After many long nights working on Unlimited Drive, I thought I’d release a portion of the e-book as a teaser prior to the September 20th release date. The book is divided up into 6 secrets, all of which use different mechanisms to channel motivation you might not have even known you had available to you. Now at 60 pages and counting, this e-book is packed with information, examples, and techniques that will change the way you approach your long-term and challenging goals.
The particular secret I am revealing in this post is Secret 5: “Long Fuses, Big Bangs, and Intermittent Crackles.” Enjoy!
Far, Far Away
When you’re planning long-term goals, the end result can often appear very far away. In fact, it can seem so far away that it actually feels demotivating to work incredibly hard now to achieve something so far in the future. In other words, there is a long fuse towards the big bang that we’re hoping to achieve. In his book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell writes:
“…three things – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.”
We’ve already addressed autonomy and complexity (aka – mastery) in Secret 2. This chapter focuses on the importance of having a short-term connection between effort and reward as you work to achieve your goals (which I refer to as intermittent crackles).
Losing weight is so difficult because you must make uncomfortable and difficult lifestyle choices NOW, whereas your ideal weight doesn’t come until many months later. There are dozens of other examples (if not more) of goals that are difficult to accomplish because the reward is so far away, whereas all of the hard work happens right now.
How Our Brains Prioritize
I’m here to tell you that this aversion to “work now, reward later” is perfectly normal. In his book “Long Fuse, Big Bang”, Eric Haseltine, Ph.D, describes the phenomenon of temporal myopia. Left to it’s own devices, your brain will always want to handle more urgent tasks over the overall importance of the task. If you’re hungry right now, your brain will focus on relieving that hunger and forget about the business plan you were about to start writing for that soon-to-be business you want to start. Your brain moves towards instant gratification.
This isn’t a defect of the brain in any way. It was very useful when a tiger suddenly jumped out of the bushes and interrupted us while we were doing other things. It used to be a matter of life or death. Now it’s a matter of choosing to do “busy work”, such as responding to e-mails, instead of less urgent, but much more important goal-oriented tasks. In a world where there is always something you can do to keep yourself busy, you must learn to work around your brain’s natural focus on short-term and urgent tasks.
Why is this so important to us goal-achieving folk? Because you cannot stay motivated when your brain is constantly resisting your efforts. Remember the Goldilocks Equilbrium from Secret 2? If you recall, it describes finding tasks that aren’t too easy, but aren’t too difficult either. It’s about finding the balance that is just right, which is key to staying motivated.
When your brain’s natural tendencies are fighting you every step of the way as you try and buckle down, make changes, and focus on the long-term result, it makes the task significantly harder. A task that normally would normally be within the Goldilocks zone is now very far into the “too difficult” zone. But by learning to work WITH your brain, rather than against it, you will avoid this problem and keep yourself within the Goldilocks equilibrium when tackling tough goals. This has an enormous effect on your levels of motivation (refer back to Secret 2 for more on the Goldilocks Equilibrium).
Working With Our Natural Tendencies
It’s very important to keep in mind that the brain tends to:
a) Focus on short term, urgent events
b) Prefers instant gratification, regardless of its relative importance in our lives
c) Resists sudden change
So without further ado, let’s discuss strategies you can work with.
It stands to reason that if our brain naturally focuses on gratification in the short-term, we should build short term gratification into our long-term goals. But how do we do this? The easiest way to accomplish this is to break down a goal into shorter steps. All project managers intuitively know this and it’s simple to apply to your own goals.
Alcoholics anonymous is a great example of a group that understands that breaking down a difficult, long term goal into shorter steps makes a goal easier to achieve. Each step in their 12-step program gives the recovering alcoholic a sense of gratification and reward each step along the way.
Furthermore, breaking down goals into smaller steps prevents your progress from accidentally triggering the “warning, warning, sudden change!” alarm in your brain. Incremental progress is much more sustainable than sudden change. Just compare the statistics of binge dieting (a sudden change) and weight loss, compared to people who make small, but steady lifestyle changes over a longer period of time (incremental change).
Can You Taste It?
Another method of giving yourself short-term gratification along the journey is giving yourself a taste of success. Two facts should be taken into account when using this strategy:
1) Emotional impact works better than logic to motivate someone to do something.
2) Experiencing is better than telling
Let’s say your goal is to find a well-paying tech job in NYC, your dream city. You spent hours redoing your resume, researching the job market there, practicing your interviewing skills, and identifying plausible employers.
After making all of this progress towards your goal, allowing yourself to take a trip there for a weekend will not only give you a nice dose of well-earned gratification, but it will also allow you a taste of what life in NYC would be like. The emotional impact of spending a weekend in your dream city is much more powerful than sitting at home and telling yourself: “Just hang in there, you know all of this hard work will be worth it soon enough.”
Keep in mind that giving yourself a taste of success doesn’t work for all goals. If I’m trying to get six-pack abs, how can I give myself a taste of success without actually possessing a six-pack? If your goal is not conducive to giving yourself a taste of success, be sure to utilize incremental changes (discussed above) to keep yourself on track until you start showing signs of your goal being accomplished.
In summary, tough, long-term goals are like bombs set up to a long fuse. It takes a long time for that big result to manifest, so if you include small “crackles” of rewards, progress, and gratification along the way, you’re more likely to follow the fuse all the way down to the big bang.
Did you enjoy that excerpt from Unlimited Drive? If so, put in your e-mail address by by filling out the form on the top-right of this page. Or you can just click here. and you will be given the free download link when Unlimited Drive is released on September 20th.