‘I was thinking one day and I realised that if I just had somebody behind me all the way to motivate me I could make a big difference. Nobody came along like that so I just became that person for myself.’
No-one knows who said that but someone did and it’s a lovely idea.
Why are we so good at the theory but not the practice? Why do we focus on why we shouldn’t do something rather than why we should?
What is it about us that we are so willing to stay dissatisfied with our lives?
Overcoming an emotional, personal or professional hurdle isn’t easy, especially when it’s far easier to sit on the couch, watch Netflix and eat a family bag of Kettle Chips.
If you’re in the very small majority who never procrastinates, never drags your feet and never waits until tomorrow, well done!
But, if you do want to lose weight, stop smoking, start a business, learn to knit, pluck up the courage to ask for a pay rise or any one of the dozens of things on your mental ‘to do’ list, the likelihood is that you’re missing a vital element of the process…
You’re Not A Computer
Does this sound familiar –
You get into the office, swap your flats for your heels, boot the computer up and go and get a coffee or have a quick natter with Sarah in marketing.
When you get back to your desk, you open Outlook and the applications you need and you start work.
But not once has Outlook told you it can’t be bothered to open, or that it had a heavy night and would need a couple of hours to get going and a wheelie bin full of coffee in order to function properly.
The point we’re making is that productivity systems like computers don’t require emotions but productivity systems like humans, do.
Feelings and emotions are a fundamental – and unavoidable – part of the human psyche and to a greater or lesser extent govern why we do what we do and because of the unique way our brains are wired, when thought and feelings compete, feelings almost always win.
And if you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the prophetic words from 70s and 80s rockers REO Speedwagon who told us that you ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’.
Except you can.
But feelings dominate our lives, don’t they?
Oliver Burkeman wrote a book in 2012 called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and in it, we found this:
‘…when experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel.
In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content.
Bereaved people who make the most effort to avoid feeling grief, research suggests, take the longest to recover from their loss.
Our efforts at mental suppression fail in the sexual arena, too: people instructed not to think about sex exhibit greater arousal, as measured by the electrical conductivity of their skin, than those not instructed to suppress such thoughts.’
So, by this logic the all-encompassing power of feelings dominate our lives but as it turns out, feelings and emotions are an essential element of being able to execute your plans, be they to stop smoking or for world domination.
Focus on emotions. Knowing something isn’t enough to cause change. Make people (or yourself) feel something.
Switch, Dan & Chip Heath
Motivation Tip 1: Get Positive
We procrastinate most when we’re in a bad mood. It’s a classic mood management technique but like smoking or eating, it’s very short-sighted but we’re prone to it when we think it will help. However research shows that being in a happy mood increases productivity.
To toughen up new recruits, the military don’t teach them how to fight, they teach them optimism but the double-edged sword here is – how do you get optimistic if you’re not feeling it?
Harvard University professor Teresa Amabile suggests that there’s nothing more motivating than progress.
This pattern is what we call the progress principle: of all the positive events that influence inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work; of all the negative events, the single most powerful is the opposite of progress—setbacks in the work. We consider this to be a fundamental management principle: facilitating progress is the most effective way for managers to influence inner work life.
The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
So, negativity isn’t making you procrastinate, but what’s going to drive you forward?
Motivation Tip 2: Get Rewarded
As we all know from growing up, rewards are good and penalties are bad (unless you’re England in the World Cup…) but they can both work well as motivational tools.
Researchers find that perceived self-interest, the rewards one believes are at stake, is the most significant factor in predicting dedication and satisfaction toward work. It accounts for about 75 percent of personal motivation toward accomplishment.
The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People
One way is to reward yourself when you complete a task on your to-do list. Granted, this is the way we train dogs but the theory remains sound. However, if you’re struggling to find a reward worthwhile enough to enable you to get up and do whatever it is you need to do, try what’s known as a commitment device:
Give a close friend £50. If you complete the task you get the money back and if you don’t, they get to keep it…
Motivation just got emotional!
So, you’re feeling more positive, there are rewards and penalties in place so what else do you need?
Motivation Tip 3: Peer Pressure
As strange as it may seem, research suggests that peer pressure helps kids more than it hinders them (and we are all big kids pretending to be responsible adults…!)
One tip – and it might sound a bit cliché – is to surround yourself with the people you’d like to be (see our post called The Wealthy Fisherman) which in turn makes what you’re doing far more attainable on the basis that others have so there’s no reason why you haven’t.
When people join groups where change seems possible, the potential for that change to occur becomes more real.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
From the Longevity Project which studied over 1,000 people from youth to death:
The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become. For people who want improved health, association with other healthy people is usually the strongest and most direct path of change.
And from an interview with Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence:
Research shows over time, you develop the eating habits, health habits and even career aspirations of those around you. If you’re in a group of people who have really high goals for themselves you’ll take on that same sense of seriousness.
So there are your three tips, all you have to do is wrap them all together!
- Get Positive
- Get Rewarded
- Get Peer Pressure
Believing you can do it is the first step. Think of yourself as a confident, motivated, energetic person because they way you feel about yourself has a huge bearing on future success.
For more information about how to reach for the stars, please contact Jules at Vital Minds Business Training today.
T: +447931 325 642
LinkedIn: Jules Peck
Twitter: #Vital Minds BT