The best understanding of self-motivation has come from (beginning) to learn guitar.
There are lots of ways to learn guitar, but all of them involve discipline. Some people play on a schedule, or for a certain amount of time daily. Others take lessons. Some people set quotas like learn three chords today, or play five songs. There are many paths, but none of those things work so well for me.
Why play? For enjoyment. Mine, always. Friends and family, eventually.
Fun. Most days, guitar is fun. Exciting to practice and hear a song I know and pick it out. The pleasure of producing music is profound because listening to music is so huge and profound a part of life. The challenge of faster, more, better, truer. When guitar is fun, I play a lot.
Some days guitar isn’t fun. I’m just not in the mood. I could force myself, stick to a time clock or quota, but then I’d want to play less the next day. Repeated a few days, pretty soon I’d hate playing, resent it. And here’s the key concept: when the only boss I report to is myself, if I don’t want to do it, it doesn’t happen. That would be the end of guitar.
Instead of forcing, it’s okay not to play MUCH. Maybe it’s only 10 minutes that day, but it keeps the routine. Since it wasn’t forced, there isn’t any resentment, and probably guitar is fun again tomorrow. Playing some almost every day means that the average is pretty good, and the habit of playing daily is building. A little learning occurs daily, and some days I practice a lot. Could I be learning more, faster? Maybe, at least until I got sick of it and quit completely. The average of one marathon day and four days not running is pretty low, with a high risk of not bothering to get out and run at all.
There’s discipline. Some days it’s a chore to drag the instrument out, but only until I touch it. Then it’s fun, and it’s okay to stop when I feel like it. I know I’ll be back tomorrow.
The best epiphany of the summer has been to apply this same Zen attitude to EVERYTHING.