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The Mystery of Motivation and Change

I have spent years fascinated by goal setting, motivation, and life change. Here is what I have come up with as a roadmap or process for change.

This topic of motivation and life change is one that I research and write about. I am 55 yrs old and I have the perspective of someone who started out with nothing and over time built businesses and studied success and motivation. I am so fascinated by this topic that, at age 51, I went and got a PhD at Oklahoma State University and studied personality and how it impacts performance.

This is a very complex issue and requires substantial study, self-awareness, and effort to create positive life change.

Here are the things I believe after studying, living, experiencing for several decades:

SH*T HAPPENS – Life is a continuous series of setbacks and challenges – everyone deals with constant distractions, challenges, difficult people, difficult circumstances, loss, doubt, frustration, disappointment. But, it is possible to gain a sense of control and pursue happiness and well-being.

CLARITY MATTERS – Having a clearly focused direction (goal) in mind is absolutely necessary. You need to go through a decision-making process, which requires time, and you need to make a fully informed decision while in your “best mind.” This needs to be something in writing and should be posted where you see it on a regular basis. The decision should include a lot of detail describing what you are going toward, who you will become, what you will achieve. I call this the DECISION step.

KNOWLEDGE MATTERS – Next, you have to learn everything you possibly can about what you want to do. If you want to become a professional pilot, then you study like crazy all the routes to achieving this goal, you talk to mentors, you research, you explore, read. If you want to lose weight, you read as many books as possible and consider the options, talk to others, learn from other’s experiences, even read research papers, science web sites. I call this step INVESTIGATE.

INTERPRETATION MATTERS – One step that I think often gets missed is taking all the information you gather and sorting through it to decide what will work, in reality, for you. We often get a dopamine high when we make a decision and have that moment of motivation – we feel bold and inspired. Then we want to jump in and start doing stuff and we fizzle out quickly. For example, “man I am going to get in shape – I’ll start getting up at 4:30am and running 5 miles.” That may or may not be a good strategy for you. But if you take time to investigate options and then sort through all the options from a point of self-awareness, then you can determine what methods and processes will work best for you. This will then be rooted in the reality of who you are and your specific life circumstances. I call this step SORT.

TRANSITION FROM THINKING TO DOING – At this point, you made a decision, gathered information, sorted through to determine what fits you best and now you are ready to make a plan. Creating a plan that will take you from the point of decision to accomplishment is part art and part science. I think there are several key steps to conceiving a solid plan. The plan should be a written plan, it should be supported by specific habits, you should have a powerful WHY that you can verbalize as part of your plan, you have to anticipate the challenges that will arise and have preconceived solutions, you need accountability, you need guidance, milestones, etc. There is a lot here and this can’t be rushed. I call this step CONCEIVE.

NOW THE FUN BEGINS – Next, you are ready to implement. This transition from thinking to doing is where a lot of people give up or stumble. But, if you have done the previous steps effectively – you have increased your odds significantly of making a successful transition to doing. Implementation is driven by incremental steps and habit formation and giving up old things that do not fit in your new future. Of course, this step is IMPLEMENT.

WHY DID I EVER THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? – Then as you are humming along with the implementation of the plan you begin to hit obstacles and that little voice in your head starts talking. There are unexpected setbacks, there is doubt, there are negative people, there are health issues, and there are plenty of reasons why the old life looks pretty darn good. At this stage, you have to have set yourself up for perseverance. Perseverance emerges when you have created the conditions that support perseverance. This means you have created room in your life – dropped tons of useless crap and wasted time out of your life. You have committed to healthy routines (exercise, eating, spiritual, meditation) and you have a compelling vision for the future that generates motivation. You also should understand your personality and how it effects you (I’ll comment more later on this). This stage is PERSEVERE.

WOW, I AM ACTUALLY MAKING PROGRESS – Once you get the plan moving and you overcome some obstacles and setbacks, you will have experience that can inform change. It is time to self-assess, get feedback from mentors, tweak your plan, improve, learn from mistakes, and prepare to step up your game. I call this step in the process LOOP (for feedback loop).

BECOME THE 24/7 BUTT KICKER – Now you have a highly refined plan, experience, new found self-efficacy and you are ready to kick some butt. You know where you are going and how you are going to get there. You are ready to accelerate to escape velocity and leave the old life behind. You tell friends and family members that you won’t be as available for a while. You clear your calendar of non-essential activities. You lock into a level of focus and intensity like you have never seen before. People think you are crazy. You become the charging Rhinoceros that is absolutely unstoppable. This is the INTENSIFY step.

TAKE NOTE – As you approach the accomplishment of your goal, it is critical that you don’t let it all fade into the abyss of normalization. You want to celebrate, notice the person you have become, memorialize the journey and the accomplishment. Set a platform, higher than it was before, where you reside and where you define yourself. This prepares you to begin this process all over again as you set your next goal with new found confidence, abilities, experience, and vision for the future.

LOVE IT AND EMBRACE IT – Finally, none of this is worth dirt if you are not happy and creating a sense of ever increasing well-being. I love positive psychology and I think it is critical to understand what Dr. Martin Seligman (the father of positive psychology) teaches with his PERMA model. PERMA stands for positive emotion, engagement, meaning, relationships, and accomplishment. By nurturing, intentionally, all of these while you are creating life change – you will increase happiness and well-being. This is based on some really good research by Dr. Seligman and others. And there are ways to nurture PERMA. I call this step ENJOY.

You may have noticed that the first letter of these 10 steps, decide, investigate, sort, conceive, implement, loop, intensify, notice, enjoy spell out the word DISCIPLINE. All of this is what I research and write about.

This summary I write above is just a quick early morning brain dump of what I study and love. I hope it is helpful – I have not ever described it exactly as I do above. I have a book coming out in Jan 2020 called DISCIPLINE STRATEGY. I hope it resonate with people.

Everyone struggles with life change because it is darn hard. Here are some FREE resources if you want to investigate further:

As a personality researcher, I developed a personality test that helps you understand strengths and weaknesses as it relates to all of those steps above. It is free and is here: https://disciplinestrategy.com/my-personality/

I’ve also pulled together a set of worksheets related to Dr Seligman’s PERMA concept. You can download this by clicking on the DOWNLOAD GUIDE TO WELL-BEING button in the upper right-hand corner.

Life change is possible and it all starts with a decision.