Ashley Kelly

How to motivate yourself to do something you don't think you should have to.

Ashley Kelly

I was talking to my sister the other day and she asked me a question:

How do I motivate myself to do something I don’t think is my job or I don’t think I should have to (I'm adding 'want to' here because sometimes that can be it too)?

She was referring to something at work but, I think the lesson transfers to other aspects of life.

I know I’ve definitely struggled with this at one point or another in my own life - whether at work or in a relationship.

You know, that moment when you say:

I didn’t sign up for this!

This is isn’t how it was supposed to be!

Or, ugh this isn’t fair!  

I get that sometimes we might be thrown into certain situations where we didn’t see something coming. And yes, there are parts of the world where some people may truly not have the option of yes or no. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

If you look at your life and the things you’re facing today, you most likely said yes to it. And if you didn’t say yes, you have a say in how you choose to now deal with and respond to whatever is in front of you.

“Whatever is on your plate got there because you said yes to it…”- Danielle Laporte.

I think the key is to come back to the why on two fronts and dig a little deeper into your questions and answers.

1. Is this something you signed up for?

If no, then why are you even doing it?

Remove it from your plate.


Find another solution.

Hire it out.

Say no.

It really can be that simple. 

2. If yes, why did you sign up for it in the first place?

Sometimes, the answer to this question is the answer to the original question.

We might have forgotten why we said yes to something and are in need of a little reminder. Or, we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture and we’re stuck in the minutiae.

For my sister, this was the key. She needed to remind herself why she said yes. Nothing had changed - she loved the project - but her why was becoming clouded behind everyday tasks. This was an "all hands on deck" kind of gig which means that sometimes, you have to do obscure things (she knew that when she signed up). If you're not cool with that or don't understand that, then maybe this isn't the right fit. 

Always come back to your why. 

If it's meaningful to you and compelling enough, it will keep you going. 

If not, or if things have changed, now is good time to re-evaluate and do something about that.

2.a. You said yes but you really didn’t want to.

This was my problem.

A few years ago, my partner at the time decided to take on a lawsuit against his former employer. At the time, I could never have anticipated what the process would be like, how long it would continue for, and the everlasting stress that was just around the corner.  

As time went on, I became more and more involved in the case. Late nights of research and sound boarding, thinking of ideas and arguments, writing, editing, more researching. It was all-consuming. And I despised every minute of it.

Every. Freaking. Minute. 

But, I said yes. And kept saying yes, even though inside I didn't want to.

Part of me felt that I had to. Like, that's what a supportive partner is supposed to do, right? 

My frustration turned into anger, and my anger turned into resentment. 

It took me a long time to understand what 'saying yes' meant. 

It meant that I made a choice.

And anything that I was feeling was my responsibility and no one else's. If I'm saying yes, then that's on me.

It wasn't fair for me to blame him and find something outside of myself to place the responsibility on because I didn't have the strength to say no. 

Because I could have said no many times. And I didn't. 

Eventually, I started saying no to the things that I didn't want to do. And where I could, I found another solution, like hiring a law student to help with the tasks I needed to offload. 

2.b. Saying yes wasn’t the perfect solution, but it was the right thing to do.

Your job now is to make a decision on how you'll deal with this moving forward. If this is your why, it might be a good time to make a change because I don’t this is a strong enough one. 

If the answer is I don’t know, move to the next question.

3. Why do you feel that you shouldn’t have to do this thing?

And dig a little deeper than “it’s not my job.”

Is it because it’s someone else’s job?

Do you feel like you’re being taken advantage of?

Are you feeling overwhelmed and you need help?

This wasn’t what you were expecting...well, what were you expecting?

For real though, what were you expecting? 

I think expectations - of ourselves, of others, and of the world - are the genesis of most (if not all) our disappointments.

I usually realize that my expectations are creeping out of the corners of my mind and trying to run stuff when the word "should" comes out of my mouth. 

Anytime you're thinking or saying "I should" or "they should" is a probably a good time to check yourself. 

So, what do you do now?

Let's take a look at the options.

1. If you’re saying yes to the thing...

Actually say yes.

Don’t say yes and then do the thing with resentment like I did.

Because then, you really aren’t saying yes. You’re saying no and forcing yourself to do it and that’s not the same thing as saying yes.

Now you’re not happy.

Now your task isn’t done with love and intention.

That’s not fair on you, whoever else is involved, or the thing.

2. If you really don’t want to do this thing...

Say no.

And then, actually say no...without marinating in guilt.

Try and lean into no.

Be comfortable with no.

It really is ok.

3. Come up with a new solution...

There are always other options. 

Explore what they are and see if something else is a fit. Sometimes, it might even turn out better.  

The bottom line is we always have a say as to what's on our plate. 

We have a say in who does or doesn't put stuff on our plate, what we take from someone else's plate and place on our own, what we try and put on someone else's plate, and what we will remove from our plate. 

We might not have a say in the outcome of things, but we definitely have a say in how we respond and how we choose what our side will be.

If there’s a job or task that’s on your plate and you feel like you shouldn’t have to do it, ask yourself how it got there? 

Come back to your why.

Once you’ve answered that…

Do what you said yes to with all of you.

Or, don’t do what you said no to.

And then, be good with that.