Some of the best advice I ever got about motivation and achieving goals runs a bit… contrary to what you’d find online.
In fact, it flies in the face of what people say about being “positive,” visualizing your success, or using SMART goals to motivate yourself and winning at life.
And it comes straight from the mouth of Robert Greene, author of books like “The 48 Laws of Power,” and “The 33 Strategies of War.” His specialty is dissecting the traits of the most successful and powerful people in history (like Napoleon, who conquered most of Europe with his innovative guerilla warfare), so we can use them ourselves.
But “this” particular quote of his applies to everyday people (like myself) the most:
“Necessity rules the world. People rarely act unless compelled to.” – Robert Greene
This quote was an eye-opener for me when I thought about why I struggled to stick with my own goals for so long. After all, positivity wasn’t doing it for me. And visualizing success didn’t help much either.
But once I adopted this mindset, I learned 3 (somewhat depressing) reasons why those tactics aren’t always what people think they’re cracked up to be.
1Humans are weaker than their circumstances
If you’re surrounded by junk food, you’ll struggle to lose weight.
If you’re surrounded by smartphones and tablets, you’ll struggle to focus.
And in general, if you’re surrounded by “comfort” sources… you’ll ALWAYS give in to them.
To make matters worse, think about the most common time people work on goals – after work. It’s usually the best (or even only) time people get a chance to grow their life, whether it means getting fit, starting a creative hobby, or launching a first-time business… after work is probably when you’ll do it.
But this is also the time when your energy and willpower is at its lowest. And that’s because you’ve spent a chunk of it at work. So is it odd that people constantly fail to achieve their goals? No way. If anything, it’s to be expected.
The lucky few will power through until habit takes over. But let’s be honest, we’ve all come home from work, completely exhausted, and said, “I’ll just take today off and catch up tomorrow.”
But usually, that leads to abandoned goals.
So don’t underestimate the human tendency to give in to lazy moods. If you do, you will find yourself falling behind (or even quitting) your goals again.
2The world wants you to fail
Some animals are born with claws. Others have razor sharp teeth. And some are coated in poison. And because of those tools, they are able to survive in the world even though they’re babies.
But what about human babies? Well, we’re born small, weak, and pretty stupid as well. And if we didn’t have our parents to take care of us, we’d be pretty screwed. Point is, the world doesn’t exactly arm us to succeed in life. We have to hope that the people around us are competent enough to take care of us until we can do it ourselves.
And at the end of the day, achieving your goals (and being motivated about it) is a struggle. We aren’t born with boundless energy or motivation. Even for goals we really want, we still have to scrape up every ounce of drive we have to make it happen. And in reality, we’re at the whim of our mood. Typically, our mood will guide us towards instant gratification, and “not” goal-focused work instead.
3The world is ruled by necessity
The biggest lesson I learned from the quote above was that people will only act if they “have” to.
It’s not enough to be positive about your goals. It’s not enough to have a big “why?” either. The only thing that counts when it comes taking action in life is that you’re motivated by “true” need.
Consider this – have you ever needed motivation to work and make money? No, because without money, you’d be in deep trouble. You could lose your home, your car, starve, and even worse, your family would suffer because of it. So we’ve never needed to muster up motivation to earn an income, because it’s a given that you can’t “not” do it – so the motivation is already there.
Now, how useful would it be if you could apply this to your other goals? Well, you can. You’ve just got to find a way to make “not” working on your goals become a punishment on its own. For example: don’t eat a healthy meal? No Netflix. Don’t go to the gym? No dessert. Don’t work on getting that promotion or starting a new business? No dinner out at that nice restaurant you love.
Basically, when it hurts to “not” work on your goals, you’re on the right track.
A different type of motivation
Obviously, these ideas are a bit different than what you’d normally see shared online. But when everything else barely works for you, then you need to branch out and see what else might do the trick.
It wasn’t until I dropped the conventional motivation tactics out there that I was able to get fit, wake up on time every day, or even start my own online business. But once I did, I never went back. And I think you’ll do the same.
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Author: Ericson Ay Mires
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