The Keys to Unlimited Positive Motivation
Every week I get emails from people asking how to overcome procrastination and stay motivated. My sense is that procrastination and motivation are actually opposite sides of the same coin.
Procrastination is simply avoiding something we don’t want to do. Rationally, of course, I may want the benefits an action could bring, but if I also have a sense of fear or discomfort about doing it, I'll likely procrastinate. Procrastination is how we cope with situations where we want a desired outcome, but also expect some discomfort with doing it, so I view it as a form of negative motivation.
There are many forms of negative motivation. Fear of failure or punishment can motivate people for brief periods, but it’s not efficient in the long run. (It may work in the military, but who wants to live their life that way?) Other forms of negative motivation include artificial deadlines, contests, and motivational seminars. These are adrenaline-based ways to temporarily boost performance, and they all work to a limited degree.
But they are not a firm foundation upon which to build a life. Negative motivation works in an emergency, but not for a lifetime.
Positive motivation, on the other hand, is value-driven and far more efficient. When I’m motivated by a sense of destiny or desire, my attitudes and my behavior are aligned in the same direction. And that is the key to success!
When there is consistency between our values (love of family) and our stated goals (being a good parent), AND we have a clear path to achieve the goal (books or classes, good models from our own parents, etc), taking action is not difficult. It may even be fun—sometimes we call it "play!"
When our values, our goals and our strategies (all three) are aligned, human beings are incredibly productive! Want examples? Ask any kid learning to walk, or wanting to stay up past her bed-time. Ask a teenager who wants to make the team, or date someone her parents don’t like. Ask any Olympian about training on a cold, rainy day. When our values, our goals, and our strategies are aligned, we perform!
It’s only when these things are out of alignment that we struggle. When one of my key values (to spend more time as a family) conflicts with my goals (to get that promotion), or when I don’t have a viable strategy, I get in trouble. Without an effective strategy, why try?
To achieve more, begin by checking your core values. Many people get in trouble at this point. We say we value ambition, but we actually value vacations or relaxation even more. Or, here’s a common example—most people say they value a comfortable retirement, but what they actually value are the short-term satisfactions of a new car, a new gadget, or eating out.
To increase motivation, start with a rigorous examination of your core values. What is most IMPORTANT to you?
Second, make sure your daily actions and the "small" goals of daily life actually reflect your values. Ask most adults to list their five- or ten-year goals and they’ll sound pretty good. But ask them to list their daily projects or their plans for the weekend, and you may see a conflict. Make sure your value of financial security is reflected on your monthly bank statement.
Third, always work with tried-and-true strategies, and remember that "hope is not a strategy." Have a plan, and work your plan. Make an action list or create a "road map." (I like the metaphor of a "recipe for success.") And here’s a hint: Most ambitious people know they should have written goals, but few take the time to develop a great strategy. Have a solid, workable plan!
To reach more of your most important goals, make sure your core values, your short-term daily activities, and your key strategies are aligned. Make sure you can say, "day by day, I’m getting better and better." When your daily actions accurately reflect your core values and you have a solid strategy, you’ll over-come procrastination and win big every time.