I've thought quite a bit about my goals, my motivations, what excites me in general. Which is good.
But I've never really tried to look at my motivation in terms of concrete, moment-to-moment experience. Recently, however, I've begun to notice some recurring patterns in my motivation. Doing certain things, experiencing certain things, will reliably get me excited about certain activities or projects to a significant extent. The effect is so strong, I'm amazed that I haven't noticed this before.
The list below is what I'm calling my "mood web" - as in food web - the description of all my triggers and what they get me excited about. Well, not all triggers, but the important ones, at least.
It's a slice of a mood web. You can see a few chains there - the way listening to songs that I've picked for my game ideas inspires me to flesh out the designs further, and then looking at the design sketches I've made inspires me to actually start making the games. But for the most part, these pieces are separate.
Still, they are useful. Have a look into my mind:
Walking outside to look at plants gets me excited about...
- making a game in a procedural forest or garden
- making Environment Sketch 02 - Winter Rain
- making flutes out of bamboo
- making Aikido games in Flash
- designing a lesson plan to give people a taste of Aikido
- learning those martial arts
- improving my life and habits
- writing emails to those people
- writing up ideas for The Game Idea Giveaway Thread
- making games for the TI-83 Plus graphing calculator
- making an I'm Folding Proteins music video
- designing those games
- making those games
- making my physics engine
Eating corn chips gets me excited about...
- eating more corn chips
I hope that by understanding my own mood web I'll be able to more consciously choose how I spend my time. If I've decided that I should really be working on programming my physics engine, then I know that I should take the time to look through my design sketches and diagrams, as opposed to reading articles about Overcoming Procrastination or something like that. And if I don't have any inspiring design sketches, I should make some.
All of this may seem obvious, but it is something of a breakthrough for me. If I have not already locked onto a project, I often lack focus because so many different experiences trigger excitement in me, each of them directed toward different projects. And I had no idea how to deal with this.
But now that I've discovered how reliable these triggers are, I can really pay attention to what causes me to gain or lose interest in a project. The mood web is a framework that allows me to start making meaningful observations about myself. And I can now choose to activate or avoid specific triggers when I want to focus on specific projects instead of letting my mood get bounced around randomly.
Even further, I wonder if I can begin to modify my mood web, to nudge my response to certain situations and begin to associate them with different projects in order to build accelerating feedback loops. Perhaps a form of search engine optimization for the mind?
How about you? Do you also notice a reliable pattern to how your motivation changes? I'd be very curious to see what other people's mood webs look like. I imagine that they would be very different from person to person but I'm not sure how. Share yours in the comments and maybe we can find out! :)