Sometimes I have buckets of energy and enthusiasm for the roleplaying games hobby. Other times my vim and desire to play wanes to the point where I question why I do this at all. This is natural and reflects, I think, the general scientific understanding of motivation. Initial steep peaks of enthusiasm are commonly followed by a trough before undulating along like a shallow roller-coaster ride.
What surprises me most strongly as I get older is the speed and severity of the rush towards enthusiasm and the contrasting plunge into despair. One day I can be tearing into a project like a man possessed, excited and filled with visions of the glory of my creation. Within hours, I can be sitting in a puddle of tears wondering why I ever thought this was going to be worth my time.
What is needed, to counteract this ebb and flow of motivation, is a strategy that doesn’t depend on motivation at all. Clues for this strategy exist in two related ideas: the Tiny Habits approach of BJ Fogg and Seth Godin’s idea of “the Practice”.
Fogg shows us how we cannot rely on motivation – it is too fickle – and should instead adopt a habit-forming strategy that allows us to build a consistent tiny win into each day related to whatever it is we are seeking to achieve. Godin’s idea is that committing to a daily practice is the key to becoming great at what we seek to do.
There is no decision to make when we follow this as a combined approach. We have already decided that today we are going to work on our roleplaying project. By incorporating habitual signals to remind us to take the tiny action we need to kickstart this activity, we can build consistency.
The Daily Game Prep Table, wherein I make a 1d6 roll to discover which tiny act I will take today, has become my tiny habit. I follow through and, on most days, that is enough. Doing it day-after-day, forming a practice, I have found that (as Fogg predicts) eventually this tiny habit gives birth to the motivation to push a little further and a little harder.
When it’s a day like today – where my vim and desire to play wanes to the point where I question why I do this at all – I find myself still able to make the roll and do the tiny thing. It takes less than 2 minutes of time and yet moves me forward. Conversely, when I have buckets of energy and enthusiasm for the roleplaying games hobby, then I can push further and harder.
The point is that I don’t need to make the decision because I have already determined that (in my case) after I have written my blog, then I roll on the table and do the thing. It has become a practice – however basic and rudimentary – which, over time, keeps me moving forward in my hobby.