Why Motivation Doesn’t Work

The issue with motivation is that it never lasts. Motivation comes from emotion, and emotion is temporary. It’s tough to always feel like doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes you just don’t feel like it.

When you only do things when you feel like it, behavior and results are erratic. When emotions or moods go down, productivity stops. And then it’s a mission of trying to get back the motivation that was lost. You begin to question yourself and you feel stuck. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The solution: Do it anyway. Through taking action in spite of emotion, the job gets done. You grow, become empowered and in turn can become more motivated from taking the action you needed to. Self-trust and integrity grows, and you really begin to believe you can keep to your word, and self-image and self-esteem grows along with it.

The next time lack of motivation gets in the way of doing what you’re supposed to be doing, do it anyway.

The Three Ps: A Mental Framework to Deal With Your Problems

The three Ps come from research on happiness by Martin Seligman, described in Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Sandberg is the COO of Facebook, and a few years ago found her husband dead on a hotel gym floor. The book is about how she dealt with the trauma and grief, and strategies to deal with adversity.

And that’s where the three Ps comes in. When people inevitably come across adversity in life, there are three common things we say to ourselves which make things worse.

The first P is personalization. Personalization means that when things go wrong, you blame yourself. After all, you’re the common factor in all the problems you come across, right? And we’ve also been taught concepts like internal locus of control, and taking responsibility of our lives too. But where there is a misunderstanding is the difference between taking responsibility and placing fault or blame on yourself.

When I was first starting out as a door-to-door salesman, I rarely sold anything. Of course, the natural self-talk was to blame myself. “I suck, wow I’m really bad at this. No-one wants to buy anything from me. Oh God, I’m way worse than I thought I’d be at this.” As good as it is to take responsibility for your results, it is important to understand that firstly, you’re not the only one finding it difficult. Many people have gone through the same struggle you’re going through too, no matter what it is. Secondly, just because someone didn’t buy off you doesn’t mean it’s all your fault. To this day, most prospects still decline the product I’m offering. When someone declines my offer, my self-talk nowadays is: “They didn’t want it.” No blame on anyone, just stating the facts. Of course, I still try to improve at sales, but I try not to beat myself up when things aren’t going well.

The second P is pervasiveness. Pervasiveness means that a problem in one area of your life ends up pervading, or spreading, to every other part of life. Work problems get taken into your home, into intimate relationships, into aspects of mental and physical health and so on. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

During the same, harrowing period starting in door-to-door sales, I slowly began to realize that I was basing my value as a human being solely on whether I had made sales that day or not. And of course, most days I wasn’t making sales. So, my value was pretty fucking low. I didn’t want to speak to anyone after work, and I was getting into a deeper and deeper hole of low-confidence where it was going to take a gargantuan effort to escape. I even ate junk food to try to make myself feel better. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It doesn’t even make any sense. There’s a lot more to life than work. And there’s a lot of stuff that you’re actually pretty good at. Nowadays, as a sales manager, I always remind new salespeople that the amount of sales they make doesn’t equate to their value as a person. I’m also much better at compartmentalizing work problems as work problems, and not letting those issues infect other parts of my life.

The third P is permanence. Permanence means that you come to believe that the problem will always be there, and that how terrible you’re feeling right now is destined never to end.

As already mentioned, I became stuck in a vicious circle where self-confidence was going so low that I didn’t know if it would ever come back. Luckily, everything in life is impermanent. There’s nothing in life that isn’t impermanent, even life itself will end at some point. So having the grit to stick in there and understand that a bad period won’t last forever gives hope for the future and inspiration for the present moment.

In what situations did the three Ps play a part in your life? And how did you overcome it? I’d love to know, comment below.

The Happiness Equation: Is It Easy to Be Happy?

The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha is a hugely readable, enjoyable and informative book on one of humanity’s biggest conundrums: “How can I be happy?”

At the end of the day, all people want in life is to be happy, and this is by far the best book on happiness that I have come across. It is written in nine different chapters filled with short sub-sections, and an easy-to-remember one-liner to finish off each section.

Here’s my summary:

Be Happy First

A lot of people get caught up on thinking, “If I achieve/do/have this, I will be happy”, and don’t realize that happiness is a mindset. Pasricha describes that the composition of happiness is 10% circumstances and 90% everything else. There are no guarantees that the end-goal will make you happy, and even if it does bring joy at the end, you’ll be spending the whole journey stressed and unhappy. If we were to imagine the happiest people we know, it’s not always the wealthiest, most successful people. So if we can switch our mindset to happiness as a default, not only will our lives be more enjoyable, we could even reach our goals faster too.

“Happy people don’t have the best of everything, they make the best of everything.”

Do it For You

One of the greatest inhibitors of happiness is a lack of self-confidence. Pasricha splits a graph into four quadrants, with “Opinion of self” and “Opinion of others” on each axis. Self-confidence is when both opinions are high. We see ourselves and other people as competent, moral, of good character. If someone has a low opinion of others and a high opinion of himself, he is considered arrogant. On the other hand, if he has a high opinion of others and a low opinion of himself, he is considered insecure. Finally, if he has a low opinion of both himself and others, he is classified as cynical.

Probably the most pervasive of the four conditions is the one of insecurity. One of the biggest reasons we may feel insecure is when we act as people-pleasers, or when we are searching for external validation. When we inevitably fail to please someone or our hard work ends up falling on deaf ears, it can be miserable.

So how can we make ourselves immune to criticism or lack of recognition? Do it for you. If the primary motivation for doing something is just because you want to, it’s known as internal validation. This means that it no longer matters what the outside world thinks or says, because you’re just doing what you want to do, and you like yourself for it.

Remember the Lottery

This is another way of describing how lucky you are to even be alive. What are the chances that the universe created life on Earth, and created you? The fact that only one in 15 of every person who has ever lived is still alive, and you being one of them, is a blessing. So no matter how bad it gets, you’re still lucky enough to be breathing. Not every person has the privilege of doing that.

Never Retire

Pasricha starts off the chapter with the story of a teacher at his college that reluctantly retired and within a few days fell ill and died. He attributed the death to the lack of purpose that set in for him soon after retirement.

He goes on to highlight that on the Japanese island of Okinawa nobody retires, and almost everyone lives to over the age of 100. They all have an ikigai, a reason for waking up in the morning that gives them joy or meaning in life.

It turns out that retirement is an entirely invented concept, relatively new to the world. The concept was put into action in Germany less than 150 years ago, and it could be argued that it doesn’t work.

Work brings more benefits than just a monthly paycheck. Most work is social – a place to make friends, connect with people and work in a team. It also adds structure and routine that is so important in living healthily. The stimulation that work entails is a good physical and/or mental exercise. Finally, work can sometimes add extra purpose and meaning to life if the role especially helps other people, or works towards a better world.

Overvalue You

Pasricha invites us to calculate how much we make per hour. Most people get paid on a salary, and they can stray away from the usual 40-hour workweek. Interestingly, traditionally high-paying jobs like lawyers end up getting paid a very similar hourly wage to lower-paid jobs simply because they work way more hours. I’m not entirely convinced about the point Pasricha makes, but there could be some level of truth to it.

The main point of the chapter is to stand back and ask whether you are spending your time in the way that you want to, and whether your hourly wage justifies the job you’re doing.

Create Space

Pasricha points out that we all need space in our lives devoid of thinking and doing, otherwise we can suffer from burnout, or stress-related illnesses. But how do we create that blank space in our calendars?

Pasricha argues that multi-tasking is impossible and that people are better off separating tasks and doing them one by one, with minimal distractions. He also brings up the idea of making shorter deadlines. People almost always leave projects until the last minute, so why don’t we squeeze out the time usually reserved for procrastination by bringing forward the deadline?

The amount of decisions we need to make on a daily basis can also affect how effective we are. By reducing the number of small decisions we need to make, we can free up our brainpower for larger, more important decisions. President Obama only had suits in two different colors, while ex-Navy SEAL Jocko Willink writes down what he’s going to do that day the evening before.

Just Do It

So much of our lives are spent thinking instead of doing. It can lead to the very real condition of ‘paralysis by analysis’.

Pasricha describes the relationship of being able to do something (can do), having motivation to do it (want to do), and doing it (do). Instead of viewing it as a linear relationship i.e. “I have to be able to do it, and want to do it, before I do it”, we can imagine it as a circular relationship that feeds back into itself. Therefore, we can start at any of the three conditions to get the momentum going. However, the one that is under our control the most is “Do”. By forcing yourself to do something even if you don’t want to or don’t think you’re able to, it actually makes the other two more likely to come true. This can be related to cold showers, training for a competition, or going to the gym.

Be You

“There’s nothing more satisfying than being loved for who you are and nothing more painful than being loved for who you’re not but pretending to be.”

Happiness can’t be achieved without authenticity. It’s so easy in the modern world to wear a mask, and be what people want you to be. But as Gandhi once said, “Happiness is when what you think, say and do are in harmony.” This may sound extremely difficult, but it’s actually quite simple if you forget about what other people will think of it.

One of the most impactful parts of The Happiness Equation is when Pasricha shares the The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, a book by Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse from Australia. Here they are:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Hopefully we can learn from the dying by not making the same mistakes. In a nutshell, authenticity removes regret.

Don’t Take Advice

Customer: What’s the best dish on the menu?”

Waiter: The fettuccine alfredo.

Customer: I’ll go for the pizza please.

Why do we do this? We already know what we want, but we still ask for advice. Sometimes we take the advice instead of doing what we want, and we regret it. There is so much conflicting advice everywhere we look. What’s the healthiest diet? Should I buy an old car or a new one? Do I need to take supplements?

Pasricha highlights that there are conflicting clich├ęs that we accept as true. Good things come to those who wait. But the early bird gets the worm. He who hesitates is lost. But look before you leap. There are countless other examples.

In the end, a combination of our heart and common sense will probably tell us what to do.

What was the biggest takeaway from this summary of The Happiness Equation? Let me know in the comments below!

Ed Cooke: Sometimes All You Need to Do is Sit on the Loo and Zoom Out

Ed Cooke is a certified Grandmaster of Memory that was featured on Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routine and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers. The following excerpt has come in handy on several occasions since I first came across this.

It goes:

“When I was at school, I would lose a debating competition or discover that I was a loser in a more general sense. I had what I call, in a way, a ‘mind hack’. I’d be sitting on the loo or something and I’d just think, ‘Oh, everything feels terrible and awful. It’s all gone to shit.’ Then I’d consider, ‘But if you think about it, the stars are really far away,’ then you try to imagine the world from the stars. Then you sort of zoom in and you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s this tiny little character there for a fragment of time worrying about X.'”

We all experience problems. Sometimes though, we can focus on how it’s so terrible that the problem completely balloons out of proportion in the grand scale of life and the universe.

The above quote from Ed Cooke is a very simple, but powerful visualization. I tend to prefer imagining my body from a bird’s-eye view and zooming out slowly, like Google Maps would. I can then include other people in my mind’s eye as I zoom out further – neighbors, people driving their cars, farmers ploughing fields, office workers etc.

Through this visualization, we can understand how many other people occupy this world, and that they have problems too! So why aren’t we hung up on those people’s problems to the same degree, even though some (or most) of them are worse than ours? It’s the inflated sense of self-importance while simultaneously forgetting the interconnectedness of the world. Sometimes a brilliant way to solve our own problem is to solve somebody else’s.

A lot of our individual problems can come from self-consciousness. But sometimes we forget that it’s not only us that suffers from this, the whole world does to at least some degree. A simple example from my own life would be as a door-to-door salesman it used to be incredibly nerve-wracking to knock on someone’s door and speak to them. But once I recognized that the person who answered the door was probably just as nervous or scared of silly old me at the same time, it was much easier to relax. Sometimes we view every other person as formidable, competent, and confident, everyone except ourselves. But it’s important to remember – we all feel the same things, and we are all human.