Friday, October 15, 2010

The Student's Creed - "Knowing Your Motivations"

This article could also be titled "The Carrot and the Stick." Using a reward system can be a great way to improve yourself. Motivation for things that will be a positive influence in your life don't necessarily just happen intuitively. It's easy to be motivated in the wrong direction - toward unhealthy foods, mindless entertainment, or any of the other myriad temptations our modern society has to offer. If you're not prone to be naturally motivated toward your desired goals, you need to take action - you need to think about and focus on that motivation to make sure it's a help rather than a hindrance.

It may seem obvious that you know what motivates you, but do you really? How much thought have you given it? Most of us don't worry about it, we just go with the flow. To ramp up your game, though, you need to focus on how your mind and body work, and what motivators are appropriate to helping you be successful.

Criteria for a good motivator would include:
1. Effectiveness - make sure it's something that really motivates you. If you find yourself deciding that the intended reward isn't worth the effort, pick something different.
2. Impact - the motivator should have a positive impact on your life. If it motivates you to improve in one area, but causes you to suffer in another, it's no good. Anything that's going to lead to a bad habit should be avoided. Rewards that are too expensive won't work in the long run. Also, huge rewards for little effort are self-delusional - you're just fooling yourself into thinking you're making progress.
3. Repeatable - you're probably going to have many goals that you'll want to meet in your life, so the best motivators will be applicable to several of them.
4. Clarity - it's important to know exactly what you're trying to accomplish so you'll know when you've earned the reward, and it's important to know exactly what reward you've earned. A goal such as "Look better for the beach!" is pretty vague. A goal of "lose 10 lbs" might be more appropriate.

It MAY also be helpful to give yourself "partial credit" - a smaller version of the full reward that you allow yourself when you make a solid effort but don't fully achieve the desired results. This will work for some folks better than others, so use your judgment.

Overall, the important thing is to find ways to give yourself that boost in willpower that we all need at times to get things done that we just won't do otherwise. They may take some thought and planning, but the tools are there if you choose to use them. Take charge of your future and make it better!

The Student's Creed is a series of blog articles I'm posting at the ChampionsWay martial arts community. Since most of my Virtual Vellum readers probably don't visit that site, I'm posting them here as well.

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