Imagine coming home after a hard day of appointments and disappointments. Today is the day that you intended to make some “two for one” calls. It’s the day that you planned to make calls to some high-net-worth business owners on behalf of your fund-raising efforts for the hospital foundation for which you volunteer your time and leadership.
You have the time set aside and then you get interruptions, one after another. You remember that you have to attend a webinar that involves one of your client’s issues. Then you have to review data from a questionnaire and prepare a present financial position. Now you’re all set to make your calls, but one of your clients calls you and says his accountant doesn’t understand the value of the premium financed insurance aspect of his estate plan. Next, you get a call from an attorney regarding some trust work. Then you need to prepare some client files for a compliance review. After that, you are told that there are some suitability issues with your annuity sale to an 80-year-old client.
You still haven’t made any of those calls, but you will – right after you research competitive products and investment preferences for another client. Next, there is an issue with switching groups of funds. After you handle that, you see there is a problem with a commission and that requires you to make a call. Next, your assistant needs to see you to go over his or her progress on the tasks you assigned regarding your upcoming strategic alliance event.
Another call comes in about your fund allocations and the investment options not being aggressive enough in a guaranteed living benefit annuity. Your assistant then informs you that a doctor’s office is slow to provide records for another client and that your anti-money-laundering paperwork is missing. This is followed by a policy coming back rated and it’s one thing after another. Before you know it, you are absolutely exhausted as you grab your briefcase and head out the door for home.
Oh, by the way, you never did make any calls.
Ever had a day like this? When you get home, you find that you have no energy and you are not motivated to do anything that involves any effort. All you want to do is sit in your favorite chair and watch television. Your spouse asks you to help the kids with their homework and you simply say, “Not tonight, dear!”
It would appear that you are not motivated. There is no such thing as an unmotivated person. In the circumstances I just described, you are very highly motivated to use as little energy as possible. That is a very highly-motivated state. Your body is geared to conserve energy. You will move as little as necessary and conserve your resources.
Now watch how you can shift your motivation in an instant. You smell smoke and, as you look in the kitchen, you see flames shooting up the wall over the stove. All of a sudden, you get a surge of energy as you jump out of your chair, grab your favorite kid and run out of the house.
What happened to your physiology and how did you go from absolutely exhausted to extreme high energy? It’s simple. You changed what you were in light of your circumstances.
When you first came home, you were in reference to how hard your day was and how so many non-stop interruptions kept you from doing what you had intended to do. The result of that reference point was exhaustion.
In the second case, you were in reference to a dangerous and potentially-catastrophic fire, and your physiology responded with great energy and focus. It’s all about your reference point.
Check out the illusion below. Is square A darker than square B? As you look at this, it becomes obvious that the truth is, yes, square A is darker than square B. It’s an obvious truth. Would you put a hundred bucks on this? If you said yes, you’d lose it. The two squares are identical.
I know it doesn’t look like they are, but you can’t trust what you see. It’s about what they are in reference to. Square A is in reference to the white squares and the open white space. That gives it the appearance of being dark. Square B is in reference to the dark squares surrounding it and that gives it the appearance of being light.
Copy the picture and cut out square B. Put it on top of the first picture over the original square B. Now change its reference by physically moving it to the top of square A. It will look like it is changing colors right in front of your eyes. It never changes colors. It changes reference points and your eyes do the rest.
Back to your tough day at the office. When you first came home, you were in reference to all of those obstacles. With that as your reference, your body was motivated to generate the lethargic, energy-
conserving state. When you changed your reference point to the smoke and fire, your body responded in kind. It was never an issue of being motivated. You always are motivated.
So how do you stay motivated during the summer months? You prepare. Take a look at your calendar and decide the times you will be working and the times you will be taking off. Next, decide what you want to accomplish during the days that you are working. Here are the steps to take.
Ask the following questions:
What do I want? What am I building? Why bother? How much is enough?
What do I need to do to have what I want?
What do I need to do this week to have what I want?
What will I do this week?
Next, put it into a behavioral contract. Make a specific declaration of what you intend to do one week at a time, and then have someone else hold you accountable to get it accomplished with a consequence if you don’t. That is the key. The key component of behavioral contracting is changing your reference point. If you would have had a contract that you would make three calls from your “hit list” that day and, if you didn’t, you would give $100 to the person you most dislike in your office, then you would have found the opportunity to make the three calls.
It’s absolutely amazing how behavioral contracting works. It taps into human nature. You are genetically coded to avoid the highest level of perceived pain and to seek comfort. This is not a preference, this is an instinct. This is how we all are genetically coded for survival.
In the case just described, instead of being in reference to how busy you were, your brain would recognize a higher pain – the $100 penalty – and you would find the opportunity to make those calls.
The other thing you can do is time-blocking. Give your assistant certain times that he or she can visit with you and instruct your assistant not to interrupt you unless it’s for an important and urgent time-sensitive issue. Block out time on your calendar to make those calls. Put the activity in a behavioral contract and you will ensure that you see the opportunity to take the action. What’s really happening under the surface is you are avoiding the highest level of perceived pain, the $100 penalty.
Time-block your summer. Be precisely prepared. Make decisions about what you want to do and what you need to do. Put short-term accountability in place with a painful consequence for non-performance. Take it one week at a time. Of course, I recommend that you have ongoing passions and goals, such as eating properly and exercising. The fitter you are, the better you will feel and the more you will get done, whether the “getting done” means relaxing or accomplishing tasks.
That’s how you stay motivated over the summer.
Bob Davies of High Performance Training holds a master’s of education degree in psychology from Springfield College, and a bachelor’s degree in health from Rutgers University. Bob can be reached at [email protected]