How to Stay Motivated: Learn from The Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden

Reading Time: 7 minutes

How to stay motivated?

If you are not able to keep yourself motivated and if you keep searching people or things to keep you motivated, then this book is surely for you.

The motivation myth: a book by Jeff Haden is an eye-opener indeed. It clearly sorts the facts out from the opinion which people seldom fall prey to. The book suggests that you will never stay truly motivated by listening to other successful people or reading motivational quotes every day. Surprised? I was also while reading the book. Then what is the secret to motivation according to this book?

I have dozens of failures to my name. I’ve tried and failed, over and over.” – Jeff Haden, author of The Motivation Myth

My Reading Notes:-

We can all remember those times when we were hit with a lightning bolt of inspiration, whether to work out or to start learning a new language—and we can also remember how that urge never produced any action.

It is, in fact, the grip of an insidious myth. We thought motivation is a prerequisite to starting a tedious learning process—a spark necessary to get us going.

The problem with waiting for motivation to strike is that it almost never comes with enough voltage to actually get you started.

Granted, sometimes motivation strikes like a hammer. Minutes or hours later, though, you’ve lost your enthusiasm, partly because a lightning-bolt burst of motivation is like a sugar rush: It feels great but is impossible to maintain, and when you come down you actually feel worse.

I. Only Recipe for Motivation: success.

Specifically, we get the dopamine hits when we observe ourselves making progress. They need not to be huge or life-changing successes. Those come all too infrequently, if ever.

If you want to stay motivated, if you want to stay on track, if you want to keep making progress toward the things you hope to achieve, the key is to enjoy small, seemingly minor successes—but on a regular basis.

If you’re trying to learn a language, it’s fun when you realize you can count to twenty. If you’re trying to learn an instrument, it’s fun when you realize you can read simple sheet music. If you’re trying to learn to code, it’s fun to realize that silly little program you wrote actually works. Small successes are fun—and motivating.

“That’s why motivation isn’t something you have. Motivation is something you get, from yourself, automatically, from feeling good about achieving small successes.” Jeff Haden.

Success has less to do with hoping and praying and strategizing than with diligently doing (after a little strategizing, sure): doing the right things, the right way, over and over and over.

II. Real Motivation Comes after You Start.

The successful people feel good about themselves because they’ve accomplished what they set out to do today, and that sense of accomplishment gives them all the motivation they need.

When you savor the small victories, you get to feel good about yourself every day. You don’t have to wait for “someday” to feel good about yourself; if you do what you planned to do today, you’re a winner.

Want to start a business? Don’t be fooled by the work-at-home hype. Launching a successful business will make you wonder what the words “free time” could possibly mean.

Want to rise to the top of your organization? Don’t be fooled by the work-life-balance fluff. It takes tremendous effort and dedication to succeed at anything in life.

Work-Life balance is also a Myth as illustrated by David Sedaris in his Four Burner Theory.  Click here to read more about it.

“Motivation isn’t passive; motivation is active.”

The key is to enjoy the feeling of success that comes from improving in some small way . . . and then rinse and repeat, over and over again.

Why? Improving feels good. Improving breeds confidence. Improving creates a feeling of competence and competence breeds self-confidence.

Success—in your field or sometimes in any field—breeds motivation. It feels good to improve . . . so you naturally want to keep improving.

The act of getting out of the house to go for a jog is often harder than actually running the five miles you planned.

The act of sitting down at your desk to start writing a proposal is often harder than putting together twenty pages of material.

The act of picking up your phone is often harder than cold-calling twenty prospects.

“Once you start, it’s easy to keep going”

III. Don’t Always Keep Your Goal in Mind

Thinking about goals is like thinking about winning the lottery: You get to dream big and imagine yourself living a totally different life.

Dreams are really important. They make us human. We dare to set nearly impossible goals.

Yet all those imaginings are worthless without a process to help us achieve them. A dream, once born, quickly dies without a process to support it.

The key is to set a goal, use it as a target that helps you create a plan for achieving it . . . and then do your best to forget all about that goal.

Keeping goal always in mind lead to hesitation, anxiety and fear. . . Those feelings don’t come from some deep, dark, irrational place inside you. The anxiety you feel—the lack of confidence you feel—come from feeling unprepared.

Once you realize that you can prepare yourself, that you can develop techniques to do whatever you seek to do well, you naturally become more confident as you become more prepared.

“Successful People forget About the Goal and set the daily routine in such a way that it leads them to success.”

IV. A Process is Everything.

Creating a successful process is hugely motivating in and of itself. By the time you’ve mapped out your process, you’ll be incredibly motivated to get started.

If you struggle with procrastination, the boost of motivation you will feel from successfully creating a successful process (I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true) will leave you itching to get started.

Now, here are the steps for creating a successful process:

The Motivation Myth - An info graph
Don’t wait for motivation. You start acting and motivation follows

1. Set Your Goal

To understand the steps, let’s say you’ve decided to run a marathon. You should google “training for a marathon” and you’ll instantly get dozens of results: some for beginners, some for intermediate runners, etc.

2. Say NO to Decision Anxiety and Choose a Reasonably Promising Routine

For now, just pick a process that matches your current fitness level. Don’t worry about which training program is “best,” especially because you have no way of knowing which program is best for you.

In this case, looking for the “best” not only is a time-wasting rabbit hole but also automatically ensures you’ll begin to second-guess the plan you picked the instant your training gets difficult.

So just pick a plan, trusting that any plan that ranks highly in search results found its way there for a reason.

3. If necessary, Customize Process to be Extremely Specific

Writing “Go jogging three days this week” on a Post-it doesn’t mean you have a process. What does “go jogging” mean? And which days will you run? How far? How fast?

Instead of “go jogging,” here’s what your process should look like:

Monday: Run 1.5 miles.

Tuesday: Stretch (list the different stretches) for 20 minutes.

Wednesday: Run 2 miles.

Thursday: Walk at a pace of three miles per hour for 45 minutes.

Friday: . . .

A good process tells you precisely what you need to accomplish at every step along the way. That way you know exactly what to do, and you know when you have actually accomplished what you need to do.

Say your goal is to increase your client base. “Cold-call three prospects” is a specific, actionable plan.

If your goal is to get promoted, “volunteer for a cross-departmental improvement team” is a specific, actionable plan.

If you’re seeking a degree, “study for two hours and take a practice test” is a specific, actionable plan.

Setting a clear and specific target for each day’s effort automatically supports feedback: Either you did what you planned to do (great!) or you didn’t (boo!).

4. Rework Your Schedule

Training for a marathon involves a significant amount of running, especially as you get in better shape and build the strength and endurance needed to achieve your goal. Plus, you may need to perform strength and flexibility exercises on a regular basis.

All your training will naturally take time, and freeing up that time means changing your current routine.

Maybe you’ll stop lifting weights. Maybe you’ll start getting up earlier. Maybe you’ll decide you can no longer keep up with the Kardashians. No matter what, some things—maybe a lot of things—will have to change.

(In order to write this book, the author has reworked his entire daily, weekly, and monthly schedules—writing, speaking, consulting, exercise, family time, you name it—in order to write this book. Lots of things had to change. How could they not?)

Look at the process you created and determine what changes you need to make to your current daily routine so you can reliably work that process.

If you don’t, you will never succeed.

5. Map out your Daily Plan

This is the easy part. Just take the training plan you found and put it on a calendar.

For example, your first week might look like this:

Sunday: 30-minute walk

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 1.5-mile run

Wednesday: 3-mile run

Thursday: 1.5-mile run

Friday: rest

Saturday: 3-mile run

Then sense-check your plan against your new daily routine to make sure it works.

6. Work the Process

Maybe that first three-mile run was too hard and you had to walk some portion of it. That’s okay; just make sure you complete the three miles.

More important, don’t compare yourself with other people. Don’t worry about whether you’re as fast as your neighbor; you probably won’t be.

Don’t worry about whether you’re as fit as you were in high school; you definitely won’t be. The only thing that matters is that you can check off the box beside each day’s activity.

That’s the only “comparison” you care about.

And when you do check off each box, take a second to congratulate yourself. At this point, consistently working the plan is the only performance standard that matters.

If you plan to run three miles and halfway into the run you feel a twinge in your hamstring, don’t push through the pain.

Cut your run short. While you didn’t run three miles, you did go for your run—and you haven’t risked injuring yourself.

Even though there will always be small setbacks, as long as you don’t miss your scheduled runs, you will get in better shape over the long term.

So if you do feel that twinge and let discretion be the better part of valor, you get to feel twice as good about yourself: You didn’t miss your workout and you made a smart short-term decision that supports your long-term goal.


7. Adapt Accordingly

“Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.”

Your dreams are important, but your plan is what will allow you to achieve your goals and live out your dreams.

Don’t wait for motivation. Get started. Work your plan.

When you do, you’ll find all the motivation you need to keep moving ahead.

So, hit the comment and tell me about your goal and how will you convert it into set of activities to compete on daily basis.

Share this summary to 2 of your friends who are still waiting for the motivation to strike on them. 

Thinking Fast and Slow
Principles: Life & Work by Ray Dalio

2 thoughts on “How to Stay Motivated: Learn from The Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden

  1. Thanks Vinod for such a great summary. Somehow unknowingly I was following these steps but now I am more confident to follow myself . keep giving such book summaries. It really helps to make entrepreneurs day. It’s my routine to read, Book summaries designed by you!

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