Have you ever been hopelessly bored in a classroom or required to attend a training seminar wondering why you were there or what you were supposed to be learning? The answer for most people is invariably “yes.” If so, you probably felt frustrated, tired, or even angry because your time was being wasted learning useless material or rehashing content you already knew. As a professor at a leading university for the past 12 years, I’m all too familiar with boredom because instructors frequently have the same reaction when teaching mandated curriculum.
Like many students and seminar attendees, as an instructor I often ponder why we require students to learn content they will probably never use, while neglecting to teach life’s most valuable lessons. The stuff we overlook isn’t facts, dates, or obscure disciplinary knowledge like calculating the area of a rhombus. What’s missing from our educational system also isn’t practical knowledge like how to balance a check book or figure out when you are overpaying for a mortgage (but that knowledge should probably be taught, too). What formal schooling lacks is a focus on fundamental teachings for life success, the kind of knowledge that predicts whether we can survive and prosper in a competitive world.
In the book “Hack Your Motivation” I outline 50 strategies that are necessary to effectively and efficiently reach your desired goals and achieve personal growth. Unlike suggestions from a variety of motivational “experts,” the knowledge I share isn’t based on personal experience. Instead the information relies exclusively on scientific evidence from psychology, business, athletics, and education. Evidence that reveals regardless of age, sex, race, religion and other factors, successful individuals from all walks of life demonstrate consistent motivational patterns. The patterns become habits and lead to behaviors that are instrumental in accomplishing more, getting what they want, and feeling content. Sadly, the knowledge these individuals possess and automatically use are rarely, if ever, taught in school, but several are outlined here.
What they don’t teach you in school
Control your own destiny – No one can control every aspect of their life. Sometimes we are subject to the will of others and the immutable laws of nature. However, the difference between those who succumb to adversity and those who prosper in similar circumstances is possessing and acting upon strong control beliefs. These beliefs don’t mean controlling others. People with elevated control beliefs take responsibility and accountability for what happens to them, are prepared when things go wrong, create opportunities for success, and don’t blame others when things don’t work in their favor. When the unpleasant eventualities of life occur, individuals with strong control beliefs ruminate just like you and I, but they also make changes and adapt to hardship by maintaining control and not losing confidence or sight of their goals.
Don’t compare yourself to others – Another hallmark of successful individuals is their relative lack of concern about competitors. Their achievements are not influenced by someone else who is richer, smarter, better-looking, or wiser, because the savvy individual compares themselves to standards of excellence, not other people. Having a nicer car than a friend is meaningless. Getting a promotion before a colleague doesn’t matter. Running a faster sprint than your buddy next door has little impact on your behavior when you don’t make social comparisons. What matters most for success is reaching your goals and pursuing objective targets relentlessly, no matter what rivals do.
Admitting ignorance is a virtue – In most classrooms or workplaces a person lacking knowledge or ability is often frowned upon and perceived as a sign of weakness, but this is not the case for the most successful individuals. Aspiring superstars believe that missing a target or having a knowledge gap is an opportunity to upgrade skills or to try a new approach. The successful person doesn’t feel bad when mistakes happen because they consider it a valuable lesson. They recognize their gaps, try new approaches, and respond to failure or ignorance by taking measurable steps to upgrade skills.
Always treat others with respect and kindness – We all know people who take advantage of situations for personal profit and gain. These types of people are often labeled as “opportunists” and are nice to you because they want something. After they get what they want they often ignore you or act dismissive or condescending. One secret I learned from interviewing the most successful leaders and celebrities around the globe is that they treat people with kindness and respect ALL THE TIME. Treating people kindly means it doesn’t matter who the person is, what they do, or how they can help you because you treat all people equally regardless if it helps advance a personal agenda or results in materialistic gain.
Question traditions and norms – Think of companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft—what’s the common theme behind their extraordinary financial success and business reputations? You might say visionary leadership and quality employees, but another consistent theme is not accepting the status quo. The culture of each organization and the people in it are exemplified by questioning and scrutinizing procedures, policies, behaviors, and products. These individuals always believe improvement is possible. Complacency doesn’t exist because change is expected and transformation is constant.
Share knowledge and experience – In the business world 30 years ago, a prevailing formula for personal success was having key knowledge and expertise that would engender you as invaluable to an organization. In other words, the company would do anything to keep you employed because you knew too much. Times have radically changed and today the most successful leaders are those individuals who share their knowledge, create liaisons among co-workers, and actively strive toward developing others. The most valuable people in an organization today are those who realize sharing personal intelligence results in strengthening an entire team.
Believing and acting like people are more important than things – The individuals who lead the best organizations are those who realize people are the greatest organizational asset. These leaders understand that production, revenue, or profit are secondary and cannot be achieved without a motivated workforce. The problem is that all too often organizations claim people are paramount, yet don’t follow through based upon decisions and actions. Have you ever encountered a motivated machine or superhuman software that can demonstrate the will to achieve and perform without qualification? When people believe they matter most, they will do anything necessary to meet your business objectives.
Everyone does something well – Valuing and respecting others also means the frank admission that not everyone has the same ability. Recognition also means that even though skills, expertise, and even intelligence vary among individuals, that everyone has talent. In “Hack Your Motivation” I use the example of an old acquaintance who robbed a 7-Eleven as a teenager. Although the move was illegal and stupid my friend turned out to be a great planner and demonstrated great attention to detail. Embracing this principle doesn’t mean applauding routine performance or giving recognition to marginal achievement. Instead, this lesson means that it is incumbent upon each of us (especially the leaders among us) to figure out who does what best and use that knowledge for the mutual benefit of the individuals involved.
Focusing on the present - There is an ironic aspect to success these days—an almost constant emphasis on future results and outcomes. While it is foolish not to plan ahead, the most successful individuals (and companies) focus on how they achieved results. Specifically, the consider which strategies, tactics, and Hacks were instrumental in producing their desired results. When we deliberately focus on the process of achievement we are in a much better position to replicate the success under similar circumstances. Focusing only on future expectations can often leave us wishing we were still living in the past.
Realizing that there are no bad days – One of my favorite Hacks is the Water-to-Wine Hack. This Hack teaches people how to regulate their emotions and how to respond to adversity by advancing goals and stimulating accomplishment. The Hack was developed based upon the dominant and prevailing belief of successful people that there are no bad days, but the realization that some days are clearly better than others. Most successful people are willing to admit that things will go wrong. We will get upset, we will experience unhappiness, and sometimes emotions will hijack our brains. However, the happiest individuals are those who know and expect success but consciously acknowledge and plan for the lemons of life.
Now you know a little about ten key motivation Hacks. There are many more, along with tons of practical applications of scientific research in Hack Your Motivation. If you want to regularly stimulate personal achievement and professional growth you should know all the Hacks and how to use them. Follow me on Twitter @ifoundmo for daily updates and original content on motivation, leadership, learning, and peak performance. #GoHackYourself