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The Source for Maximum Motivation

By Philip Humbert

Every week I get emails from people asking how to overcome procrastination and stay motivated. My sense is that they are opposite sides of the same coin.

Procrastination is, basically, avoiding something we don't want to do. Rationally, I may want the benefits an action could bring, but if I also fear embarrassment or discomfort, I procrastinate. It's a way to cope with situations where we both want and fear a possible outcome, so I view it as a form of negative motivation. When I procrastinate, it simply means that, at some level, I'm motivated to avoid a situation.

There are many forms of negative motivation. Laziness is the desire to maximize temporary comfort above all else. Fear of failure or punishment can motivate people for brief periods, but it's not efficient in the long run. Artificial deadlines, contests and "motivational seminars" are adrenaline-based ways to boost performance, and to some degree, they all work.

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 much more efficient. When I'm motivated by a positive vision, a sense of destiny or desire, my behavior, thoughts and attitudes are all pointed in the same direction.

When there is consistency between our values (love of family) and our stated goals (being a good parent), and we have a clear strategy to achieve the goal (parenting books or classes, good models from our own parents, etc), taking action is not difficult.

When our values, our goals and our strategies 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. When our values, our goals, and our strategies are aligned, we get things done!

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, start 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 they actually value the pleasure of a new car or eating out even more.

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 credit card 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." And here’s a hint: Most ambitious people know they should have written goals, but not as many take the time to develop a great strategy. Have a solid, workable and confident strategy!

To achieve more, make sure your core values, your short-term goals and your daily strategies are aligned. Make sure you can say, "day by day, I’m getting better and better." When your daily actions accurately reflect your priorities and your core values, and you have a solid strategy, you'll win every time.

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