Productivity Rocket Fuel: Emotional Incentives

Our mind generates emotions to incentivise our behaviour; emotion is how the mind motivates us to take action.

That’s important because in my experience, one of the biggest ‘missing pieces’ when my people are lacking drive to get things done, or struggling to beat procrastination, is not harnessing their emotions for their productivity.

You might know you need to complete that piece of work, but you might not have engaged with much emotional incentive to do so. The result is a lack of drive to do the work, even though you know you should.

If that sounds like you, the key is often in tapping into whatever gives you an emotional desire – or emotional kick up the backside – to take that action.

How to tap into emotional incentives ‘in a nutshell’
Firstly understand your emotional incentives are already within you – but they may be barely a glimmer in your consciousness right now. Like the other 99.999% of your knowledge, emotion and feelings it’s not entered your current conscious attention – because you haven’t taught your mind you want access to it right now.

Secondly understand that emotion is largely a physiological process in your body. Figuring out what emotional incentives are strongest involves paying attention to your emotions and the physical sensations in your body which those emotions cause: You’re “listening for a feeling”. This is a learned skill, and by paying attention to how your emotions feel physically you’ll get better and better at it.

How do you find those emotional incentives?

  • Pay attention to any thoughts which keep coming up that emotionally affect you. Also notice if your mind avoids them, switching your attention to something else (perhaps it’s afraid of them?). These thoughts which have emotional impact on you have the potential to be harnessed as useful emotional incentives if they’re allowed to be expressed fully.
  • Answer the question: If there was a reason for me to do this task (within whatever time constraints exist), what would it be? And another reason? Do this repeatedly until you get a reason which causes a feeling of emotion in you when you contemplate it.
  • As you think of reasons which emotionally affect you, you might find changing the language you use to describe those reasons can increase the emotional impact on you even more. Sometimes rephrasing those reasons a bit just gives more emotional power to them.

Once you’ve chosen the most emotionally impactful reason to do that work; then contemplate it, meditate on it; allow it to develop and be expressed. If your mind wanders at first, bring your attention back to it. You need to contemplate its reality and absorb it into your consciousness, allowing whatever emotions it brings to be felt fully. Your willingness to do this teaches your mind it’s okay and useful to engage with this reason to do that task.

In this way we can unlock our emotional incentives: A felt emotional drive to do the task.

Once you’re feeling more emotional reason to do that work, the final piece is not easy but it’s critical: Discipline. Discipline and emotional incentive need to be combined to succeed. Having unlocked the emotional ‘drive’ or ‘reason’ to do that work, you need to apply discipline to actually use it. Discipline to me means do that work, even if you don’t want to do it.

You might feel motivated sometimes, which makes things easier – but motivation is a fickle feeling and comes and goes. What you need is discipline, because discipline is always there if you choose to use it.

This was a really brief summary of how to unlock emotional incentives and apply discipline to get things done: There’s more to add (eg ‘towards’ vs ‘away-from’ incentives) but I believe you can make a start with this info alone. I’d love to hear what you think about it and how you’re finding it!

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