And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
– Anais Nin
I have several friends that have been working on books for years but for one reason of other have never completed them. After my first book was finished about six months after I announced that I was beginning it, they asked me what the secret was to motivating myself to finish. I would love to report that it was a triumph of the will, and my disciplined nature, but the truth is this: I wrote a couple chapters that got me a contract with an advance. If I didn’t write the book I would have to give back the money or get sued.
I have now written three other books the same way, and I didn’t write one word of my course until 60 people signed up for it. It was either write, or refund. The risk of not writing outweighed the pain of writing. That simple. I love having written books, but I hate actually writing them, and this is the way I get it done.
So why am I sharing my dirty little secret? Because its the beginning of February and if you have been working on Leveling Up this year, this is probably when you are having some trouble getting motivated. Slacking off the exercise, ditching the diet, spending time on Netflix instead of marketing your product – I get it. Willpower gets you far, but sometimes not far enough.
That’s why we have to talk about risk and comfort. I know the usual phrase is Risk and Reward, but in practice, it isn’t usually about that, its usually about maintaining comfort. The reason is that we simply don’t seem to value rewards like the possibility of extra money, weight-loss, or a new product quite as much as we value keeping comfortable. The promise of bigger and better things does not drive us as much as the status quo does. This is the reason that I pushed the idea of the set point so strongly in my Financial Sorcery Book: you might like to make 200k a year, but you feel normal making 60K. People put very little effort into getting beyond normal, but the moment things fall below that 60k we pull out all the stops.
So as you keep working on your 2015 goals for leveling up, I wanted to let you know that its ok if you cannot seem to white knuckle your way into success with willpower. If this is the case you can assist yourself by shifting around risk and reward. This can be done mentally: shifting what you perceive as your real risk and real comfort, and it can be done by actually arranging circumstances to leverage your risk against your comfort.
GO SCROOGE YOURSELF
As far as mentally shifting your perception of pleasure and pain I like to do something that I call Scrooging. I am pretty sure I heard about this from a Tony Robbins devotee who called it a Dickens Pattern, but I like Scrooging better. The idea is simple: be your own Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to scare the crap out of yourself and leave your comfort zone.
Overweight? The the ghosts hand and relive all the ways that has negatively effected your life: lost romantic opportunities, lower self esteem, bad health, etc. This is not theory, re-live those moments and let it be painful. Now look at the present and think about how tired you feel and how you can’t keep up with your kids, or get on that awesome zip-line because you are over 250 pounds. Now look at the future first five then 20. Five years is going to pass whether you lose the weight or not -do you want the aches and pains to get worse? 20 years in the future: lets just say that are lots of old people, and lots of overweight people, but not a lot of overweight old people and leave it at that.
Maybe you have been putting off starting that side business? Relive the ways that not having enough money has burned you in the past. Relive the way that your job or boss has made you feel small or worthless. Now look at your life in the present, is this the life that is really worthy of your potential? Are you not bigger than this? Now look at the future: 5 and 20. Five years from now are you writing your product release from a cafe in Paris and checking paypal orders later from the airport or are you in your cubicle? Now 20 years – are downsized at 50 because your skills are no longer needed? Are you able to live on the 401k and social security benefits?
Here is the one warning from this: do not wallow! Think about what you are going to examine ahead of time and how you are going to reinforce the desired result. Otherwise you might just spend time wallowing in past failures and throwing your hands in the air. This is not you.
Like Scrooge, your essential nature is clear and capable. We sometimes just need that extra push to get off our asses. If the simple promise of being your best self is not enough to push you out of your comfort zone, perhaps the shock seeing what not acting really means will be.
NOW STICKK IT TO YOURSELF
Apart from the mental perspective on Risk and comfort there are ways that we can leverage circumstances to support our goals. This is what I did with the book: get paid ahead of time and force myself to do the work. I did it with the course, and with lots of other projects as well.
Motivated by competition? Make a bet with a friend. Better yet make a bet with a frienemy or an acquaintance at work that you are not super close with. Freind’s and family tend to be too understanding and maybe even enabling of bad behaviors. Your Frenemy or some guy at work that is kind of cool but can be a little bit of a dick will push you to win.
Motivated by embarrassment? I think its a bad way, to do it but it has worked for some. Like Kennedy’s pledge to get to the moon the end of the 60’s make a vow publicly so you will be motivated not to be shamed by failing. Just be sure you make a reasonable vow, and keep times and capacity in mind. Remember: if you make a living off making candles that you make ten dollars a piece by selling, do not vow to make 25k over the next three months unless you have the time and interest in making 2500 candles in three months…
Motivated by greed? Give your friend $100 to donate to a charity or political candidate. Better yet, get them to give it to a charity of political candidate that you HATE. I would do pretty much anything before I donated 100 to Ted Cruz….
You can even enlist coaches and companies to help you with this. Check out Stickk to help you arrange some of these ideas if you cannot arrange them yourself.
STRENGTH VS SMART
Someone I suggested these methods to last year accused me of playing to peoples weaknesses rather than their strengths because I was not encouraging him to be motivated by greatness and accomplish it through his willpower. I pointed out that choosing to implement any of these strategies and laying the groundwork for them IS the act of strength motivated by greatness. Knowing that you have weaknesses and taking steps to make succumbing to them more risky and less comfortable is strength. It’s also smart.