Last updated May 25, 2023

I believe motivation is fundamentally local: people nearly always seek immediate, intuitive, emotional rewards instead of working towards long-term, expressed goals. Put another way: actions are prior to goals.

Doing things you don’t want to is bad for you.

Suppose you repeatedly do something you don’t want to, possibly in response to external pressure, instead of doing things that you’re intrinsically motivated to do. Upon performing that action, you don’t receive any reward; perhaps you even suffer instead. Your body moves to minimize suffering. Since motivation, the standard mechanism for guiding actions, is being ignored, the only recourse is to remove the will to do anything at all. In other words: since changing the direction of your motivation vector does not improve the situation, your body reduces its length to zero instead. Now you can’t bring yourself to do anything. This is burnout.

Resolving burnout takes time. You need to prove to your body that you can be trusted again to follow its instructions. It will respond, slowly, by increasing the intensity and variety of the motivations provided.