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Practical PKM

🏃🏼‍♂️ How to create the motivation you need to achieve any goal

Published 29 days ago • 5 min read

In this edition of Practical PKM:

  • 💡 The fundamental building blocks of motivation
  • 😎 How to use multi-colored highligts in Obsidian
  • 📚 My notes from Master Your Motivation by Susan Fowler

💡The Big Idea: Motivation is the Key to Progress

Last week, I talked about how I use my LifeTheme to create motivation to take action on the things that are important and clarity to cut the things that aren’t.

But where does that motivation come from?

That’s what we’re going to talk about this week 🙂

Self-Determination Theory

There’s a whole branch of motivational science called self-determination theory that was popularized in the 80s by Dr. Edward Deci & Dr. Richard Ryan. The basic idea is that human behavior is both self-motivated (we do what we want) and self-determined (we choose what we do).

According to self-determination theory, our choices are within our control. While your environment does play a part, whether we follow through on our intentions is up to us as individuals.

And motivation is the energy we need to act.

Without it, we feel helpless. Stuck. Unable to do what we want and know we should do.

But what if you could manufacture motivation on demand? What if you had a way to create energy and momentum to follow through on what’s important?

You’d be unstoppable.

The 3 Components of Motivation

In the book Master Your Motivation, author Susan Fowler outlines 3 important components of motivation:

  • Choice
  • Connection
  • Competence

When you create choice, connection, and competence, you have the right conditions to flourish. But when they are eroded, you languish.

Let’s look at each of these briefly.

The first component (Choice) is the belief that you have options. To create Choice, you must:

  • perceive you have choices,
  • recognize and feel you have options within boundaries, and
  • feel that you are in control of your actions

The interesting thing about choice is that you don’t need to actually have the options be present. You just need to believe that you can change your course. Even if you don’t have freedom (i.e. you can’t just walk away from your job), you can still experience choice.

I went through something like this when I decided to become a full-time creator about a year ago. It was hard to picture myself leaving the day job, but once I got to the point where I believed it was an option for me, I noticed I had a lot more energy.

The second component (Connection) is authentically caring about others and feeling cared for by them. To create Connection, you must:

  • feel a sense of belonging and genuine connection to others without concerns about ulterior motives,
  • align goals and actions to meaningful values and a noble purpose, and
  • contribute to something greater than yourself.

This is why community is so important. A good community will help challenge you, support you, and hold you accountable for your intentions.

That’s the place where you grow and become the best version of yourself. If you find people that fit this description, hang onto them.

The third component (Competence) is the ability to feel confident and resilient because of experience progress towards mastery of a skill. To create Competence, you must:

  • feel effective at managing everyday situations,
  • demonstrate skill over time,
  • feel a sense of growth and learning.

The trick is not to assume competence that you don’t actually have. That can actually backfire, as your confidence is eroded when you don’t see progress toward your goals over time.

But if you keep going and keep growing, you’ll develop the competence (and confidence) you need to do just about anything with excellence.

Progress, not perfection.

Creating Alignment

One of the fastest ways to sabotage your motivation is to create a misalignment between your vision and your values.

For example, you may say that you value physical fitness. But if you only work out occasionally and eat a lot of junk food, then your espoused values are different than your developed values.

We are what we repeatedly do. Not what we say we are. And if what we do and what we say are different things, it creates tension (we know we’re lying).

This is why the Philosophy level of the PKM Stack I mentioned last week is so important. If we can create alignment between our vision and our values, it has a trickle-down effect for everything we do.

Alignment with our values provides the greatest amount of motivation and leads to the highest levels of productivity and creativity.

If you learn to live in alignment with your vision and your values, now you’re cooking with gas.

You Are the Captain of Your Own Ship

As I shared in the LifeTheme cohort this week, you are the captain of your own ship. Steering the ship may take some effort and you may not see the immediate change we look for in our microwave society, but the biggest ships can be turned by the tiniest rudders.

Take action now! Don’t wait until things are perfect. The right conditions may never come. But if you want tomorrow to be better than yesterday, you already have everything you need to change your course.

And if you are intentional about creating choice, connection, and competence, you may realize your ideal future is a lot closer than you think.

😎 Something Cool: Painter Plugin

While there is Markdown syntax to highlight text built into Obsidian, if you want to use different colors you’re out of luck.

Unless you install the Painter plugin, which lets you not only set multiple colors but also choose from several different styles. Here’s an example with an orange highlight and the Realist style:

This plugin reminds me a lot of a highlighting method I used to use in my Bible where I would highlight different verses with different colors to indicate different themes (orange = promises, purple = faith, etc.). While I still primarily use callouts to highlight important sections of text, I can definitely see Painter being useful for marking up larger notes. And if you do any sort of progressive summarization in Obsidian, this could be a really useful tool.

📖 Book Notes: Master Your Motivation by Susan Fowler

This book was recommended to me a while ago by a Bookworm listener. I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first, but it quickly became one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. Over time, I’ve found myself increasingly recommending this one because it does such a great job of explaining not only how motivation works but how to use it with skill. This is a good one if you need help shifting your mindset so you can do more of what matters.

If you want to download my notes for this book, click here. And if you want to access all of my mind map book notes (190+), they're all available in The Library.

— Mike

P.S. Speaking of book notes, a couple of weeks ago I hosted my Reading Masterclass and it was AMAZING! If you missed the live workshop but still want some help getting more out of the books that you read, the two-and-a-half hour workshop replay is now available for purchase here 🙂

Practical PKM

by Mike Schmitz

A weekly newsletter where I help people apply values-based productivity principles and systems for personal growth, primarily using Obsidian. Subscribe if you want to make more of your notes and ideas.

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