Some people seem to possess unlimited get-up-and-go, while others can barely muster enough drive to leave the couch. Here’s what science tells us about motivation – and how to cultivate it
26 May 2021
I’VE had three weeks to write the words you are about to read, but they were written at the last possible minute. Why? I wasn’t busy exercising – I haven’t done that in months. My time wasn’t spent at my book club or calligraphy class, because I’m not involved in anything of the sort. Nor did I procrastinate by mastering the ultimate sourdough loaf – just the thought of it makes me want to lie down. Quite simply, I waited until the last minute because I couldn’t be arsed.
My condition is what’s known colloquially among my generation as “The CBAs” – the “can’t be arseds”. In my case, it is chronic. I can’t be arsed to go on a run. I can’t be arsed to cook. I can’t be arsed to reply to my emails.
I’m not alone. According to a December 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center, 42 per cent of people in the US aged between 18 and 49 say they have struggled to find the motivation to work since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. That still leaves half of the population who are fine, who get up and get on. Then there are those people who wake at 6 am and run 10 kilometres before work. People who write their memoirs. People who wash their curtains.
What are their secrets? Why do some people have so much drive and others, like me, so little? And is it possible for me to become a go-getter? To find out, I mustered the motivation to ask a few of the scientists who might know.
Motivation is what drives much …