Strategies for Building Consistency and Sustaining Motivation


  Strategies for Building Consistency and Sustaining Motivation

"How do I make myself more consistent and motivated?" I hear this question all the time. And I'm more than happy to offer advice on how to build consistency and sustain motivation in your life. But before we get into the actual strategies, it's important that you understand why building consistency and sustaining motivation is so damn difficult.

It turns out that there are 3 reasons why it's hard for many of us to be consistent with our goals: 1) we're naturally lazy; 2) our brains are wired against us; 3) life gets in the way. 

I want to tackle each of these problems individually.

1. We're naturally lazy. 

This probably applies to everyone who read Good to Great , the book I mentioned above with Jim Collins. If you're reading this blog, you know that Jim Collins makes a distinction between "good leaders" and "great leaders" with regards to how they recover from setbacks. 
If you've ever read about the "good" leaders, you've probably noticed that their stories end pretty quickly after their year-end interview or annual review (I call them the "Year in Review"). They're not long-lived. They don't stick around after they've retired. And this is because the good leaders usually lack a framework for recovering from setbacks, as well as a strategy for sustaining their performance over time. 
On the other hand, the "great" leaders in Jim Collins' book end up staying around for a long time because these leaders practice what he calls "survival craft." They have a strategy and way of thinking about how to recover and stay on course when things get tough. And one of the most important survival strategies is...
2. Our brains are wired against us...
Are you at your best on your off days? I mean, really at your best, not just at your peak performance. Your best. Your off-day. The day when you're just not all that into what you're doing, but you still need to get it done. This is your "off" day. This is the "gray matter" or "wiring" of the brain that researchers refer to as your "default mode network."
Your default mode network is built up of all of the non-instrumental activities in our lives and all of the non-instrumental people in our lives—friends, family, co-workers, people at work who are not part of your job—they're a big part of your default mode network. And it's typically these people, these activities, that we get tangled up with when we're forced to re-focus on our goals after a setback.
Like Jim Collins' good to great leaders, many of us end up being stuck in this "default mode" and unless we learn how to break free of it, we'll never be able to sustain our performance long enough to achieve a level of mastery...
3. Life gets in the way.  
In my experience, the third reason why so many people give up on their goals is that life gets in the way. Things happen, we lose steam, and we get distracted. We get caught up in drama around us, and it's hard to stay on track when life is getting in the way. 
You know who else was in his off-day? Thomas Edison. The real Thomas Edison, not the mythological Thomas Edison created by Walt Disney. The real Thomas Edison was one of the greatest inventors of all time. But he wasn't born a genius. He had to learn how to do it...
The discovery process...
Thomas Edison was an inventor at heart, but he didn't always believe that he would be an inventor . 
Early on, he was a writer. He was a poet. He wrote for the newspaper and became known as "the reporter poet." So he had a strong natural talent for writing and publishing. 
But when it came time to start his own paper to compete with the existing papers in Newark, New Jersey, he quickly found out that without financial backing from some wealthy investors, he was unable to sell enough advertising to be profitable—the newspaper business was not an easy way to make money at that point in time. 
So Edison turned to other ways to make money: he became a clerk in a dry goods store, then a patent agent, and later on he went into politics. But even after all of these moves, it wasn't until his discovery process that he found his true passion and became the greatest inventor that the world has ever known...
The discovery process is basically having the audacity to actually do what you know you're supposed to do, despite any obstacles that are going on around you. 
Edison was at work one day when an acquaintance approached him with some news: there was a wire connected to a certain machine in the lobby of his office building. The man asked Edison if he could use it. Edison said yes—because you always say yes to your friends. 
The friend took Edison over to the machine, and when Edison found out what the machine did, he started experimenting with it: he'd attach wires to different objects and see if he could light them up. His friend was looking on with a smile, going "ooh ooh" and nodding his head in approval. Over time Edison became more curious about what he was doing...and by accident, he discovered that electricity had the power to make things move . He didn't know that electricity had this kind of power then, but from then until today it has been known as "the magical force. The force of creation."
As Edison focused his attention to this discovery, he began to see how it could be used to make a better light bulb. He devoted himself more and more to this goal through his discovery process, until one day in 1879 after 10,000 failures while producing a light bulb that lasted over 100 hours, he finally succeeded. The bulb lit up for the first time, and he realized that with this invention he could change the world!
For about 14 years after that moment on October 21st, 1879, Edison was focused on one goal: making his discovery into reality...
So Edison is like our great leaders who came back strong after their setbacks...

Conclusion: These Great Leaders are Inspirational Mentors
Knowing how these great leaders responded after their setbacks can be a powerful motivator and inspiration for you to agree to take your current situation and turn it into a setback that others can learn from. The next time something happens in your life, ask yourself these questions:
1. What mistakes have I made?
2. How has being radically open to learning (and growing) about this setback helped me?
3. What lessons can I learn from this setback?
It may be entirely unhelpful to double-down on the same mistakes that got you in trouble in the first place.

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