At the start of the year I embarked on an 8-week mindfulness course (using this book by Williams and Penman). Mindfulness seems to be quite popular at the moment and is becoming widely used in schools as well as in the health sector. If you’ve not heard about mindfulness, I would describe it as learning to be more ‘present’ in the moment which allows you to live a more balanced life.
There was one particular learning towards the end of the programme that has really stuck with me. The idea is to understand what depletes or nourishes you as an individual. This is important because most of us, when we are stressed or anxious, stop doing those things that nourish us, thereby adding to the likelihood that our energy and happiness will rapidly decrease just when we need it. The authors highlighted the fact that we are often motivated to do something and then we go out and do it. However, in certain instances, the motivation is not there and we must go out and do an action before we gain any feeling of motivation. I’m sure we have all experienced this – not wanting to go out, but really enjoying it once we are there. By knowing what nourishes you, and recognising when you are getting stressed, you can take actions to ensure you keep a good balance in your life, even when you are not naturally motivated to do so.
On reflection, I’m wondering whether this concept of ‘motivation after action’ had influenced some of the participants of my dissertation research. Many reported that they had gained reasons for choosing not to drive as time went on. So, for example, someone might initially choose not to drive for financial reasons, but later they might feel that it was good for their health and this would add to their motivation to continue to be car-free. In transport research we often consider how habits affect our choices and behaviours, but I’m wondering whether we fully understand how to target an individual’s motivations or, indeed, how to encourage them to take an action and build the motivation thereafter.