Journal – 3/19/15: Process NOT Motivation

I ain’t no motivational speaker!

HandHoldingPenA few years ago, a friend of mine (who could really use a dose of what I’m dealing) asked about “that motivation thing” I was doing. He might as well have said “that sex trafficking thing” the way my internal alarms went off, though my friend wasn’t unique – a majority of people seem to think anything having to do with success is by definition “motivational”. Perish the thought!

The Fundamental Success project was primarily me trying to figure out why all the business and government teams I worked with seemed (to greater and lesser extents) pathologically committed to what I term the “we want massively improved results while keeping things pretty much the same” mantra. All my research pointed to the same cause, which is people don’t like to change – multiply that by factors like crazy bosses, fear of losing jobs, and group think and it’s not hard to see why it’s tough for organizations (and individuals) to embrace constant change. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about – I want to preach the power of methodology (of having a game plan) over the weaker, more frenetic idea of motivation.

Why Process trumps Motivation

PadAndPenWe’ve all been there, that moment of frustration over something that’s eluded us, vowing that “this time” we’ll make it happen, “this time” is different…only to have that moment slip away. Motivation is important in achieving change, but it’s emotional and has the tendency to wax and wane, it constantly needs to be renewed. Your process, on the other hand, is fixed and can operate as the anchor for all of your efforts. And the process is pretty simple, some of the details can take on complexity, but the basic steps are straightforward:

  1. Decide – what you want to do or change.
  2. Plan – figure out the best way to accomplish your goal, then chunk it up into “doable” pieces. This is when you explore if you have the time and resources to do what you say you’re going to do (or perhaps that you’re being delusional, and want something you can’t achieve).
  3. Execute – do what you say you want to do.
  4. Analyze – coldly observe events as they unfold in real time, what’s working? What do you need to change? Where can you improve? And when you’re done, did you achieve what you thought you were going to achieve, or something else?

PlaningWoodEven on your most unmotivated day, you can force yourself to “work your plan”, knowing that taking action is always better for you than being passive. That said, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is to plan “recoverablility” into my goals. Committing to something like “I’ll exercise seven days a week” while commendable, offers no ability to recover from a minor failure. Better to commit to “I’ll exercise five days a week”, you can still exercise seven days, but you can get back on track if you slip up.

We’re Only Human

WorkersGirdersImagining a state where we’re permanently and perfectly motivated, and that’s all it takes to get what we want, is a suckers game. There’s always something to knock you off your game – unexpected fender bender, a loss in your family, unemployment, divorce – and a million other little nickel-and-dime things. That’s to be expected, and that’s why you want a solid plan of action to be your foundation, not fickle emotion.

Look, life’s hard, we’re weak and nobody lives on a pedestal. The awesome thing is with all that being true, we still create amazing things, advance our understanding and improve. Things worth doing tend to start with a spark of inspiration, that spark is easily lost – applying a solid process to that spark will give you an anchor for when things get tough, and depending on how nurture your spark, may create firestorms of success in your life.