated, since even if one finds a way to jolt oneself into action, one may suffer some unwanted side-effects like fright and fatigue which may end up jeopardising the quality of one’s output. Alternatively, one could go to the other extreme and seek the least urgent way possible, which is to start as slowly as possible. The beauty of this approach is that one can prepare oneself thoroughly for the task(s) ahead, which may also enhance quality, but the downside is that it is time-consuming- in fact, I dare say that one rarely has the time to fully prepare oneself for one’s daily challenges which come in thick and fast. There comes a point when one simply has to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. I suppose that either way is effective in its own way, yet neither is not without its downside. Everyone can adopt whatever method he/she sees fit for his/her own unique predisposition and circumstances. A third way, one which lies somewhere between both approaches, is to approach one’s tasks proactively but in a way that does not involve any form of force or mental coercion. Rather, it may be possible to persuade oneself to want to do the tasks. It has been argued in employment and team-building psychology that it is effective to get team members to envisage the task(s) at hand as enjoyable and fun so that rather than being goaded by team leaders, team members can be tempted to go ahead of their own accord without external stimulus. Indeed, it has been established that addictions and repetitive obsessions are often based on pleasure which has a magic effect in getting people to do certain things, even those that seem irrational. People become addicted to something and end up doing it incessantly because, at least initially, they like it so much that they simply want to do it, and, enough time passes, they simply cannot stop doing it even if they want to. Psychologists have argued that ‘flow‘ is the optimal state where one is so fully engaged with something that one simply cannot stop, but in order to reach this peak state of performance it is often necessary to do some proper mental warm-up which is extremely important but also tremendously difficult. To convince oneself that something is not only worth doing but also fun to do may turn out to be a potent incentive. We all have a million things to do these days. Let’s get going.

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