Motivation and Your Future Self

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag

Research on the development of expert-level skill is clear: there is no magic talent gene. Instead, talent is the accumulation of thousands of hours of deliberate practice, in which would-be experts continually push themselves beyond their comfort zone in order to develop new competencies. As we saw in our discussion of myelination, the development of the brain structure to consistently perform new skills requires hundreds of repeated stimulations of the brain circuits. There is no shortcut to true excellence.

Given that expert-level skill requires deliberate, focused practice, the key question becomes: what does it take to sustain the motivation in order to become a master-level practitioner?

Although research is beginning to uncover some principles that underlie sustainable motivation, the best answer is one that you have. Why do you want to get better?

Take five minutes to write down why you want to become better. You might say that you enjoy being able to do more moves, that you like being able to have more interesting dances, or that you like seeing your own progress. Whatever your reason is—write it down. Then, find a way to remind your future self about those reasons. You can put an alarm on your calendar in a couple of months, use a website like to send your future self an email, or ask a friend to remind you at the right time. By passing on your reasons to your future self, you can use your current motivation to boost your future dedication.

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