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Motivation to Drive Goal Success

Motivation and systems play a vital role in achieving personal and professional goal success. Understanding how motivation works and the types of motivation that provides stimuli for me and others that I lead is critical to leadership success.

Systems have given me structure, order, and focus. Some I have taken from teachings and readings over the years, for example, Atomic Habits by James Clear. Others seemed to make sense and were formed as a result of a brain-thrust from sidebar conversations with trusted colleagues, mentors, and teachers. With that said, consider these a collection of cheat codes, like those you get in a game, to help you advance and become successful. Let’s dive in!

The Three Influential Factors of Motivation to Drive Goal Success

In my dissertation on group dynamics with an emphasis on cohesion, I came across several motivational theories that aligned very well with the strategic elements of cohesion: belonging, value, and commitment.  Among these theories, McClelland’s Needs Theory stood out as particularly relevant. Here’s a breakdown of the three areas of motivation that influence individuals toward goal success:

  1. Affiliation (belonging) – One’s need and desire to be with others, to be liked, and to be needed.
  2. Achievement (value) – Wanting to grow, develop, and advance. To be acknowledged for contributions, ideas, solutions, feel a personal sense of satisfaction for a job well done, and collect riches and rewards along the way.
  3. Influential Power (commitment) – Molding one’s thinking to go beyond what they may initially see as possible. Finding the internal spark that drives one to success even when their energy may be low or lost. When our influential power is in play, we help others do the right thing whether anyone is watching or not.

What Motivates People to Achieve Goal Success?

Part of attaining a goal relies heavily on our will to do something. While skill proficiency is undoubtedly valuable, the will to achieve is the driving force behind goal attainment.

For instance, I can have the skill to jump high, run fast, and lift more than my body weight. Or, I can develop skills to kayak, and learn about water safety and techniques to maneuver easily on the water. Take breathing exercises to calm my fear of the water. However, if I do not desire to put these skills to use, or if I do not desire to achieve a final outcome like overcoming an obstacle that holds me back, then no level of skill proficiency will drive me to do it. Goal attainment requires “will” then “skill,” in that order.

There are two primary factors or forms of stimuli that influence how one feels about goals:

  • Extrinsic – pay, title, status, diplomas, home, car, office, equipment, electronics, etc.
  • Intrinsic – recognition, affirmations, appreciation of and for self, and accomplishing personal breakthroughs.

Extrinsic motivators include external rewards such as pay raises, promotions, titles, and material possessions. While these incentives provide temporary satisfaction, their impact fades over time.

On the other hand, intrinsic motivators, such as recognition, affirmations, and self-appreciation, hold the key to sustained motivation. When we connect with a goal on an emotional level, our efforts become fueled by an unwavering desire. Intrinsic motivation goes beyond the immediate gratification of extrinsic rewards and provides lasting fulfillment.

The biggest motivator toward goal achievement is one’s desire to attain the thing being sought or pursued. That is why, we must connect with the goal on an emotional level (desire). Our will drives our efforts to hang in there even when things get rough.

There is nothing wrong with extrinsic motivators. Take getting a pay raise or promotion as an example (extrinsic). Yes, receiving a bump in pay and a status upgrade certainly makes us feel good and even allows us to hold our head a little higher and put a bigger bounce in our step. The reality of it is this feeling is short-lived. After a couple of pay periods, the thrill of the increase is gone.

On the other hand, we work hard to finish a project. We overcome a barrier in life. It goes well. Our family or boss, colleagues, and team members appreciate the dedication, effort, and determination. They tell us we did a super job, and provide us some form of appropriate recognition and/or affirmation (intrinsic). We internalize these acknowledgements and solidify an emotional connection with the work. This feeling about our achievement goes much further and lasts longer. Oftentimes, I have heard clients tell me how important it was for them to gain feedback on their work from colleagues and supervisors. They just wanted someone to take notice of the effort they put into the task or solution. Such a simple concept. The form of motivation meaning the most to us has nothing to do with money and everything to do with recognition of role and appreciation of identity.

All-in-all, through the motivation process, we seek confirmation of our value. The work became more than a series of tasks that ended with a result, it was seen and felt as meaningful and purposeful. People feel their work has value when they understand that what they do matters, not just to themselves, but to others as well. This “value of meaningful work” is the second element of a culture infused with cohesion.

Tap into Motivation and Systems

Motivation and systems are the backbone of success. By understanding the different types of motivation and cultivating intrinsic motivators, you can unlock your full potential and sustain motivation throughout your journey. Additionally, implementing effective systems provides structure, order, and focus, propelling you toward your goals.

What systems can be used for successful goal completion?

When a goal is first set out, it is more likely to be achieved when the structure of the goal statement complies with the S.M.A.R.T. goal format. Meaning whatever the target, it must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-driven. But that formula alone is not enough. It takes desire and systems to drive goal success.

Systems come in many shapes and sizes. They may be used individually, or in conjunction with others depending on the unique situation. In this edition and the next two newsletters, I will be providing a list of systems, descriptions, and practical examples to offer a brief perspective on the system and how it is used. The list is being broken down into three or four systems each newsletter as I recommend getting the hang of a few systems at a time before adding on more. It’s like when you decide to lose weight, strive to be perfect and then things fall apart when you eat your first cookie. Begin adding a few of these systems to your daily routine and practice them for the next two weeks. Then I’ll introduce you to a few more that you can work into your routine and so on.

It is recommended to follow up with a coach, mentor, or trusted advisor for more insight on how to get the most out of a single or combined implementation of goal systems.

System 1: Habit Stacking

This system involves combining two habits together, essentially stacking one on top of the other. For instance, if you drink coffee each morning and you want to read a book, you can habit stack these two items very easily. Your mind has already established a routine for making your coffee each morning. Whether it be at home through a coffee maker, or a trip to your favorite coffee shop. The goal is to read (at a minimum) five pages of material each day while the coffee is brewing, or you are waiting in line. The brain will easily add the second habit to the first because it requires minimal effort to do so. Also, in this example, you have incorporated the concept of Least Common Denominator (coming up next in this list) to the habit stacking system when the goal to read is broken down into a minimum of five pages a day.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is legendary for his work ethic. Did you know he picked up this skill from his dad?

Every morning my dad was up at 5 am. He’d have his coffee and then hit the gym, regardless of whether he was at home or on the road.

So The Rock’s father habit stacked having a coffee with heading to the gym. Especially when needing early morning motivation, creating habits that you pair together removes the need to think and process, which many struggle with before the coffee kicks in!

System 2: Least Common Denominator (LCD)

Breaking large goals into smaller, bite-sized pieces is the essence of this system. In other words, for large goals or ones that may take a long time to achieve, it offers more motivation to celebrate short bursts of success, instead of waiting for the big event. In the habit stacking example, the opportunity of reading a chapter a week was broken down (assuming on average 30 pages in a chapter) to 5 per day.

An added bonus to using this system is how you may perceive risk and reward. This is especially true when the goals are lofty. There is a lot at stake. It is possible that we delay a large goal for fear of failure, so we have put more emphasis on the “fear” or the risk associated with the goal, then on the reward (outcome). Using the LCD approach reduces the large goal into more manageable milestones with shorter time spans and risk that is more easily perceived as manageable.

For examples of this motivational system, let’s look at some prolific writers. They don’t sit down and think let’s write a book today. No, they break down the goal of writing a book into a certain number of pages or words a day. While Stephen King aims for ten pages a day, Graham Greene aimed for just three to five hundred words a day. A goal like this is based highly on if you write for a living, a side hustle, or just a hobby. If a book is the goal, create a SMART goal for how many words or pages you can aim for in a day.

System 3: Proximity

Creating a convenient path to items related to your goals can significantly enhance your chances of success. When you want to accomplish a goal that may require physical activity such as reading or working out, it is best to create a convenient path to the book, or the workout clothing or equipment. In the first example of habit stacking, you combined two goals (coffee and reading) and the reading goal used LCD to define your daily target.

Now, you can add yet another system (proximity) and choose to place the book near the coffee pot or on the seat in your car. This way it is handy every time you have coffee. The physical item has proximity to where the task is performed and offers an opportunity for more success simply because the book (in this example) was readily available for use. For workouts, you may want to set out your gym clothes each night and place them on the counter of your bathroom, on a side chair, or dresser. Select a place where you’d do an activity before putting on the clothes. You can even wear your workout clothes to bed. Then when you’re 5:30 am alarm goes off, you’ve lost the excuse, “I don’t feel like getting dressed”. You can use minimal effort to simply get up and get going.

System 4: Repetition

Practice makes perfect! Implementing a successful process repeatedly is instrumental in achieving difficult goals. Find a successful way to achieve results and implementing the same process over and over again on difficult goals. Generally, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to perfect a skill, yet you can have a desire in a matter of seconds.

System 5: Visualization

Establish a mental image or look at a physical image associated with your goal. This is especially helpful as it appeals to one of the five senses. You’ve heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words. This has been proven many times over. The most significant was in marketing research, where a single photo and an image with words was used to convey the benefits of a product. More individuals were able to clearly articulate the concept using the photo only. It was found that the words tended to conflict at times with the image when used together. However, when the words were not with the image, the mind was freer to interpret what was seen. Use the power of visualization to see not only the material items being pursued, but how you will feel when you have attained them.

Here are my 4 steps in visualization that can give you a “peep” into success:

  1. Prepare. Clear your mind & focus on what you want to achieve. Define it. Describe your goal, dream, or aspiration in complete detail. Make an emotional connection with the goal.
  2. Expect the unexpected. Anticipate what will happen both positive and negative. Take your time. Every goal plan starts out perfect. Of course, it is going to work. Now, to make sure it does, ask: “What can go awry?” A critical part of strategic planning is thinking about what can go wrong, not just the things we expect will go right. This will expand your thinking into a deeper level of understanding. Seek advice from mentors, teachers, and/or people in authority.
  3. Examine options & evaluate until you see a best course of action. Sometimes, the best goal visuals have evolved over time. It’s not that the goal outcome has changed, your vision of it has become clearer.
  4. Practice through role play in your mind. See every step. Allow your mind and body to prepare for what it will be like when you have accomplished your goal.

– Say what you want out loud.

– Speak what’s in your mind as that process will create a stronger connection to the visual.

Jim Carrey has a great story about visualizing his success. In an interview with Oprah, Carrey shares that before he became a successful actor he wrote himself a check for $10 million for acting services rendered and stuck it in his wallet. Carrey kept the check in his wallet, visualizing his success and eventually manifested it. In the video (click here to watch), you can see that Oprah & Jim point out that you have to work hard to actually achieve the life you dream of. “You can’t just visualize and then go eat a sandwich.”

System 6: Journaling

Keep track of what is happening in the moment. This will give you an actual account of the things you are doing and the number of times you are doing it. Oftentimes, the brain forms a perception that is based on how you are feeling about a goal, instead of relying on the facts. With this written or digital account, you are better armed with information to help guide and even modify behavior to achieve goal success.

Tim Ferriss takes a few minutes every morning to journal. This is a habit he makes sure to fit in every day regardless of how busy his day might be. He says:

It’s easy to become obsessed with pushing the ball forward as a Type-A personality and end up a perfectionist who is always future-focused. The five-minute journal is a therapeutic intervention, for me at least, because I am that person. That allows me to not only get more done during the day but to also feel better throughout the entire day, to be a happier person, to be a more content person — which is not something that comes naturally to me.

System 7: List Maker

Taking the time to put down three priorities for the day helps our brains focus. It gives an added structure that may keep us from “flight of ideas.” Keep that list short and concise. The good news, you will more than likely accomplish even more than what you set out to do when you handle the priorities first. You may be familiar with a simple science experiment that involves a bucket, sand, water, pebbles, and large rocks. The task is to place all of these materials into the bucket. The solution can only be solved when the large rocks are put in first, then the pebbles, followed by the sand and the water. Using any other order does not allow all the items to fit into the bucket. So, when making your list, start with the big rocks first. They become your priority for the day.

Richard Branson is famous for his list making. This is what he has to say about lists:

To say that life as an entrepreneur and business leader is busy is an understatement. So, in order to make sure I achieve everything that not only needs to get done but also everything I want to get done, I make lists – lots of them. I have always lived my life by making lists. These vary from lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. I also have lists of topics to blog about, lists of tweets to send, and lists of upcoming plans.

System 8: Accountability Partnerships

Find a trusted colleague, mentor, or authority figure and enroll them into the process of holding you accountable and responsible for the goal you’ve set out to attain. Here are some quick lessons learned:

  • The most successful accountability partners are ones who will serve as your grounding board. They will tell you what you need to hear.
  • Do not go for the easy one, the sounding board, who will tell you want you want to hear.
  • Once you have an idea of your accountability partner, you must seek their consent to serve in this capacity.
  • Do not assume they will be this person automatically.
  • After selecting your partner, define boundaries for how you want to communicate.
  • Establish common agreements that include your willingness for them to provide honest and helpful critiques along your goal journey without you getting upset.
  • Set up regular intervals for you to meet with your accountability partner.

On the Smartless podcast, Steven Spielberg shared that himself, George Lucas and a group of other directors used to get together to screen each other’s movies. This was before Star Wars and E.T. when everyone was up and coming. They didn’t worry about competition or which film earned more. They simply wanted to make each others movies better by offering suggestions and critiques. Now it’s important that you take suggestions with a grain of salt since the majority of directors didn’t like A New Hope before visual effects were added. Spielberg was the only director in the room who thought Lucas had made an incredible film.

System 9: Challenges

Select activities that will set your mind into a “zone of competition.” Challenges are often more difficult than normal activities and can be used to help achieve larger, more complex or time-extended goals. It can be very helpful to use the systems of journaling (#6) and accountability partnerships (#8) when creating and conducting your personal challenges. They can be in the areas of behavior development or skill improvement.

A trending challenge is called the “30 Day Challenge”. This is where you pick a goal and you set yourself the challenge to work on it for the next 30 days. Whether you challenge yourself to get more sleep, cut back on spending, spend less time looking at screens or keep your home tidy, after working at your goal for 30 straight days, you’re more likely to continue. But, the only thing on your mind is meeting the challenge not some overwhelming goal.

System 10: Time Blocking

Make your calendar work for you, especially if you have a busy lifestyle. Simply put, add project work, tasks, personal time, etc. to your calendar (digital or physical planner) and be specific in what you block off. For instance, if you want to take a daily lunch, then set the time on the calendar with a reoccurring invite. Not only do you reserve the time on your schedule, you tell the brain this activity is important, and you combine its effects with visualization. You see it and work to make it happen.

In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, author Cal Newport emphasizes the importance of setting aside uninterrupted, focused blocks of time for deep, concentrated work. Many successful individuals (ie Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg & Tony Robbins) have adopted his approach to increase their productivity and accomplish meaningful tasks. Newport spends 20 minutes each evening time blocking the following day.

System 11: Mirror-Mirror aka “Post-It”

Write on a Post-It or index card something you want to accomplish or what may be needed to do to achieve a goal. Use fewer words than rewriting the entire goal. Select some power words that convey what you are focusing to achieve that will give you a clear idea of the goal. You need to use small pieces of paper, which is why a Post-It or index card is perfect for this system. Now, you place the Post-It in an area where you may frequent often, or look at. I have found great success putting it on the bathroom mirror, the side of my computer, on my refrigerator, or on my nightstand near my glasses or phone (which I use as an alarm).

Using the example from System 4: Proximity, you want to work out. You might decide to set out your clothes in the bathroom, on a chair, upon the dresser, or another location that you must go by or visibly see when you start your morning routine. However, you keep forgetting. Don’t let that mental block stop you. Write “gym clothes” on your Post-It and apply it to the bathroom mirror, or you could apply it next to your morning alarm, so you see it when you are first waking up. At least this way you’ll know that ignoring is more of the problem than forgetting.

Serena Williams has mentioned using Post-it notes as a form of motivation. She shared that she writes down positive affirmations and goals on Post-it notes, which she places them in prominent locations as reminders of what she wants to accomplish.

Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, revealed that he uses Post-it notes to plan his day and set priorities. Dorsey writes down the most critical tasks he wants to accomplish and keeps the notes visible to stay on track.

I have come to the end of my list, at least for now. It’s important to be in a positive and teachable mindset to give these systems a fair chance to work. I hope you are able to take these Motivation and System for Goal Success cheat codes and use them to achieve your goals, dreams, and aspirations in your life.

For more insight on this topic, please refer to these blog posts:

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