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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Motivation: The Mule's Tale

There is this mule, see. Stubborn, lazy, selfish. Totally complacent and absorbed with comfort. Devoid of ambition.

One thing, though. When the muleskinner cracks the whip, the mule hops to, gets moving, gets on the ball. It’s magical.

The muleskinner has never actually skinned the mule – or even whacked it much – but you’d never know that. The mule can be the very model of productive effort, but only when the muleskinner gets serious with him/her. The muleskinner issues very clear and specific commands . .  . and never, ever backs off or compromises.

Got that picture? If so, you’re now in possession of one more way to motivate yourself. The trick is to convince yourself that you’re that obedient mule. You’re also that stern and unbending muleskinner.

This cartoonish device works. If the mule picture doesn’t move you, pick your own critter. Maybe a monkey. Or a faithful dog (avoid cats).

The idea is to short-circuit that waffling thing so it won’t intervene after you’ve set a personal productivity goal. Say you decide to do a brief fitness exercise every day, or finally get started on designing that original project. Something no one has asked you to do, but something you want for yourself.

Too often in the past, such good intentions have fallen victim to the erosion of second thoughts, all those “reasons” and other excuses that drain away firm purpose. You wind up back behind where you started, because now you have a fresh wimp-out image to flagellate your self-respect with.

The thing with the mule is that the mule can’t talk back, can’t wander off, can’t procrastinate. The mule has nothing to say about it. He/she is nothing but a mule – order given, case closed.

You set your intention, time and place. You put a marker in your mind, you set the alarm clock, or make a promise to someone, or whatever. Then you resolutely refuse to allow it back into your mind, except to arrange for fulfillment. A one-way process.

This requires practice. It takes a modest shot of discipline. It demands suspension of common adult “realism.”

But it works.

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