Two keys to achieving an unrealistic goal (review)

motivationThis review first ran in the May 12 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win

By Jeff Haden

Portfolio / Penguin


I have a picture that’s worth one word and 38 pounds.

That word is “ugh” and 38 pounds is how much weight I’ve lost since the photo was taken back in mid-February.

I was neither the picture of health nor a model of restraint and self-discipline. Instead, I was well on my way to becoming the poster boy for type 2 diabetes and the cardiac intensive care unit.

NOT EXACTLY THE PICTURE OF HEALTH: Some photos are worth a thousand words. This one was worth one word – ugh – plus 38 pounds and counting. This was my motivation to eat less, eat smarter, move more and stick to the daily routine.

So I set a big goal of shrinking myself by 20 per cent. My days would start and end with exercise. My lifelong love affair with junk, fast and fried foods was abruptly over. Dessert was off the dinner menu.

I’ve resisted temptation and stuck with the daily routine thanks to the dropping numbers on the bathroom scale and clothes that no longer fit like a sausage casing.

This would come as no surprise to Jeff Haden, author of The Motivation Myth.

Maybe you’re also looking to get yourself into game shape. Or you’re angling for a promotion, considering a career change or thinking about launching your own business.

Whatever your goal, set it and then forget it. Focus instead on what you’ll do today to move a step closer to achieving your dream.

Your goal should be unrealistic but your path for getting there must be realistic.

“Everyone has goals,” says Haden. “The people who actually achieve their goals create routines. They build systems. They consistently take the steps that, in time, will ensure they reach their ultimate goal. They don’t wish. They don’t hope. They just do what their plan says, consistently and without fail.”

High achievers who reach their goals recognize that the pain of regret is much greater than the pain of discipline.

That discipline to stay the course will set off a virtuous cycle. Each day, you’ll feel good about successfully taking a step. Feeling good will give your self-confidence a boost. You’ll then have the added confidence to take the next step and continue moving forward.

“Success is a process. Success is repeatable and predictable. Success is less to do with hoping and praying and strategizing than with diligently doing (after a little strategizing, sure): doing the right things, the right way, over and over and over.

“Inevitable success is the best success of all – and it will happen when you set your goal, forget your goal and focus on working your process.”

Haden says success is the only true recipe for sustained motivation. So don’t waste time waiting for inspiration to strike. And don’t bank on your boss, significant other, a motivational speaker or a walk across hot coals to fire you up.

“The problem with waiting for motivation to strike is that it almost never comes with enough voltage to actually get you started.”

Along with not focusing on your goal, Haden says we shouldn’t talk about it either. Yes, family and friends may offer moral support. And we could feel a sense of obligation to stay true to our word and make the change. But there’s a far greater risk that we’ll confuse talking with doing and fool ourselves into believing we’re further along the path of becoming who we want to be.

“Don’t tell me your goals,” says Haden. “Don’t tell me your dreams. Tell me your plan.  Your dreams are important, but your plan is what will allow you to achieve your goals and live out your dreams. Don’t wait for inspiration. Get started. Work your plan. When you do, you’ll find all the motivation you need.”

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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