In my last blog posting I wrote about detractors, those things that rob us of our motivation, and a great big detractor, the distraction, which I described as anything that temporarily bumps us off our path.
I pointed out how distractions often involve automatic activities, like over eating, shopping, watching TV and drinking. What do we do to overcome these automatic activities?
The first strategy: Become conscious of these behaviors.
This strategy addresses these automatic behaviors. What we do to resist them is use our intent. We need to bring these behaviors into the light of day. We need to look at them, and understand them. When we do that, we increase the likelihood of overcoming them.
Become aware of your distractions, and become aware of the role you play with them. Pay attention to what is going on with you when you get distracted. When you find that you have been seduced by your distraction, think about what was going on before you succumbed. Notice it and write it down. When you have been tempted and successfully avoided it, write that down, too, and how you avoided it, what you told yourself to get back on track. Then give yourself a pat on the back. Overcoming distractions is achieved by becoming intentional man, keeping your vision at the forefront.
The second strategy: building the runway.
This second strategy is based upon an interesting discovery I made about distractions. Distractions are much more seductive when I am doing tasks that aren’t really fun, that are down right drudgery. But we all know that success is frequently built on drudgery. Without the tasks, the goals aren’t met. If the goals aren’t met, the vision will not come to fruition. If some of the tasks involve drudgery, we need to do the drudgery.
Building the runway is how we accomplish these task. An airplane can’t get off the ground unless it has a runway. So if you want to soar, you need to “build the runway.” Building the runway is the means by which we keep ourselves motivated to do this boring, tedious, work. The key is to make it important to us, even if it isn’t intrinsically motivating.
This strategy is based on a process in the literature on employee motivation known as “promoting integration”. Studies show that the way to get employees to do uninteresting work is:
- provide a rationale for the uninteresting activity; and
- acknowledge that people might not want to do the activity
How we promote integration in ourselves in self motivation is the basically the same, except that the two steps are flip flopped. First, we acknowledge that this particular task is boring; that it indeed meets the definition of drudgery, but then second we remind ourselves of the rationale of the task. We call to mind why we are doing this particular piece of drudgery.
Instead of focusing on the drudgery, we intentionally focus on how what we need to do will bring us closer to achieving one of our goals. Remember, every task must clearly relate to a specific goal. If you can’t relate the drudgery to the achievement of one of your written down goals, then you need to ask yourself why you are doing it, and figure out if your time couldn’t be better spent pursuing a task that is related to one of your goals.
As I was writing the script for my workshop, I had a stack of research material, and notes to myself, much more than I needed and with a lot of repetition. Once I had written out an outline, I needed to go through all of the material, delete the redundant and the non-important, and organize the remainder.
It seemed to take forever. What I had to do was acknowledge the reality, that I was building a runway so that I could soar, as a professional speaker and workshop presenter. I acknowledged that what I needed to do was drudgery, but for me the key was to reaffirm, make clear in my mind, the nexus between this task and my vision. I had to remind myself that once I sorted through all the material I would be that much closer to completing my book as well, which would, in turn, bring me even closer to my vision.
Some distractions are unavoidable, and rightly so. For example, maybe you have a family – this can be a distraction. But maybe it’s a healthy distraction, or if not, we can make it a healthy distraction. A two year old may require intense hands-on time. But a five or six year old can play by herself. You have to make this determination for yourself, draw the boundaries as you think are appropriate for the situation. But it’s important that you make the effort to establish these boundaries, make intentional decisions, and not just go on automatic.
That’s what motivating yourself is about. It’s about being conscious, and about being intentional. And about using the model for self motivation.