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I'm looking for a word that captures that feeling of forcing oneself to do something that is not motivating anymore.

Normally when one has motivation, it takes little to no effort to start doing it. It is a natural thing to do.

However, if there be no motivation one may be compelled to do it for other reasons (eg: for social validation). In those cases, one forces oneself to do the task.

Is there a word for it?

I'd think this would be the antonym (in a certain profound sense) of the word "procrastination" wherein one forces oneself not to do something (which one should be doing). I'm looking for a word wherein one forces oneself to do something (which one need not be doing, as there is no real responsibility to do so; also because there is no intrinsic motivation).


I'll provide some related words so as to help the reader!

  • sticktoitive (tending to persist or stick to an activity or effort): This looks like the closest answer I could find, but it doesn't quite capture the part where the tendency to force oneself to persist/stick is done despite the lack of motivation or real responsibility.

  • fidelity (faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support): In particular, the "faithfulness to a [...] belief" part applies here, inasmuch as the forcing is done for "other reason" wherein that reason tends to be some imagined belief (eg: "If I don't do this, I'll be a demoralized"), often rooted in herd mentality. And the "continuing loyalty" part lends credence to the automatic/ semi-conscious nature (as opposed to it being thought-out) of the "forcing".


Example usage:

Jon [___ (unwittingly forces himself)] to continue participating in competition X, despite no longer having the genuine motivation for it. It would seem that he strongly believes on the worth of staying ahead of others, in order to force himself as that, and thereby risk spending time on otherwise meaningless activities instead of doing something out of genuine enjoyment.

  • Autocoercion or anticrastination? – Joachim Dec 5 '19 at 16:50
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    I think that the expression “out of inertia” may represent your current state: Inertia: the tendency not to change what is happening: Many teachers were reluctant to use computers in their classrooms simply out of inertia. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/inertia – user121863 Dec 5 '19 at 17:02
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    I think you're referring to a "creature of convention"...compliance vs. conviction...in regards to a social contract, perhaps, which really isn't binding anymore due to a lack of conviction (i.e., the prime motivator). But I dunno. It could be fear of change or other things. plato.stanford.edu/entries/contractarianism-contemporary – KannE Dec 5 '19 at 18:56
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    @KannE LOL, indeed - the amusement of me asking the community to come up with a word to (pejoratively) describe an activity that is endemic to the human condition is not totally lost on me. :-) – Sridhar Ratnakumar Dec 5 '19 at 22:53
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    Are you looking for a specific part of speech? The question and similar words don't quite seem to agree with the fill-in-the-blank example. Maybe you're OK with modifying your sentence structure to accept whatever word best captures the sense you're looking for - please let us know. (Also, how tied are you to the single word tag? There are probably some decent idiomatic phrases that would work here...) – A C Dec 6 '19 at 17:30

17 Answers 17

10

The word I would use in this situation would be grudgingly. In essence it can be used to express that a task is being reluctantly or unwillingly completed.

Grudgingly:

done, given, or allowed unwillingly, reluctantly, or sparingly

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    There are interesting shades of meaning to all this. I think "grudgingly" describes where you have to be seen to do something because people expect it of you, but you don't want to, so you do it while looking sullen or miserable or doing the bare minimum, so the people watching know how you feel about it. In contrast there are those things which you really don't want to do, but do anyway without being watched or checked up on because you know you need to. The essence of "grudgingly" is a grudge or bitterness towards whoever is making you do the thing. – Stuart F Dec 6 '19 at 11:40
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    @StuartF I don't see any problem with "the grudge" in question being against the state of needing to do the task in question, as opposed to a specific person -- I resent having to do things all the time. I see it used (and use it myself) that way pretty frequently. That said, "grudgingly" does simply mean that the subject would rather not be doing the task, and does not necessarily tell us why that's the case. Here, OP wants to describe lack of motivation, but in other cases it could be because the task is morally objectionable, expensive, whatever. Context can make that clear, though. – A C Dec 6 '19 at 17:42
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    "Jon begrudgingly continued..." (If I were to rewrite that sentence it would need the adverb), +1 – Mazura Dec 7 '19 at 1:41
7

Sometimes people do things out of a sense of duty, so a daughter might dutifully tend to her elderly mother even though the motivation for so doing has long gone.

She goes through the motions because she feels she ought to.

As Lily rightly points out, "duty-bound" introduces the sense of being forced into doing something. Well spotted, Lily.

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  • Upvoted, because a "a sense of duty" is absolutely relevant to the scenario I painted in the question. What it is lacking is the "forcing oneself to do" aspect. – Sridhar Ratnakumar Dec 5 '19 at 18:52
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    To better fit the idea of force, this could be expanded to duty-bound. – Lily Finley Dec 6 '19 at 1:51
4

Sounds like reluctance to me.

: feeling or showing aversion, hesitation, or unwillingness

: having or assuming a specified role unwillingly

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    "reluctantly" is a good usage. – Ben Dec 7 '19 at 21:04
3

strain

He loved playing baseball at a young age. He never missed a practice. By the time he was 18, though, he had lost most of his interest in sports, and going to practice was a strain.

push yourself

He loved playing baseball at a young age. He never missed a practice. By the time he was 18, though, he had lost most of his interest in sports, and had to push himself to go to practice.


strain

noun: severe, trying, or fatiguing pressure or exertion

dictionary.com

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  • Upvoted, because to "push oneself" does describe this phenomenon in abstract; however ideally it would also describe its causative nature (which has a negative connotation) – Sridhar Ratnakumar Dec 5 '19 at 18:51
2

To "resign oneself" to some fact or necessary choice is to accept it. Also see "resignation".

It fits your sentence very nicely:

Jon resigned himself to continue participating in competition X, despite no longer having the genuine motivation for it

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    "resignedly" is another usage. – Ben Dec 7 '19 at 21:04
2

If what you really want is a verb that is the opposite of "procrastinate" in the way that you mean, or a noun that is the opposite of "procrastination", then I think you are out of luck. "Industriousness" doesn't quite fit for the noun because it it specifies a propensity, not the behavior itself. The best answers I would give are:

The way to describe forcing yourself to do something is "forcing yourself to do something".

The closest verb phrase to the opposite of procrastinating is something like "getting on with it." Maybe that's more British, but I'm an American, so I guess it's OK here too.

There are a host of metaphoric ways to get this idea across. "She gritted her teeth and began to work."

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1

Perhaps not exactly what you want, but worth keeping in mind…

constancy

1 a : steadfastness of mind under duress : fortitude
   b : fidelity, loyalty
                                           (Merriam-Webster)

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1

I would suggest resolve or resolution depending on the phrasing employed at the time.

So, given an unattractive task that has to be undertaken sooner or later, you would resolve to get on with it, and once engaged, continue with resolution, despite a desire to abandon the damn thing and go down the pub.

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1

I'm looking for a word that captures that feeling of forcing oneself to do something that is not motivating anymore.

I believe a word that captures this feeling is ploddingly. The definition of plod is to work laboriously (with difficulty/effort) and monotonously (in a way that does not produce interest). As an adverb, ploddingly would mean "characterized by working in a difficult and uninteresting manner". We can apply this to your requested sentences with modifications/improvements:

Jon ploddingly continues to participate in competition X, despite losing his motivation for participation. Apparently, he values being a pacesetter enough to take up otherwise meaningless pursuits over a hobby.

In these sentences, the connotation is that Jon feels that continuing to participate in competition X is an uninteresting burden, but that he continues to participate anyways.

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0

Grit. Merriam-Webster represents a common meaning:

: firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger

Recently, the term has been applied in education and psychology to refer to people who can stick with challenging tasks and persevere through boredom and disappointment to attain a larger goal. In the article "Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals" (Angela L. Duckworth, Christopher Peterson, Michael D. Matthews, Dennis R. Kelly, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2007), they identify perseverence through disappointment and boredom as a key quality of grit:

We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.

The original article has been cited by over 4000 other texts (Google Scholar), spawned a 2016 book by the original primary author of the study, and became a buzzword (sometimes criticized) in education. It has filtered extensively into public-facing websites, like this one from Steyning Grammar School in the UK:

Grit is resilience to challenges accompanied by perseverance and passion for long term goals.

We want our students to be 'gritty' and when they are we notice that they:

  • 'Come back' after failure or low grades
  • Don't give up easily when they do tough tasks
  • They finish longer tasks with a high quality outcome
  • Can focus on the fact that what they do now affects their GCSEs or other long term goals
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    So, grit is a good word; the only difference is that it has a positive connotation. The word I'm looking for has a negative connotation (once the social conditioning aspect of it is seen through) – Sridhar Ratnakumar Dec 5 '19 at 18:50
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It's not a word, but a phrase I might use to describe getting up the wherewithal to do something I don't want to do but I have to do it is: gird my loins

It means preparing yourself for something that's coming up, usually dangerous or difficult.

E.g.:

I don't want to do the washing up, but it needs doing, so I'm girding my loins to do it.

It doesn't exactly mean doing the thing, but it indicates that the thing is something you don't want to do but have to do anyway.

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perfunctory

(of an action) carried out without real interest, feeling, or effort. "he gave a perfunctory nod"

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perfunctory

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  • Oxford gives a different definition (that makes no mention of "interest"): "(of an action or gesture) carried out with a minimum of effort or reflection." – Sridhar Ratnakumar Dec 6 '19 at 16:14
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One can have a sense of obligation to do something.

This is related to the "sense of duty" other answers discuss, but I just wanted to mention.

Examples:

Despite having no motivation to continue in the race, John felt an obligation to compete to show his family he could persevere and win.

There are so many people supporting me in my journey, despite my lack of motivation, that I felt obligated to follow through for them.

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Fiduciary Responsibility could also apply. It has a specific "business meaning" related to duty-bound, but could be easily borrowed. "Despite having long since lost the personal joy in competition, John felt a fiduciary responsibility to his teammates forcing him to continue showing up for games and playing them seriously."

However, my pedantic nature forces me to call out the fact that you have kind of asked an impossible to answer question. On a certain level, everyone is always motivated to be doing exactly what they are doing at every moment. Ultimately, there is no difference between 'internal' and 'external' motivation. Even under extreme externally caused duress, one's motivation for how to respond is always personal. We don't get to control what we encounter on our Path. We only get to control how we respond to such encounters.

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Sounds like deign, but it does come with some additional baggage.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deign

"to condescend reluctantly and with a strong sense of the affront to one's superiority that is involved"

"to condescend to give or offer"

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This might not be entirely grammatically correct, but you could say that "John grinds out his homework/sports drills/etc.". It's a bit awkward but I think it's quite close to the meaning you want.

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With what you've given I feel like "duty" is probably the best fit.

Duty something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/duty

Edit: added source per suggestion

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