Artificial Motivation: Creating the Circumstances to Succeed

I’ve started ignoring stupid stuff again. There’s a pile of donations in the garage that have been there since my 100 things 100 days project ended. My four-year old has three acceptable pairs of socks that have all disappeared somewhere between his bedroom and the laundry room.  And I’m missing a pair of tinted glasses (that I need to drive) since January.

And I’m not just being too hard on myself. This is stupid stuff!

It’s stupid because every one of  these things irritates me daily and every one of them could be solved with minimal effort.  Where has my motivation gone?

How was it possible to get rid of a hundred things most days for a hundred days, when I couldn’t toss ten out the window today if the house was on fire.

Blogger Julien Smith writes about motivation (among other things) on his blog, In Over Your Head and, I’ve been pondering his posts since Christmas. With inspirational titles like: The Complete Guide to Snapping the @#$% Out of It – who wouldn’t?

Yes! I thought, I do need to snap the @#$% out of it, but what is he talking about get yourself a system? I’ve been learning systems since I was five years old and I haven’t learned to like one yet.

And just when I was about to say thanks, but no thanks Julien, a system won’t help me get me back on track with my decluttering, he posts this:

I’ve changed a lot in my life, but it’s not because I’m special. I just created special circumstances.

Creating special circumstances sounds like something I could wrap my right brain around. Isn’t that kind of what my 100 things 100 days project was, a set of special circumstances that made it possible for me to crawl out from under the clutter when it had not been possible before?

Looking back, four things stand out as making success possible for me:

1) a complete understanding of how I could benefit from decluttering (more time, less frustration)

2) tying a reward to the action, I love blogging, half the time I only got rid of stuff to have an excuse to write to you guys

3) tying social pressure to the action, because I break promises to myself  regularly, but I’d never break a promise to someone else

4) tying a deadline to the action, mostly because it gave me a reason to focus on my goal when my tendency in the past has been to get wrapped up in unproductive things like worrying

Could I do it again? Yep!

Not only do I think having less will be less work, I know it!

So I’ve decided that May 1 (deadline) is imaginary moving day, and for every new thing that gets decluttered in the packing process, my kids and I will put a loonie on the calendar (social pressure). On May 1st we’ll celebrate with a moving party including a draw for a donation in the amount we collect, in your name, to your favourite charity (reward). Here’s my low tech, Julien cover your eyes!, kitchen table system:

So how will sending a donation in your name a reward for me?

Maybe it’s for the same reason that people like to root for the underdog. I think we’re all motivated in some way by an essential sense of justice. Ask someone what one thing they would change about the world if they could, and get ready for their passionate response.

Donating the money to my favourite cause would be wonderful but finding out what you believe in, and giving you the chance to change the world in a very small way that’s important to you would be even better. Plus, it’s the giveaway that will never require decluttering.

Tell me about your favourite cause in the comments below anytime before April 30 and I’ll enter your name in the donation draw. And if you want to imaginary move with me, what’s stopping you?


18 thoughts on “Artificial Motivation: Creating the Circumstances to Succeed

  1. There are no coincidences…this came at the very time I needed to see it…’cuz I need motivation in several areas, including decluttering…I feel a little inspired just at the exact time that I need it! :o) Thank you!

    My favourite cause is “depression research” at VGH/UBC…my extended family has suffered from the dark dog of depression and we’ve had friends lose their children because of it. An answer needs to be found!

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    I’m STOKED on many different levels! :o)

    Thank you!

    • I’m so glad I inspired you! Frankly, I inspired the heck out of myself! And depression research is a cause near and dear to my heart as well.
      I’m getting more inspired as the day goes on hearing about other people’s charity choices. My favourite charity is one that hasn’t been invented yet – providing night nurses to Mom’s at risk for postpartum depression. Maybe I can incorporate that into my soon to be parenting blog.
      I’m thinking of posting a video of the May 1st draw on youtube with the birthday boy drawing the winning name. But that may be a little ambitious. We’ll see!

  2. Thanks Christine! I didn’t realize that you’re in Canada as well 🙂 The “loonie” tipped me off. I’m glad you found your mojo again 😀 Good luck!

    My charity of choice: Compassion Canada. They support children in developing countries. You can purchase a chicken or a goat (or almost anything really). I like the idea of animals because it continually provides for the family that receives it.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    • Thanks Liz. I’m glad to have my mojo back too. Compassion Canada sounds like an excellent charity. I like the idea that an animal continues to provide for the family too. Sometimes the most obvious solutions are the best.
      Thanks for your comment and the great tips on your blog. As one of the chronically disorganized, I find a lot of useful information on your site. Best of luck to you too!

  3. Hmmmm… I’m trying to figure out what it says about Canadians that you have a dollar coin with the queen on one side and a loonie bird on the other! :~)

    I fear I’m still slowly working my way through my corner of chaos… I’ve decided I either need to actually work on these projects or let them go, so I’ve been doing my best to finish up the rag rug… and no, it’s not the thing of beauty that I hoped for in the beginning… which is probably why I have never finished it, but soon it will be DONE! And since CatMan has suddenly become paranoid that the kitty heating pads are gonna catch fire and burn the house down, I’ve taken some of the space blankets and quilt batting meant for the insulated window shade project and am making “thermal kitty pads” which the cats think are WONDERFUL! And BTW – it’s SOOOO much easier to just sew them by hand than to do battle with the sewing machine. Anyhow, it’s so much easier, in fact, that I may actually revive the window shade project as well (at least that’s what I’m thinking at the moment… but we’ll see how I feel when it comes to the finger-pricking nightmare of sewing on the Velcro!)

    So, that’s just about all the motivation I can handle at the moment!

    In terms of charities… how could one ever decide? There are so many worthy causes out there. But if I had to pick one where a relatively small amount of money would make a big difference, I’d probably choose the Rocky Mountain Alley Cat Alliance. (Sorry to be a caricature of myself.) They run a trap, neuter and release program for feral cats, as well as a low cost spay and neuter clinic. Basically their goal is to hit the cat over-population problem at its source, and reduce the number of homeless and starving cats out there, and hopefully this will turn animal shelters into what they are really meant to be: shelters, rather than the death camps that they end up being. There are actually similar programs all over the US, and I would assume they exist in Canada too.

    Now, what I wanna know is where you’re gonna imaginarily move to!

    • I’m pretty sure the coin imagery is not a coincidence.
      You sure have some lucky kitties. Thermal kitty pads sounds like a great repurpose for your space material. Good for you for ditching the sewing machine, I did my calendar by hand so I didn’t have to do battle with the computer.
      Thank-you so much for submitting your charity. I love it when someone feels strongly enough about an issue to research the best means for eradicating it. You’ve obviously done your homework, as for being a caricature of yourself, I say, better that than being a caricature of someone else!
      I’m imaginarily moving to a small modern townhouse with a really nice pool. And yes, I realize I’m describing a retirement home in Florida.

  4. Firstly, what is a loonie? Excuse my American ignorance 😉

    Secondly, I have like a bajillion charities I adore. Hmmm…Humane Society of the United States? Red Cross? If I am randomly chosen, I’ll figure it out by then. Promise (see, I need social pressure too).

    And frankly, that large calendar is pretty bad-ass.

    • Hi Megyn, I thought I might get that question. A loonie is slang for a Canadian one dollar coin. So named because it has a loon on it.
      Take your time figuring out your favourite charity and consider yourself entered in the draw!
      Re: the calendar, can you tell I have school age children and that I’m close to losing my mind?

  5. What a wonderful idea–and glad you got re-motivated again!

    My favorite charity is “The Snuggles Project” from Hugs For Homeless Animals. It’s not so much a money donation thing (though you *can* donate). It’s more of a project where people knit, crochet, or sew “snuggles”, comfy little mats that go into the cages at animal shelters so the scared animals have something other than wire to stand and sleep on. You don’t even have to be an expert in your craft to participate–they are just looking for people who love animals.

    If you allow a link, this is where people can learn more about The Snuggles Project:

  6. My motivation to declutter comes and goes in cycles. Luckily I’m in a “motivated to declutter” cycle right now. Instead of pretending to move, which doesn’t work for me, I’m going to take an inventory of everything I own, per Your Money or Your Life, and I’m hoping that will spur me on to declutter more. So far I’ve barely started in the kitchen and I’m already sick of it.

    My favorite charity at the moment is Oxfam.

  7. Although I live in Prince Edward Island I have, for several years, supported the Toronto Wildlife Centre. They care for and rehabilitate sick, injured or orphaned animals in the GTA. We lived up there for several years and the amount of habitat destruction engendered by increasing urban sprawl puts humans in direct conflict with so many birds and animals. They manage by donation only and do a wonderful job of caring for these unfortunate creatures.

    My newest charity is Veterinarians Without Borders whose mission is “to work for, and with, communities in need to foster the health of animals, people, and the environments that sustain us.”

    Can you tell that I love animals?

    • I think your causes are incredible and I love hearing about other people’s dreams for humanity. What is the saying – a society can be judged by it’s treatment of animals. You’re making us all a little more civilized. Thanks for commenting and stay tuned for the May 1 donation draw.
      PEI sounds like a magical place to me, the closest I came was the year I spent in Halifax. I miss the East Coast!

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