MOST effective way to renew your motivation is to seriously consider
giving up on your goal not as a trick, but sincerely.
Oddly enough, this can be extremely motivating. Why? Because
it brings you back to reality. After all, this is your goal.
This is not something you have to do; its something you
want to do.
But too often a goal you are initially
very enthusiastic about and want very badly becomes a drudging
chore you feel you have to do. Why does this happen?
When you first create a goal, you see the
big picture you see the result, you see what you want
and you feel motivated.
Then comes the work. You make your list
of things to be done to accomplish the goal. You realize it could
take many years. You get to work on it, and of course, you hit
setbacks. You get bogged down in details. You get bored with
tedius parts. And you might even forget why you wanted the goal
in the first place.
Your motivation wanes because your attention
is no longer on the goal, no longer on what you want. Your
attention is on the problems and on what you feel you have to
So you need to refresh your goals once
in awhile. Do a kind of mental reboot. Start by seriously considering
the possibility of giving up on your goal. Ask yourself, Do
I still want to achieve this goal?
Every once in awhile, when you ask this
question, you will find that in fact, you no longer want it
not because of demoralization, but because your values have changed,
or maybe youve thought of something better, or whatever.
But most of the time, once you think about
it and give yourself the freedom to give it up and start something
new, you will find you still want your goal.
That realization, all by itself, can make
you feel more motivated because now you dont feel you have
to accomplish your goal. Now you are freshly and vividly aware
you sincerely desire it, and thats a totally different
ONLY A PREFERENCE
One of the first principles of Albert Elliss work is to upgrade
your musts to preferences. That is essentially what you
do when you allow yourself the freedom to give up on your goal.
Ellis uses the principle in therapy because it brings people
back to reality. In reality, most of the things you feel you
have to do are things you actually simply prefer to do (given
the consequences one way or the other). But the feeling of wanting
to do something is positive and pleasant, while feeling you must
do something feels like drudgery.
So when Ellis does his therapy, he helps
his clients realize some of the musts and shoulds that run their
lives are merely preferences they themselves have chosen. This,
all by itself, removes a lot of craziness from their lives. It
gets rid of unnecessary negative emotions.
To give up your goal, to even consider
giving it up, and then choosing it anew reminds you that your
goal is a preference. It really isnt something you
have to do.
Someone might say, No, I really have
to, because if I dont, I cant make the mortgage.
But this is not entirely accurate. He does, in fact, have the
option of selling his house and living in a small apartment.
I cant do that! he says,
I have my wife and kids to think about. But the truth
is, he really could. And oddly enough, if there was something
he wanted badly enough, his wife and kids would probably be willing
to sacrifice luxuries for him.
But the point is, you often have many choices
you are unaware of. You have choices you havent thought
of. Why? Because you havent thought about it! You set your
goal a long time ago, and now youve got your nose to the
grindstone. You need to rise above your project once in awhile
and look at the whole picture.
If you think about it, if you look at the
whole picture, you may go back to the grindstone, but youll
feel good about it now. Youll realize you have chosen
it. You will have the alternatives to compare it to fresh in
your mind. And you will feel motivated. Youll feel better
and get more done.
SAME GOAL, DIFFERENT APPROACH
Sometimes you may feel like giving up because
what youre doing isnt working. One alternative to
giving up on the goal entirely is to keep the goal but change
your approach. For example, remember I tried to lose weight but was unsuccessful?
I thought, I cant seem to do it.
But now I understand that the way I was
trying didnt work. The goal was possible after all, but
the method I was using was doomed to failure, like trying to
criticize someone into a good mood or trying to cure anemia by
bloodletting. The philosophy of low-fat, high-carb dieting doesnt
work without a lot of self-discipline or social support.
In another example of this principle, a
group of Norweigans were able to stop Hitlers quest for
nuclear weapons by continually changing their approach.
Hitler wanted nuclear weapons. But first
he needed heavy water (deuterium oxide, D2O). Heavy
water is like H2O but the hydrogen is replaced by deuterium atoms
(which has has two extra neutrons so it is heavier than ordinary
After Germany invaded and occupied Norway,
Hitler used a facility there to begin the work. Making heavy
water required an enormous amount of equipment, and it took a
long time to get a sufficient amount, as the heavy water dripped
slowly to fill up the tanks.
The Allies found out about this project,
and of course, wanted to stop it. The British proposed bombing
the heavy-water plant, but it was so close to a town (Vemork),
the Norweigian resistance fighters talked them out of it. It
would create too many civilian casualties.
They still had the goal (stop Hitler from
developing nuclear weapons) but their approach needed to change.
Giving up the goal wasnt an option anyone seriously considered.
Hitler with nuclear weapons? It was unthinkable. So they
came up with a different approach.
The British launched a commando raid, using
silent gliders. But both gliders crashed, leaving 23 men alive.
The Nazis captured the survivors and executed them.
That approach didnt work. The Allies
needed another plan. This was one of Englands top military
priorities because they had good evidence Germany was close to
building an A-bomb. With only one such bomb, Hitler could easily
wipe out half of London.
Six Norwegian resistance fighters escaped
Norway and volunteered for training in England for the mission.
To avoid the fate of the last volunteers, they were all issued
a rubber capsule of cyanide to pop in their mouths if they were
captured. A soldier only had to bite on the capsule, and it would
burst. Within three seconds, he would be dead.
The six volunteers learned how to handle
explosives, worked out their plan, their timing, learned to make
detonators, studied diagrams of the buildings and the nearby
German military station, etc. This time they would leave nothing
to chance. Hitlers project had to be stopped.
The Norwegians parachuted in and
missed their landing spot by 20 miles. They tried to get to the
rendezvous point, but were caught in a blizzard. They were supposed
to meet four of their fellow sabateurs already in Norway.
When they eventually successfully got inside
the building, they were able to set explosive charges that destroyed
the heavy water cells. Success at last!
But the Germans rebuilt it within months.
It was obviously high on their priority list also.
This was tremendously discouraging and
alarming. That several-month delay, however, might have been
enough. Nobody was sure. The United States was pressing for bombing
the plant this was too important to be left to luck. And
finally it was done. British and American planes 388 bombers
in all dropped 828 bombs. They devastated the plant, but
unfortunately one of the places that was not destroyed was where
the heavy water cells were stored!
The Germans decided the heavy water they
had made so far was too vulnerable, so they planned to move it
to Germany. For the Allies, this was their last chance. They
couldnt let the heavy water make it into Germany.
To get the heavy water out of Norway, first
it had to be transported by ferry. Norwegian resistance fighters
successfully planted explosives on that ferry, sending it (and
all the heavy water) to the bottom of the lake. This was finally
the end of Germanys nuclear dream.
How many different approaches did they
try on this single goal? Four times they created a plan, trained
for it, mobilized the equipment and men, and executed their plan
before they finally succeeded in achieving the goal.
If you find yourself in a similar situation
still wanting the goal but having failed using the approach
you first came up with you have another option besides
giving up: You can come up with another way. You can use
what you learned in your first failed attempt to wipe the slate
clean and begin again, knowing what you now know, to create a
new plan using a different approach. This is another way to refresh
WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO
when you seriously consider giving up on a goal, you cant
decide whether you really want to or not. There are so many good
reasons and feelings on both sides, youre on the fence.
You dont know what you want to do. At times like that,
the best answer is finish what you started. When in doubt,
finish the job.
It is more efficient. You already have
something invested in the project, and you have no better alternative.
You may merely be in a temporary funk, and it would be foolish
to give up on your goal.
I used to occasionally have what I called
a doubt funk. It usually happened when I was in the middle of
a big project and I started thinking there was a better use of
my time; maybe I should be doing something different; maybe the
project would fail; maybe my destiny lay somewhere else and I
was wasting my time.
I never went into a doubt funk between
projects. Ive never had a problem thinking up new goals
and feeling enthusiastic about them.
But I suppose it was the grass is
always greener because no matter what I was working on,
I could think of other projects that might be a better use of
my time. I aborted a lot of perfectly good projects because of
it. I still have several half-finished books sitting in my filing
cabinets. Lots of projects of different kinds down through the
years never saw the light of day because a doubt funk came along
and deflated my motivation.
I eventually learned the way to handle
doubt funks: Finish the project. That policy will get the most
done with the greatest fun over a lifetime.
Half-finished projects are a waste of time.
To spend all that time getting something halfway done and then
stopping means all the hours spent on the project were wasted.
And wasting time is demoralizing.
I got the answer to doubt funks when I
read a true story about Dr. Archibald Cronin. When Cronin was
33, he was a doctor in London. Once in awhile, he had a doubt
funk, thinking maybe he should specialize in a different kind
of medical practice. He worried that what he was doing wasnt
Cronin eventually developed an ulcer and
his doctor prescribed the standard treatment of the time
six months complete rest in the country on a milk diet.
He went to a small farm outside a village
in the Scottish Highlands. After about a week, this very energetic,
high-strung man was climbing the walls. His mind was thrashing
around for something to do. Then he realized hed always
wanted to write a novel if he ever found the time. He suddenly
realized he had the time! So he began.
After three months of being engrossed in
the project, he sent his handwritten pages to his secretary to
type up for him. When he received his first chapter and read
it, he was devastated. It was terrible.
He understood with clarity and certainty
that he had no business trying to be a writer. He was defeated,
demoralized, and embarrassed.
In his anguish and shame, he threw the
whole manuscript into the trash.
Feeling glad and relieved that he had come
to his senses, he went for a walk, where he ran into Angus,
the farmer, and stopped to chat, as he often did. When Cronin
told Angus what he had just done, Angus was silent for a long
Then Angus spoke. My father ditched
this bog all his days and never made a pasture.
He stopped digging and looked at Cronin.
Ive dug it all my days and never made a pasture.
But pasture or no pasture, said Angus as he pushed the
shovel back into the bog, I canna help but dig. For my
father knew and I know that if you only dig enough a pasture
can be made here.
Angus kept digging. Doggedly. Relentlessly.
Cronin stood there watching him, and while
he watched he experienced an intense personal crisis and then
Cronin saw his situation as the pattern
hed followed all his life: He would start off in a particular
direction and never get anywhere because doubt would overtake
him halfway through it.
And then he saw it as a pattern and revelation
not just for himself, but for all of humanity. He wrote later,
In this present chaos, with no shining vision to sustain
us, the door is wide open to darkness and despair. The way to
close that door is to stick to the job that we are doing, no
matter how insignificant that job may be, to go on doing it,
and to finish it.
Cronin stomped back to his room and pulled
his manuscript out of the trash. He was angry and fiercely determined.
He got back to work on the manuscript and would not stop, no
matter what kind of doubt or frustration he encountered. He kept
working until he finally finished the thing.
He randomly chose a publisher out of a
catalog and mailed off the manuscript. Then he relaxed and recovered
from his ulcer.
Just as he was preparing to head back to
London, he received a telegram from the publisher: they were
interested. Unbelievably, the manuscript he had once thrown away
was published as a novel in 1931 (Hatters Castle)
and sold three million copies. It was even made into a movie.
When you dont know whether to give
up a goal or finish it, the answer is the same for you and me
as it was for Cronin: Go to work on the current project, determined
and resolute, and finish it.
MANAGING THE PROJECT
After you finish your project, then
think about what you want to do next. On your way to a goal,
you will think of other goals. Write down those ideas and file
them. Then get back to your current project. When you are finished
and youre ready to decide on the next goal, look to your
file for ideas.
And make sure you take the time to choose
your goal. Carefully weigh the possibilities. Make your decision
a project. You may be spending a lot of time on your next goal.
It is a very important decision. Dont choose carelessly
or on a whim. Take your time.
And when you periodically refresh your
goals, give it some time. Take the time to consider your goal.
Find out if you really want it. Most of the time youll
be surprised to find you really do. That is one of the best ways
of all to cultivate your motivation.
This is the last of seven principles of