motivation Jul 27, 2020
I was recently asked to share my secrets for a magazine article on how to get and stay motivated.
After all, motivation is what enables us to all get hard things done right?
Well yes .... and no.
Through my corporate life and my experience playing sport, I've seen many types of motivators. You probably have too.
I'm sure you've been yelled at, threatened, had the 'good cop bad cop' routine, passive aggressive, stick and carrot etc.
So you've probably also seen what works and what doesn't.
But probably my first experience of good and bad motivation was in High School.
At aged 14 I was average (at best) in mathematics. It was boring and I struggled for motivation to give it a chance, let alone be my best.
But by the end of the following year, I was in the top 3 in my High School and I was solving long lists of simultaneous equations at home for fun ... I kid you not!
What was the difference? .... motivation.
That year, my teacher found a way to motivate me and others, and as a result, he got the best out of us.
From that inspired leader, I was on my way to close out my next 2 years at High School a high performer in maths and gain the confidence to tackle applied maths at University, where I eventually achieving First Class Honours in Operations Research.
That single year of motivation at aged 15 was the catalyst for my University degree which got me started on a 20-year career applying mathematics to business problems in Australasian energy markets, and being involved in billions in of dollars of deals.
So what was the secret that my maths teacher found to motivate me?
Looking back now, I see he achieved these things:
First, to get me motivated, he tapped into a pain that I wanted to solve. I was a competitive guy, and when I sensed a competition, I wanted to be in and to win.
This exposed a vital truth:
"Only when a PAIN is worth solving, you will be motivated to start solving it." - Guy Mullon
The pain I wanted to avoid was being behind my friends at math. I wanted to avoid the embarrassment in class, on the playground and after school.
So to get motivated, you need to have a meaningful pain that is worth solving. Not all 'pain' is worth solving. Sometimes people prefer to put up with the inconvenience or cost. When I coach clients, it is important to thoroughly explore what the likely consequences will be further down the road if the pain is not addressed, and the cost of making changes.... Is it worth it?
Assuming you are prepared to pay the cost of change ...
This leads into the need to build a clear and compelling vision for what you actual want to change.... for something better. This needs to be clear and powerful for it to be of value. It is vision for a different future to the one you are heading towards
I define vision as:
"a future that I believe should happen, and why I should be about the task of making it happen, starting today."
And that vision needs to be visible to you daily. I achieve this by having my vision as a series of images on my phone background. That way, I see it many times per day and I am reminded what I am working towards.
That's super powerful.
Getting motivated to make change is relatively easy - after all, we've all been motivated to get fit right? .... then the hard part begins.
The vision needs to be translated into goals that are not to high nor too low.
Too high, and you'll get discouraged and quit (typically what happens when someone starts at the gym and expects to lose 5kg in their first week).
Too low, and you will have no belief that the cost of change is worth it, and give up. You'll come to believe that goal-setting doesn't work or that it doesn't suit your personality.
The goals also need to be aligned with what you view as 'right' or 'good' or 'true'. Typically this means exploring your core values and making sure your goals align.
After you have your goals, you need to translate them into actionable tasks.
The 2 or 3 major goals that come out of the vision need to be translated into a series of steps that can be done quickly and without excessive opposition.
Action plans have concrete facts about then, such as start and end times, where and how. Certainty of being able to achieve these action plans is important. If these action plans still seem too hard to do, step 5 is vital.
James Clear has an excellent book called Atomic Habits. Essential, it demonstrates that large change comes from repeating many small improvements. Small changes compounded lead to bigger changes over time than large sporadic jumps.
Jim Collins also promotes this concept in his book Great By Choice, which examines the data behind the consistently great companies that he calls the 10x's. He shows case after case of business that achieved lasting success because it set up consistent micro goals to achieve day in and day out regardless of external challenges.
My application of these ideas to the area of motivation is to break the task list down even further than most ordinarily would, into micro goals that are so easy they can be done almost without effort. Done almost in your sleep. Done without doubt.
"Doubt is the enemy of motivation, and it is conquered by belief." - Guy Mullon
If a task is broken down small enough, it is easier to belief in.
For example, I use the Couch to 5km fitness program each summer, which breaks the task of running 5km non-stop into 48 micro tasks over 12 weeks. The first task is as easy as walking 5 minutes, running 60 seconds, walking .... etc.
Micro goals completely regularly are what Jim Collins calls to 20 Mile March, and are the secret behind long-lasting competition beating success.
Those are the practical steps, but the missing link is as important as all those above put together.
That link is Emotional Management.
"Without managing your thoughts and emotions, obstacles will appear large and insurmountable and most people retreat back into their comfort zone, feel like a failure and give up." - Guy Mullon
A small percentage of people can overcome emotional barriers themselves, ... they have developed the mental fortitude to rule their own brain ... but of us most require outside help.
Why? Because ...
"Our uncontrolled emotions erode our commitment to complete our goals." - Guy Mullon
So number 7 is to get help.
A very old proverb from a bloke named King Solomon says this:
"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" - Ecclesiastes 4:10
This applies practically obviously, but the much overlooked aspect of two being far superior to one is that it applies mentally and emotionally as well.
And that is the power of a coach - whether on the sports field or in business or in life.
"There was a moment in sports when employing a coach was unimaginable—and then came a time when not doing so was unimaginable. We care about results in sports, and if we care half as much about results in schools and in hospitals we may reach the same conclusion." Personal Best - New Yorker Magazine
A coach keeps you running when you'd otherwise give up, tells you the truth when no one else will, and simply is there to help you achieve your best future.
Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself right now - but be warned - it is hard to be honest with yourself when you're not being held accountable. So try and be honest. If you can't, get help from someone who will ask you difficult question and be honest with you:
1/ What is it that I want to change?
2/ What will happen if I don't make changes?
3/ What could I avoid (pain) and gain (benefit) if I succeed?
4/ What is the cost of change vs no change? ... Is it worth it?
5/ If yes, what major goals (<5) , when achieved, would show that I've succeeded?
7/ What has stopped me achieving these up to now?
8/ Do I 100% believe I can achieve these goals?
9/ If not, what would an action plan to achieve these goals look like (work backwards from your goals to where you are today)?
10/ How will I manage my thoughts and emotions that will try and stop me making changes?
11/ What other resources do I need to help me stay the course to completion?
If your answer to step 11 is possibly to get your own personal success coach - then I'd invite you to a free 30 minute consultation where we can talk about what you want to achieve and how I can help you get it. You can do that here: