How To Personal Growth

How to get stuff done: Lure, don’t push

One of the biggest frustrations in my life has been my inability to make myself do what I want to do. I’ll sit in front of my computer with the intention to write a post, and then get lost in Facebook, organizing my digital files, or sending emails. Or the laundry basket piles up to the point of needing to wear bathing suit bottoms instead of underwear. If you can relate, here’s my latest discovery:

You can’t “make” yourself do anything. Just give up.

Here’s what you can do: manipulate your mind into thinking it really wants to do (whatever).

“Manipulation?” I hear a collective gasp. Manipulation has a lot of negative connotations, sure. I was in the customer strategy business for years; my job was to find that magic emotional button to press that would get people to buy stuff they don’t need. I’m glad to turn that experience to more positive uses!

If you don’t want to be manipulated, learn how to manipulate yourself. We can either be victims reacting to the world, or we can gain mastery by understanding how our brains work.

Pavlov’s dogs

Remember the story of Pavlov? Every time the scientist rang a bell, he’d feed the dogs. Pretty soon, the simple sound of the bell would make dogs salivate. They’d learned to associate the sound of the bell with food.

You can do the same thing for yourself. Find a trigger for a feel-good emotion that you can associate with a particular task. For me, music is the best trigger in the world. When I was a little kid, my mom would play a 2-hour reel-to-reel of Simon and Garfunkel to clean house every Sunday; to this day, I feel the urge to clean the house whenever I hear a S&G song.

Likewise, I have my YES playlist whenever I’m feeling sluggish or depressed and resisting doing something that takes a lot of energy. These songs transport me immediately into a YES! expansive, joyful state of being where I can do anything (except work). I”ll use it to trigger a workout, cleaning house, artwork, or some task I’ve been procrastinating on.

I have a different list for work. Now when I feel resistance to sitting down to write, I have a happy, gentle singer-songwriter playlist that I put on. It takes about 3 times of playing a song with my desired action for my brain to make the connection, and then we’re off to the races.

What’s your trigger?

One of the first things I’ll do with a coachee is have them identify some musical triggers to move into a stronger, more empowered state of being. It’s such an easy way to lure our brains into doing what we want!

Here’s how to do it: find your power song. This is one that really lights you up inside! It’s like Pavlov’s “tasty food” that we want to associate with something we’re resisting (the “bell”). Play the song and then do your task; you can make an agreement with yourself that you only have to do it for the duration of the song. If you feel like going longer, great. The point is to associate this FEELING of power with this activity. By the third time, you will hopefully have lured your brain into making the connection.

What are your YES songs? Do you use different songs or playlists to trigger different moods?


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Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

About Jen Rice

Midlife nomad and life re-inventor. For my 50th birthday I sold everything I owned in the US and got a 1-way ticket across the pond. I'm now focusing more on what I really love doing -- writing, photography and coaching. My background is three decades' worth of experience in personal and organizational transformation.

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