Everyone alive, including you, is living somewhere along a satisfaction bell curve. You know what a bell curve is right? Look it up quickly if you don’t. But you don’t need the definition to understand this.
The bell curve features a few people on the low end, the majority in the middle and a few on the high end. The photo above references “performers” but it can apply to anything — height, wealth distribution, college test scores, etc. For this post, it’s about your personal drive & motivation.
See, many of us claim to want to do better than we are doing right now. Which is great. The challenge is, between the pull of the positive result and/or the resistance to the penalty of not getting there, neither is strong enough. And we end up in Motivation No Man’s Land, doing just enough to stay in the middle.
95% of people exist here, the middle of life’s bell curve, for part or all of their lives (also known as the average. Any average people reading this?). It’s crowded in the middle. 2.5% are on either end.
Have you ever had someone open up to you that their current results or position in life is just not fulfilling to them? They want more, they are fully aware they want more, yet they’re not doing anything to actually get more. And, what’s crazy, they know they’re not doing anything to get it. And even when you point it out to them, they continue to do that nothing.
This is Motivation No Man’s Land: the penalty for not doing it isn’t so bad you can’t handle it. And the reward for making it happen isn’t so great that you sell out to the result.
Human beings have a mental ability no other animal has: rationalization. It’s when we use reasonable, believable arguments (internal or external) to justify something that we know is not right. We rationalize about our relationships, our business, our bodies and everything in between.
Rationalization is the slow killer. It gives up temporary relief while a small part of us simultaneously dies each time. We kill off a little bit of motivation every time we rationalize our shortcomings. And this habit is fully ingrained into us by adulthood, which is why so many people die in Motivation No Man’s Land.
So how to get out or stay out of this cold, dreary place?
First is to be aware. Know where you’re buying your own bullshit. When you’re rationalizing something to make yourself feel better for the moment. Catch yourself in the moment and reject the rationale.
Second is to get clear on your rewards and your penalties.
Penalties: What’s the real negative result of not losing that weight or starting that website? What will really happen if you never address that issue at work? This must be a bad enough outcome — for you — that you will fight like hell to avoid it happening.
Rewards: What do you get for reaching that position in your business? How will you feel personally when you have that conversation with your spouse? What will earning that money actually do for you? These must be strong enough that thinking about them will get you off your ass and into action.
And your penalties and rewards can change over time, to whatever creates the resulting actions.
Do what you have to do to stay out of the middle. There’s no space to move around.