Motivation is powerful, but unless it is put to work, it is wasted. Motivation is like steam in a boiler. Unless it is driving pistons and producing mechanical work, it is wasted. We want to put our desire to good use by consistently executing the daily actions that will produce results. We don’t want to be merely busy; we want to be productive. I recommend you start each day listening to motivational speeches because it will help keep your motivational tank from running empty. Cultivating motivation daily is easy to do and will drastically improve your outlook on life. We need to develop motivation daily, but more importantly, we need to put it to good use.

We reap what we sow. If we want to reap the fruits of success; it begins with installing the daily disciplines that will produce the results we desire. Ideas and inspiration are like seeds that must be planted and nurtured. Planting that seed of inspiration is the beginning of the process, but it is just the beginning. It must be nurtured. Motivation gets us going, but disciplined habits keep us going, day after day. Discipline is necessary to force ourselves to do what needs to be done despite how we feel. The days we don’t want to act are the days that matter the most. They are the days that will ultimately determine our success or failure.

Having a dream and being inspired is terrific, but ideation without execution is the beginning of self-delusion. Action can take many forms, but it all begins with a decision. After deciding, the next step is planning. Planning can be an excellent source of inspiration. Putting our dream on paper makes it more concrete. Creating a systematic approach to achieving our goal is crucial to our success. Breaking everything up into small manageable chunks makes even the most enormous endeavor less intimidating. A few minutes of planning can make us a lot more productive and efficient. Remember, productivity is doing what is most impactful to our progress. If you aren’t making progress, then you aren’t productive. Don’t spend major time on minor activities.

I am a huge believer in planning, but you cannot allow it to become an active form of procrastination. Planning is exciting, but we cannot plan our way to success. Planning is no substitute for doing. Our results are a product of our actions. We reap what we sow, not what we plan. Having an effective strategy is essential, but often you will not know which strategy will work best. Sometimes the best way to learn what works is by learning what doesn’t work. We don’t want to fall into the trap of endlessly debating what will work best.

Plan, do, review. Plan what to do. Do it, then periodically review your results and then begin the process again, refining your plan as needed. Even if you choose the wrong strategy, you’ll learn that it is ineffective a lot quicker by doing it than analyzing it. The worst thing we can do is stay on the fence, paralyzed by indecision. As we develop our strategy, we must decide when and where we will execute each item on our list. We determine what daily habits will have the most significant impact on our progress and then we challenge and discipline ourselves to do them each day. Consistency is more important than intensity. The best way to improve consistency is by measuring it. What gets measured gets managed. Measuring an activity modifies our behavior through increased awareness. Self-awareness is crucial to our success. How can we gauge our progress if we don’t measure it? We can’t.

The distance between you and your goals is a lot of work designed to make you better. We don’t pursue success as much as we attract it by who we become. Consistently moving along at a sustainable pace each day is the most effective approach to covering the distance. It is much more effective than working at an unsustainable pace here and there in sporadic bursts of enthusiastic effort. That is the lesson we were supposed to learn from the fable of the Tortoise and The Hare.

Starting and stopping is not only ineffective, but it requires a lot more energy. It is so much easier just to keep going day after day at a manageable pace that is enjoyable. Find pleasure and satisfaction in making incremental progress each day, and you are all but guaranteed to reach your goal. Build momentum through consistent action. Momentum is powerful. Put the power of “BIG MO” to work by applying the everyday method of habit formation.

What we do each day is powerful. The cumulative effect of small daily efforts holds tremendous power. Habits are the invisible architects of our lives. What we routinely do shapes us into the person we are becoming. Change is the only constant in our lives. We aren’t human beings, we are human becomings. The question is, are we becoming better or worse. Our net worth to the world is determined by what remains after our bad habits are subtracted from our good habits. When forming a new pattern, the most important thing to monitor is our consistency, not our intensity.

unbroken chain - X calendar

When I am installing a new habit, I print out two monthly calendars. I write the name of the routine on the top of each calendar, and I just put an “X” through each date that I successfully execute the habit. The goal is to produce an unbroken chain of Xs. The unbroken chain strategy of habit formation is highly effective because it creates a simple scorecard that tracts your consistency. If our goal is to read each day, even if you read for just 5-minutes, you have achieved your goal. Too often we let good be the enemy of great. We don’t bother to do something because we cannot do as much as we had planned.

Avoid the trap by doing what you can, when you can, where you are. The everyday method of habit formation eliminates the decision-making process. You pre-decide that every day, no matter how busy you are, you will read. You don’t struggle with the decision. The latest research suggests that after two months, most new habits are as easily sustainable as they ever will be.[i] Keep your plans as simple as possible. Complexity is the enemy of execution.

Don’t let your mind talk you into inaction. Mr. Resistance will say let’s do it tomorrow when we have more time or have more energy. Ignore that voice. You can have reasons, or you can have results. The only way we can change our lives is through action. Actions produce results. Don’t discount baby steps. When work prevents me from going to the gym during my lunch hour, I will commit to doing a short 15 to 20-minute workout as soon as I get home. I make a concerted effort to stick to my exercise routine. Never let what you cannot do prevent you from doing what you can do. Consistency is more important than intensity. It isn’t what we occasionally do that counts, it is what we do habitually that matters.

Motivation that isn’t used to overcome excuses, laziness, and procrastination is worthless. Motivation is the desire to do. It is potential energy. If that power isn’t made to produce work, then it is wasted, like water escaping a leaky damn where the water flows without going over the wheel and doing the work of the mill. We all need the discipline to ensure that energy is put to work and not wasted.

mill house.jpg

Most people’s mental reservoir is like that leaky damn; allowing most of their mental energy to be wasted by distractions and comfortable routines. Willpower and is needed to plug-up the damn and put our energy to productive use. It is through the exercise of our willpower that we put our motivation to work. Through repetition, we reduce our need for willpower. Habitual behaviors flow and become automatic making the need to exert our willpower less necessary. The daily disciplines become a part of our daily routine and routines reap results.

[i] Benjamin Gardner, “Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice,” 2012 Dec; 62(605): 664–666. doi: 10.3399/bjgp12X659466.

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