Every day in our lives, there are things that need to be done. Sometimes we feel like doing those things and sometimes we don’t. But one thing’s for certain. If you rely on discipline alone — forcing yourself to do things you don’t feel like doing to get them done — you’re probably making things harder on yourself than you have to.
Being in business for yourself is not for the faint of heart. Neither is sales. Neither is any career or human effort that carries with it the possibility of significant rewards or great success.
If you’re functioning in a low risk, low reward environment, then high performance may not be required. But for most of us who want more, we need to perform. And sometimes that takes more time, more focus and more energy than we may feel like putting in. But, of course, we need to put it in anyway.
One of my very favorite quotes of all time comes from Albert E.N. Grey who said,
“The successful person has formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”
Wow. That is tough… and harsh! But it is also incredibly true.
Those who succeed, by their very nature, have to do things that are not done by those who fail at the same task.
Too often, we tell ourselves that things can’t be done. There isn’t enough time, there aren’t enough resources, it’s just not possible. But here’s a hint, if others have done it, it’s possible. The question is not if, the question is how?
When it comes to getting ourselves to do things that we don’t feel like doing — the things Grey refers to as the things failures don’t like to do — there are two primary approaches: The carrot and the stick: reward and punishment.
The stick is self-discipline. It’s when we force ourselves to take the necessary actions, even when we don’t feel like it — when we’re tired, when we’re unmotivated, when we’d rather be doing something else. The stick is the force that drives us from behind, pushing us forward, even when we don’t feel like going. And while the stick gets results, it’s not the only tool we have available, and it’s never as effective as when it’s used in combination with the carrot.
The carrot is the promise of future reward. It’s the goal for which we strive. It’s what lights the path for us and keeps us moving forward.
When we lose sight of the goal — when it feels too far off or too elusive or too hard to reach — it becomes difficult to move forward, regardless of the power of the stick.
But the real power of any goal is usually not the goal itself, but rather in what accomplishing the goal will DO for us. How it will make so many things better going forward.
For example, we want to achieve a level of education, not for the achievement itself, but for our ability to use that education to increase our value in the marketplace. We want to achieve a specific designation or milestone in business, not because of the milestone itself, but because of how that milestone will impact our earning potential going forward. We want to reach a particular financial goal, not for the sake of achieving it, but for what it will do to the quality of our lives once we have achieved it.
So when the stick is not enough… when you’re struggling to push yourself forward, look farther ahead. Look not just to the goal, but past the goal to the better, brighter future the goal will help you achieve.
Time goes by, whether we’re moving at full speed toward our goals, or whether we’re standing still, paralyzed by fear and inaction.
So look ahead to your brighter future, the goals and experiences that make the work worthwhile. Picture that future often, and use your mental image of it to overcome inertia, reorganize your priorities and form the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.
If you rely on self-discipline alone, you may be disappointed. But when you combine that self-discipline with a firm focus on what you really want — your desire for a brighter future — it becomes far easier to take the necessary actions.
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