Motivation, part 1: Obsession

How my Brain Works

“Actually, I jade very quickly. Once is usually enough. Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.” – Andy Warhol


There’s something magical about doing something every day. I think part of that magic is because it can be so difficult. The circumstances are not right, people want you to do something else, you don’t have enough time, you are in the wrong place.

So you have to get creative and make it work. You have to be obsessed. People have to look at you as though you are a bit crazy. But despite this, or perhaps because of this, it feels great; it feels magical.

I’ve found that I have to do a habit every day – and track it – or I pretty much stop doing it. For most of the things I’ve tried to make into habits – or at least tracked in Goal Streaks – the biggest motivation for me is not the benefit of the habit. Instead, it turns out to be keeping an unbroken streak – checking the box. Except for flossing, which I’ve now done every day for 203 days, I’ve pretty much stopped doing all the other things I set up as habits.

IMG_2487Once the streak is broken and I’m not doing it every day, the obsession is gone, and with it the magic. I find it too easy to not bother because of the effort or inconvenience. I stopped doing daily pushups after 110 consecutive days, and now do them only sporadically, maybe 1 day out of 4. Despite meditating for 117 consecutive days, I rarely mediate now. Or do yoga. Or brainstorm. Or write down things I’m grateful for.

All because I broke the streak, lost the obsession, and lost the magic.

Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured gets managed“, which only works if there’s motivation to manage it. But I seem to need obsession rather than motivation because the Utterly Obsessed / Uninterested switch is all too easy for me to toggle. How about you?

Links and Other Clicks

It’s difficult to know if Peter Drucker really said “What gets measured gets managed“. It’s certainly been attributed to him though.

The page where I wrote about the habits I was tracking.

A study by Phillippa Lally showed that it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit, with an average of 66 days. I apparently need a lot longer than the average time.

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