Why you should “Activate to Motivate

Noted author Jim Collins made the observation “Good is the enemy of Great” in his book, Good to Great. Voltaire said something similar: “Perfect is the enemy of good”.

And what was true in Voltaire’s day and for the businesses Jim Collins advised is also true for you and for me. Perhaps you have a nagging feeling that things could be better. You have a mission to fulfill or something you’ve wanted to try for some time, but you don’t want to upset your personal apple cart.

The problem with things that are okay is that it gives you something to lose. Your life is okay, the bills are paid, and things are predictable. Yes, you have an urge to break the pattern, but the risks keep you stuck in place. The tendency is to hold back – and your primary objective is to hold onto what you already have instead of taking a risk to get your heart’s desire.

Here are some proven ways to get off the “good enough” treadmill.

  1. Be willing to “walk into the storm”. By this I mean that you should be willing to face some challenges when attempting a major new endeavor. Seldom can you glide into something without at least a few challenges or disruption to the status quo. But keep in mind that great things often await you at the other side: stormy weather is followed by sun and blue skies.
  2. Document the downside. I often suggest (and practice myself) that the individual write out the worst case scenario if a new endeavor goes bad. For example, if you start a new business, quit your job, retire early, or move to a new area, what’s the worst that can happen? Usually, the downside is unpleasant but not catastrophic, and chances are, it will never be quite that bad anyway.
  3. Get started. There is a popular belief that motivation leads to action but actually, the reverse is true. A little activation can lead to motivation. Let’s use the example of walking for exercise. You lack sufficient motivation to get off the couch, so you don’t. Or as Mark Twain put it, ‘Whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I lie down until the urge passes.” Yet, if you just get up and start walking, this can quickly become not only tolerable, but a habit that you come to embrace. Your mantra should be Activate to Motivate.
  4. Drop your focus on the past. Your results follow your thoughts. Or to put it another way, what you resist persists. Instead of wallowing in the past, and what you will lose by making changes, shift your attention to the new results you intend to achieve and the great way you will feel when you achieve those results.
  5. Don’t give up your” key”. There is an expression (author unknown) that sums up the importance of charting your own course: Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. It’s your life, your future, you mind, body and soul – never relinquish these precious assets to anyone – not your spouse, your siblings, your friends or your work colleagues. Of course, you should take the well-meaning advice of those who are close to you into account. If your goal is to join the circus or become a professional gambler, perhaps the guidance of a close friend or family member can save you a lot of misery. Unless you really have the talent and passion to be a gambler or circus performer. The point is – it is your life, and you need to live it on your terms. If you do choose to take a conventional and safe path, this is fine – but only that path is unlocked using your key and no one else’s.

Resolve to Live the Rest of Your Days on Your Own Terms

One more thought related to the last point. If you look at all the studies about deathbed regrets, one theme is consistent. Dying individuals wish they had pursued a life that was true to their own desires, instead of living out the expectations of others.  Whether you have one year left or 30 years, resolve to live the rest of your days on your own terms.

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