what to do when you don’t want to

struggling to do what you need to do

Day one of the change initiative, the energy was almost palpable. You were chomping at the bit. “This time will be different,” you thought. But now it’s day 20. Everything in your being says it’s okay to skip a day. What will you do?

If you’ve ever tried to improve by developing a new habit, you know what I’m talking about. Motivation is so abundant in the beginning that you aren’t even aware of its limitations. You really think this time will be different. You can feel it.

So why is it that just a few weeks later, you can find yourself thinking about letting off? You’ve been so good. Why are you struggling to stay on track?

In a word, you’re human.

Human beings are not consistently motivated, no matter who you are. Stanford University behavior expert, BJ Fogg, calls the phenomenon the “motivation wave”. Over time, motivation rises and falls. When it is high, you are able and willing to do things that are hard. When it falls, you aren’t.

That is, if you leave yourself to your own devices. And herein lies the answer. Left to our own devices, we might just quit when the going inevitably gets rough. We simply don’t feel like doing what we need to do. The trick is not to leave ourselves to our own devices!

Plan for the let down…set up accountability.

To survive the tough stretch of a change effort, what performance coach Dr. Jason Selk calls the “fight thru” phase, you need accountability. In its various forms, accountability can look fun one day, supportive another, and intimidating the next. But whatever its form, accountability works because it allows us to rely on the behavior of others as a catalyst for ourselves. It is like a motivational “jump start”.

Think about developing a running routine. What gets you to the trailhead after a few weeks of training? Setting an alarm or meeting someone there? The alarm is merely a trigger to make sure you don’t forget. A running buddy waiting impatiently in the dark creates accountability.

Here are a few ideas for creating accountability.

1. Post your performance. I’m not talking about Twitter so much as perhaps your office door. This is a great one because it doesn’t really require anyone else to do much either. They are going to look, if only out of curiosity, and just knowing that their eyes will be watching your results can spark you to move.

2. Get a coach. A coach, especially if paid, can provide a major shot in the arm. They will work hard to clarify expectations, and they will be quick to cut through the clutter that might otherwise spin into a web of excuses.

3. Join a team. As mentioned above, knowing that others are relying on you for the success of the whole can be a catalyst for motivation. Just keep in mind that a team is different than a group. A team implies trust and some level of codependence. If the team doesn’t suffer when you quit, it’s not a team.

4. Enroll some fans. Get a few people you trust and would be willing to suffer for, and ask them to check in with you. Have them become personal team members on your irunurun dashboard so they can see your score.

5. Schedule accountability meetings. You can’t count on your fans or colleagues to stick with your accountability plan if you don’t, so it’s best to schedule a regular time to connect and review your performance. And, nothing is more powerful than human-being-to-human-being interaction for accountability.

6. Employ your competition. According to best selling author, Daniel Pink, high stakes carrots and sticks can erode the intrinsic drive you might otherwise feel for an activity, but if you can’t connect what you are doing to a deep sense of purpose, autonomy, or mastery, consider a wager with yourself.

Write out 5 checks to your biggest competitor or an organization that directly opposes one of your strongly held views. (The dollar amount is almost inconsequential.) Give them to your accountability partner with instructions to send one each time you skip your routine.

The takeaway…

When the going gets tough, which it inevitably will, you need to be prepared. When you no longer want to do what you need to do, a robust accountability plan can tap the motivation of others to help you take action.

How about you? How have you gotten yourself to do what you no longer wanted to do?