Have you lost your motivation?
Perhaps, despite months of hard work, a business idea you once felt passionate about isn’t taking off.
Or maybe you feel overwhelmed by the volume of tasks and choices you face each day and can’t gain momentum on your personal or professional projects.
Jeff Haden is the author of The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win.
He studied how high achievers like tennis champion Venus Williams and former Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher get motivated to win in business.
Decide What Skills You Want To Improve
Alongside competing in tennis at a world-class level, Williams runs a design company and a fitness and apparel company.
Considering the demands of tennis, Haden was surprised by how hands-on Williams is in her businesses.
She told Haden, “They’re just things I was interested in and decided to try to get better at.”
This decision helped Williams find her motivation to succeed.
“[High-achievers] have this virtuous cycle of constant effort, improvement, validation and motivation that fed on itself basically forever,” Haden said.
“Whereas everyone that felt stuck was waiting for this major lightning bolt.”
Decide Your One Question
When pursuing a personal or professional goal, find one question that drives you toward an ideal outcome.
Haden cites the example of Herb Kelleher, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines who died in January 2019.
Kelleher, like many CEOs, had to answer hundreds of questions per day.
“Kelleher framed everything through the lens of, ‘Will this make Southwest Airlines the low-cost provider?’” said Haden.
Kelleher considered every question through this lens. Haden said:
If the answer is “Yes”, then the answer to the question is probably yes or at least it’s worth exploring. And if it’s “No,” well then you say, “No, we’re not doing that.”
Establishing one question will become part of your identity and how you see the world.
For example, a manager might see two employees struggling with interpersonal issues in the office.
“Would a good leader ignore dysfunction in a team?” Haden asked. “And the answer to that of course, is ‘No,’ and that guides your decision.”
Similarly, an aspiring marathon runner won’t ask, “Do I feel like running today?” Instead, they’ll say, “Would a marathon runner miss this workout?”
Know Your Number
Seeking the latest new productivity strategy or pushing yourself to work harder is well and good, but it’s more effective to find and track one number that matters.
During his research, Haden met two women who founded a marketing agency.
Part of their job involved placing sales calls. However, they found this process time-consuming and burdensome.
They needed five new clients a month and had a one out of ten strike rate.
“If nothing changes, you need to make about 50 calls. If that gets you the outcome that you need, then that’s an okay process,” Haden told them.
“You can still work to improve your strike rate, and you can get better at pitching. But nonetheless, if that’s the outcome you need, then you know your number.”
Other example numbers include a daily word count for writers, new leads for marketers, tickets closed for customer support reps, and workouts per week for athletes.
Once you hit your number for the day, week or month, work on something else or take a break. In other words, do more by doing less.
Become A Serial Achiever
Consider how many ongoing projects you face today.
Perhaps you want to launch a marketing campaign, hire new executives and refresh your company’s branding.
Or perhaps you’re running multiple new businesses at once.
“The more things that you are trying to achieve, especially if they are big, then the less likely you are to achieve any of those,” Haden said.
Instead, he proposes focusing intensely on one big project or pursuit until it’s gained enough momentum to succeed without your intervention. Then move onto the next one.
Ask yourself what pursuit or project will have the biggest impact, much like a lever. Then focus exclusively on that for the medium-term.
“When you get to the other end, then you can say, ‘Okay, have I gotten everything I wanted out of this? Is it time to try something new?’” said Haden.
“You take the knowledge and the self-confidence that comes from having accomplished something big. You can say, ‘This is going to be really hard, but … I can accomplish this too.’”
Once you know where you want to improve, determine a single question that you can frame the world through.
Identify a number for tracking progress and focus exclusively on one project until you’ve gained enough momentum to succeed.
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