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Why The Power To Persist

Know why people don’t like New Years Resolutions? Because they don’t work.

There are lots of reasons for this. A big one is because they are poorly defined and should be goals. But another is the secret sauce in this episode.

Last week, we talked about how to make SMART goals, so you should have at least one goal to power up today.

We all know that goals have to be written down. They aren’t a goal if they are just in your head.

There is power in writing something down. It makes things real. It also allows you to easily review them.

Just writing your goals down and reviewing them will make you 10x more likely to accomplish a goal.

Even if you have written goals, we know there are going to be times when we lose motivation. We are gung ho to do something, but when we are in the grind of it when it is hard, we give up. It will seem to just not be that important.

Let’s apply another distinction:

If you know of a problem you are going to encounter in the future, it is best to build into your system something to counteract that.

Let’s apply that to goal setting.

If we know we’re likely to lose motivation, what can we do when setting goals to preparing for that loss?

One reason we lose motivation down the road is we discover the goal we set isn’t giving us what we really want.

A key exercise to avoid this is The Whys.

You need to ask yourself why you want to accomplish this goal. Then you keep asking why to your answers. Just like a 4-year-old who has just learned the word, keep asking why.

“I want to make a million dollars.”
Why?

“Because then I’d be able to buy all the stuff I want.”
Why?

“Cuz stuff is important…. Wait that’s not right.”

Ahhh now you know something important about your goal. Namely that it isn’t something you really want.

Okay, let’s run through another set of why’s for the same goal.

“I want a million dollars.”
Why?

“Because then I could quit my job.”
Why?

“Because my boss is a jerk. I like the work but not my boss.”
Why?

“Because he is constantly micromanaging my work.”

Now we’ve learned a serious thing about what you really want. You don’t need a million dollars to change jobs to something you like. You might even be able to just have a discussion with the boss about his micromanagement. Changing jobs and even talking to your boss is easier than earning a million dollars.

This use of Why has shown us we really want something other than the goal, no matter how SMART we’ve made it.

If that happens to you, go back a step one, maybe even your Desired End State, and write a goal that will give you what you really want.

Now that we have a goal that we know we really do want, let’s ask why in a different way.

Level one of asking why is simply to answer the question “Why should I accomplish this goal?”

Level two is to stop shooting all over yourself, and ask a better version of that question: “Why MUST I accomplish this goal?”

There are two ways to answer this, the positive and the negative. One is nicer, but the other is more powerful. Let’s talk about nice first. Start writing down a list of all the reasons you must do this.

I find it useful to examine it from a number of aspects that I write as the following questions:

  • How will this strengthen my family and the people in it?
  • How will accomplishing this benefit the world at large?
  • Will this goal lead to another more important goal? Is it a Stepping Stone goal that moves me forward?
  • Will it teach me something?
  • Will it make me different or better?
  • Why should I do this spiritually?

Those are all the positive questions that will get you to the next level of motivation. Things you can come back to and review – just like your goals – and keep your motivation going.

Now let’s talk about the negative questions.

In my keynote speech You Need Better Fears, I talk about the power of fear to motivate us for better or worse. One part of that is getting clear on the awful outcomes of not doing something.

We need to apply that to our goals.

Level one of the negative question is “What happens if I don’t accomplish this goal?”

Level two is “What could happen if I don’t accomplish this goal?”

The reason this is more powerful is it opens more problems to our awareness.

Another side distinction.

When we start to think about possible negative outcomes of an action we often use ‘could happen’. This doesn’t take into account the likelihood of something happening and can cripple us with fear. Be careful using could in your life.

But in the case of our goals, we can use it to our advantage. Then we can apply the same aspects we used last time to come up with some questions.

  • What will be the negative impact this will have on my family?
  • How will the world be worse if I don’t accomplish my goal?
  • What other goals will never happen because I failed at this one?
  • How will I be worse off, or worse as a human being if I don’t accomplish this goal?
  • How will God feel about this failure?

Wow, that’s heavy. Depending on your personality it might be unwise for you to pile up too much negativity.

In general, people are more motivated by the potential loss that all the gain in the world, but for some, this kind of thinking can be crippling.

If you are diligent in interrogating your goals by asking Why, you will be assured not only that you have a goal you want, but that you’ve got the motivation to keep going.

I’d suggest you create a page for each of your goals with a list of the reasons you must accomplish it and what the dire outcomes will be if you don’t. Then when you lose motivation you can review it.

Just putting these answers in your head can make a big difference when you are considering giving up. The process of writing all of this down is doing things in your brain.

It is hypnotizing your subconscious with the motivation that will underly your goals even if you don’t think about it. You also may have discovered reasons you didn’t know before and those will come to mind in moments of weakness.

Question of the day: Why must you have to accomplish your goal?

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