Thursday, October 29, 2009

What motivates *you*?

A long time ago I realized that when it comes to motivation, we’re all different.

I used to love making New Year’s resolutions. It always put me in a fantastic mood. A fresh start feels so invigorating. Each time I was just sure I’d buckle down and exercise every day, or write that novel, or get organized once and for all.

Sound familiar?

And have you found, like me, that you always break those promises to yourself? That your resolve melts and you turn back into who you were before that great, invigorating mood filled you?

If this is you, then welcome to the club. Whatever magical energy or character trait has propelled the megasuccesses we see on t.v., it is clear that most of us don’t have it.

Obviously, people like us make up a very big market. In fact, a major industry has emerged, devoted to cheerleading us into positive thinking and self-confidence, believing in ourselves, talking ourselves into being winners. And no matter how many books and programs appear, there is always a need for more of them. How strange that so many people still aren’t able to drive themselves to success. What’s the matter with us?

Were our Puritan forefathers right—that humans are born with bad stuff in them, streaks of laziness and weakness, negative thinking and worse? But then, why would nature allow the survival of such a defective species?

I began to get suspicious. Looking back over the past 30 years, I’ve somehow managed to build a life I love: I do work that excites me, I have good people around me and do a lot of traveling to beautiful places. I’ve published 7 books, speak around the U.S. and Europe, and have people writing me every day saying how helpful my work has been to them. That’s pretty much my whole list for a good life.

I did all of that without self-discipline or improving my character one iota. I complained loudly and often harbored self-doubt in my heart.

But when it comes to my dreams, I found out how to do it.

And so can you. Look back into your past and ask yourself the same question I did: What motivated you? You too have accomplished a lot in your life. You went to school, held a job and/or raised kids. Look at what you’ve accomplished and you will find, as I did, that you have your own energy source. You have instinctively developed ways that motivate you to swing into action and get things done.

You can use those same ways to create a life you love.

Here's how to write yourself a motivational report card\.

I've made a list of all the methods I know that could make us stick to our resolutions. I’m sure you’re familiar with them, and maybe even tried a few. How well did they work for you? Give each one a grade (A to F) for how much they've actually motivated you into action in the past (not how much you wish they worked if you had a better character). Whatever works for you gets an A. Whatever doesn’t, flunk it soundly. It may have done wonders for someone else, but we’re looking for what works for you.

Pull out a pencil and a sheet of paper and copy this list (or copy and paste this into a document and print it out). Then grade each one, and make your comment.

Method Grade Comment









Taking a Class


Positive Thinking

Getting Lots of Praise

Repeating Affirmations


Creating your own reality

Promising Yourself a Reward

Help from buddies

Now look at that list. Do you see any patterns in what motivates you and what causes to you fail? I hope you’re starting to understand where the blame belongs for your past defeats. Nothing was wrong with you. You were using the wrong motivational methods, and they held you back as surely as trying to run a race with a stone in your shoe.

If you've answered all these questions, you now you have the right knowledge to take charge of your own motivational program. If you need praise, call your friends and ask them if they can think of anything good about you, and if so, would they tell you. (TiP: Do it by email and you'll be able to read the results when you need them. If you prefer the telephone, head over to one of the free conference call services on the internet so you can record it and play it back at will :-)

If you need to be pushed, set up a buddy system and you can help each other. Or take a class or hire a coach. The structure and accountability really works.

If you work best in a team, pull some people into your project to work with you or just get together once a week and help every member with his or her own goals. If you're really serious about getting somewhere in a short time, check out one of my best ideas: Success Teams are now running in cities and towns all over the world and now, on the telephone. See if you can join one today and get the support you need.

And give yourself a break by never again assuming that you should be able to win using someone else’s motivational style. That’s over. You’re the expert on what you need, so listen to yourself!

{adapted from Live The Life You Love in 10 Easy Step-by-Step Lessons, winner of "Best Motivational Book of 1996" from Books For A Better Life Award Commission)


  1. You never stop giving great advice. Practical and doable. And often fun! Thank you for sharing your knowledge so generously.

  2. A belated but sincere thanks, Alexandra!

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