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Don't Let Motivation Cause You to Fail

Yesterday my teenage son Matt came home with a less than stellar report card. (Yes, even peak performance experts sometimes have trouble motivating others.) Now Matt is by no means stupid. The reason he got poor grades is because he did not do the work that was required for some of his classes. Why didn't he do the work? According to him, he didn't feel motivated to do it. After having a loud discussion with him (translation: I was ranting and raving), I realized that Matt is no different than many people in his erroneous idea about motivation and success.

The impact of motivation on success is highly overrated. Motivation has very little to do with success. Successful people do not wait to feel motivated to do things that need to be done. They take action whether or not they feel like it, and this continuous action towards a goal is what results in success.

Realize What You Are Losing

If you are not doing what you need to do, you are paying a price for it. It could be the constant stress of knowing you should be doing something but not doing it. It could be the subtle feeling of realizing that by your inactivity you are not achieving what you know you can achieve. Many people have a vague idea of what their inactivity is costing them, but they try to push away these thoughts because they are very uncomfortable. I am suggesting that you not only don't push away these thoughts, but that you experience them fully.

Think about what your lack of action is costing you and notice how miserable this feels. Am I telling you this because I am sadistic and want you to feel bad? No, I am urging you to do this so you connect with this discomfort. Feeling this pain will often spur you to give up your excuses and move. Most people will do more to avoid pain then they will to move forward towards pleasure. Recently, my toe has been causing me some problems. This has been going on for several weeks. I know I should have gone to the doctor to get it checked out, but I didn't want to take the time to do it. However, the pain has been getting worse and is now preventing me from participating in some activities that I enjoy, so I finally made an appointment to see him. Pain catches your attention.

Are you experiencing the pain of mediocre revenues in your business because you are not doing enough marketing and selling? Have you been having conflict with your team because you have not effectively dealt with a difficult employee? When you experience enough pain, you will be surprised how motivated you will be to take action.

Focus on the Pay Off

If you don't particularly like the task that you have to do, don't focus on how miserable you might feel at the moment. Instead, focus on the pay off that you will receive as a result of your work. People who are successful in any area of their lives usually focus on what they will get out of their activity.

I have been a size four since I was 15. Most people who have problems with their weight will often comment that I am lucky to be so thin. I tell them that I exercise a minimum of one hour at least five days a week. Their next remark is usually, "You must love to exercise." No, I don't love to exercise. I would much rather get up and make a pot of coffee. To me there is almost no greater delight in life than enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning. That's my exercise pay off. As I am in the process of exercising, I count the minutes left that I have to do it before I can have my cup of coffee. Does this sound simplistic? Maybe, but it works. This simple strategy has motivated me to work out consistently for many years.

What is your pay off? Is there something that you really enjoy? Tie it into the task that you know you should do, but that you have been putting off. Make the pay off be the carrot that drives you to action.

Don't Worry About Perfection

One of my biggest blocks in getting started with doing something is that I'm afraid I won't do it right. This is usually in connection with something new that I don't have a lot of experience with. I want to do a good job and I don't want to mess it up. So what happens? Nothing. I focus so much on my fear of making a mistake that I often do nothing at all.

When you are starting a new project, don't worry about doing it right initially. Just do something. There is a common principle in physics that states, 'A body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay in motion.' Get moving. Recognize that you will need to make adjustments along the way. Making adjustments is part of the process of learning how to be successful in any new endeavor. As you begin to do the new task, you will find out what else you need to know. You will discover additional information that will help you achieve your outcome. Don't focus on the success or failure of each step. Be concerned with taking the most intelligent action at any particular moment and make whatever changes that are necessary. Action, not perfection, creates results.

Develop a Plan

Sometimes we have a new idea but it seems so overwhelming that we do nothing. Create an action plan for a project and then just do one step at a time. I wanted to create an electronic newsletter for more than two years. On a regular basis, I felt the guilt and self-recrimination that comes from knowing that I should do it but not taking action. I am technologically challenged so the entire project seemed more than I could handle. Finally, I decided to create an action plan. I would find other successful electronic newsletters and see how they were put together. I would determine ways to distribute the newsletter to subscribers. I would find ways to let others know about my newsletter. I focused on completing each step and within two weeks, I sent out my premiere issue of Peak Performance Pointers. When I finally broke the task down into simple action steps, I was able to get it done.

Motivation Comes From Action

An interesting thing about lack of motivation is that when we begin a project that we have been putting off, we finally start to feel motivated. Motivation often comes from the doing. When we start something and see it begin to take shape, it becomes exciting. Once we get started, we often find it difficult to stop until the project is completed. As we work on accomplishing a new idea, it is easier to focus on the end result and this creates even more motivation to get it finished. So recognize that if you are waiting to feel motivated to do something, start to do it and then the motivation will kick in.

Many people erroneously believe that successful people are super motivated individuals. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is wonderful to feel motivated to do something before you begin it, don't let motivation cause you to fail. Take action towards your goal and you'll be filled with more motivation than you can handle.

Della Menechella is a speaker, author, and trainer who inspires to achieve great success from the inside out. She is a contributing author to Thriving in the Midst of Change and the author of the videotape The Twelve Commandments of Goal Setting. She can be reached at Subscribe to free Peak Performance Pointers e-zine - send blank e-mail to


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