Note: This is a guest post from Douglas Cartwright of Living Words
Recently, I was watching a television show about Dean Potter, an American ‘slack line walker’ who strings one-inch thick nylon ropes between high mountainous places and walks across them.
Whilst that’s impressive, you might think “I’ve seen tightrope walkers before.”
But Dean is different. He does it without a balancing pole, or a safety harness, and the line is, literally, slack unlike the traditional high-wire walker. So it moves in the wind as he walks on it.
That’s amazing – but what is more interesting is what he says about why he does it:
“When I’m on a slack-line the feeling that if I slip, I die, totally overwhelms me…I’m after a feeling of total control of my life…that’s what I’m after in all of my life…I’m drawn towards these obsessive goals…”
What Dean has got (whether he realizes it or not) are outrageously powerful reasons driving him for doing what he does. He fully admits he knows that his addiction could lead to his death – but he does it anyway.
What drives a man to do such things?
This is the power of intention, driven by reasons, created by values: things that are so significant and important to him that he can focus his entire mind into what needs to be done to get across that line.
What I am writing about here is focus – and one significant way to improve it using the power of intention.
Some people seem to be able to focus on their priorities at will; and some people seem not to be able to. When these latter people do – they can’t seem to maintain it for long.
We’re going to look at this and explore some of what we can do about it. But first, please settle yourself down and reacquaint yourself with some familiar (and maybe not so familiar) feelings.
Please picture this….
It’s Friday afternoon. You’re tired, winding down, and ready to chill out at the weekend. You lean lethargically over to your PC and check your email in the hope someone has sent you a decent joke.
Suddenly your boss appears by the desk and tells you he needs your sales figures (or substitute any other time-consuming report-type activity) by Monday morning, and it’s non-negotiable.
You must do it.
You hear your mouth agreeing, and your head nodding, but inwardly you hear your voice groaning and whining: “Darn! It takes ages to do these figures and I’m not in the mood – How on earth am I going to summon the energy or the focus to do this stupid thing?” You alternate quickly between flashes of anger, despair and frustration as you imagine the time it’s going to waste of your weekend putting this together.
If you work for someone else (and if you are a middle manager!) this is probably not unfamiliar to you – and if not so at work, then you can probably remember something like it happening when you were relaxing at home -someone has come to you with an urgent (to them) thing they need you to do; and you can remember the dragging resistance you felt to doing it even as you agreed.
Listen to the griping in your head. What kind of things do you say to yourself about it?
Now, clear your mind and think what your reaction would be if completing that one report (or other task) meant:
- Significant promotion or major career boost.
- An extra 20K per annum tax free. Or any amount you want.
- A new house anywhere in the world you desired.
- Health and long life.
- Being with the partner of your dreams.
- Understanding what it meant to be close to God.
What if it meant all your dreams come true just because you got it done that evening?
Ok, I know. Now, just go along with me for a minute. I know that no one’s report is likely to mean any of those things.
But what if it did?
What if all you had to do was that one lousy report and all your problems would be solved?
How would that feel? What would your motivation be to do it then? Imagine.
Pause for a moment and clear your head. Ask yourself this: “Why would I do the report in the second case and not the first?”
Isn’t it obvious?
In the first instance the only thing motivating you is probably the fear of getting bawled out or fired.
But in the second you’ve got better or more powerful reasons to do the report.
Many or all of those things listed are what people value, what they work their lives for, what they give up their time and money for.
It is the reasons that we have for doing things that make all the difference. It is the meanings we give to the events in our lives that determine how favourably we respond to them – and how strongly we feel about doing or not doing them.
The reason (!) I told you about Dean Potter was to demonstrate that if a man can find reasons to do something that goes against almost every instinct most of us had (walking across a bendy rope 500 feet up in the air with no safety harness!) then does that not inspire you that you could find some powerful reasons to do what you need to do in order to achieve your goals?
There are some things in life that you have to do if you want to be successful and in some cases even remain solvent. There are things you have to focus on, things you have to give “regular focused sufficient attention” to – whether you like it or not.
You probably do know (some of) what you should be doing in order to ensure your success.
So why don’t you?
Could it be because your reasons for not doing it are stronger than your reasons for doing it? Could it be that although it should be, it’s just not registering on your gut-level importance meter? That you just don’t feel like doing it???
What we need is a method of producing strong and lasting motivation that will see us through our good and ‘other’ days. What we need to do is to find a way to generate feelings strong enough to overcome our resistance AND access those feelings on a regular basis so that we can do what we need to. This pattern is based on the Intentions pattern which was created by Professor Michael Hall Ph.D, creator and trainer of Neurosemantics.
You will need at least 20 minutes and a paper and pencil/pen to do this properly. It would also be good if you are somewhere you cannot be seen as you may want to stand up during the final part of the exercise.
1) First, pick an activity you know you ‘should’ be doing in order to increase or turbo-boost your progress towards your success. Pick something that in your heart of hearts you know you are resisting. Got it?
Turn your paper to portrait format.
Write the activity in the middle of the top of the page.
We will now use this activity as a reference point to explore and create your higher and more powerful mental motivations.
2) Answer the questions about ‘How is this activity important to me?’
I take it that activity is significant, right?
How is it significant?
How is it valuable?
How is it meaningful?
What else is important about that?
How many other answers can you identify about this activity?
Write your answers from left to right of the page about an inch below the activity. Basically write what looks like a paragraph of answers.
3) Take a mental step back. Well done. You’ve started to explore your mind set and ask questions about your motivations which is more than many people do.
Now, look at the answers you have just written. Your activity is important to you because of these things, right?
Now ask the following questions about your answers.
And how are these answers important to me?
What is important about having this?
And if you got these feelings and senses of value exactly as you wanted them, what’s even more important than that?
Write down the answers in a paragraph an inch or two below your previous answers.
[Please go with the question and consider your answers even if it seems a little strange to do so.]
Keep doing steps 2 and 3 until you find yourself just repeating the same sort of answers as you did in the previous paragraph.
4) When you can’t list any more answers, look at your final paragraphs and let yourself feel your response to them. It will probably be powerful. Now, (and this is important) think about your activity whilst feeling these feelings. Imagine DOING the activity whilst feeling these powerful feelings.
Doesn’t this begin to totally transform your perceptions of that?
How does this work?
The cut and dried version comes from paraphrasing the German philosopher Nietzchie (the one who supposedly said ‘God is dead’) : “A man can endure how if he has a strong enough WHY” [my italics]
Dean Potter’s why drives him to do extreme things. For the rest of us, making those business calls, building that shed, and booking that training seminar might be enough to start with!
Douglas Cartwright is a personal breakthrough and effectiveness coach and trainer. He helps self-motivated people who are ‘stuck’ get moving and start taking action. You can start to untie your psychological ‘knots’ at www.livingwords.net and pick up an outrageously powerful implementation technique for free at www.overcomingprocrastination.co.uk
Photo by John Loo