Tag Archives: motivation

tony schwartz: the way we’re working isn’t working

the following is an interview with tony schwartz, who you may know as co-author with donald trump in the art of the deal.  tony just came out with a new book which i think everyone who has ever worked (so about 90% of the adult population) should read.  it is called the way we’re working isn’t working.  in susan lyne’s words

for two decades, tony schwartz has been observing and teaching the fundamentals of great performance.  his new book looks at why working harder doesn’t translate to working better.  backed by research and his own case studies, he offers a path to better results and higher rewards that should be hugely valuable to individuals and organizations alike.

isabella: you say that a good way to make deep and lasting change in your life is to create new rituals.  can you give an example in your own life where you have done that?

tony: wow! i actually have a life filled with rituals. i start every day by working out. that’s a ritual.  i begin my work day by doing the most important thing first, for 90 minutes, and then take a break. i take a break every 90 minutes throughout the day. i ritualize 8 plus hours of sleep. on saturday mornings, i sit with my wife of 32 years and we talk: she first, usually, with me listening, and then me, with her listening. building rituals that serve my life well has transformed my experience. my  rituals assure that i do what’s important to me, no matter what else is going on.

isabella: one of your tongue-in-cheek headers is “what do you want, and what will you do to avoid getting it?” i think this is a central question for everyone, whether at work, in relationships, in personal goals or anywhere else.  asking this question point-blank raises people’s hackles; have you found a way to ask this question so that people will actually reflect on it?

tony: well, interestingly, i think that it turns out you’re often better to start by helping people to build behaviors that serve them well ” the sort of rituals i’ve described above.  and then, almost inevitably, they’ll run into unexpected roadblocks and resistances.  that’s the opportunity to start exploring what’s getting in their way, because then you’ve got the energy of a person’s frustration working for you.  this helps explain why i believve that enduring change is ultimately a blend of many approaches: deepening awareness, cognitive work around the stories we tell ourselves, and explicit work aimed at changing specific behavioraa.

isabella: the idea of rhythm and balance (e.g. spending/renewing energy; work/rest; right/left hemispheres) is central to your book.  it reminds me of one of the seminal early new age books, george leonard’s the silent pulse. are you familiar with his book, and if so, could you touch on one or two areas where you have similar or different views?

tony: george leonard had an intuitive sense that building a rhythmic life rather than a linear one was the way to go.  he  was a lyrical writer, not a researcher.   what i’ve tried to do in the way we’re working isn’t working is to really lay out the multidisciplinary evidence for the fact that we’re designed to be rhythmic  and to really show how this works across all dimensions of our lives. physically, we need to balance rest and movement, eating and not eating, waking and sleeping. cognitively we’re at our best when we learn to move flexibly between left and right hemisphere dominance. spiritually we need to balance taking care of others with truly taking care of ourselves.

isabella: you propose that awareness has three dimensions:  “how long is your perspective? how wide is your vision? how deeply are you willing to look?”  how did you develop the idea of these three dimensions?

tony: most of us have a very narrow, superficial, short-term perspective built around avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. it’s our evolutionary inheritance. we want, above all, to survive, and reproduce, and not to be in discomfort.  awareness ” consciousness ” is an evolutionary leap, and it’s a capacity that separates us from every other species. we’re the only ones with the capacity for self-consciousness — reflection about ourselves. with that in mind, the question become “how spacious and embracing is my awareness?”

there are only so many ways to answer that. you can have a wider vision, which means more inclusive. you see your connections to others, and you’re capable of empathy.  you can also have a longer perspective, meaning the ability to see beyond your immediate needs and preoccupations. that’s possible only when you learn how to delay gratification, which is an extraordinary ability, and also the key to doing almost anything enduringly meaningful in your life.

and finally, there is depth.  most of us live at the surface, focused on the external world and how we’re managing it. depth is about interiority isn’t it? it’s about the willingness to look within, to peel away the layers, to overcome our infinite capacity for self-deception.  the whole journey really starts with depth, because depth is about working your way towards your ground, past the layers of conditioning, and reactivity, impulsivity and rationalization, defenses and blaming.  depth is what makes life rich. it frees up the ability to take a broader and a wider perspective.

isabella: below are two other quotes from your book that i found interesting.   do you have any wise words on them that you may not have been able to include in the book?

“we tolerate extraordinary disconnects in our own lives, even in areas we plainly have the power to influence”

tony: this goes back to our instinct to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  one of the shocking truths about a really satisfying life is that it necessarily involves pain ” the pain of growing, of pushing past our limits, of seeing through our delusions, illusions and premature conclusions.  when the researcher anders ericsson studied violinists at various skill levels, all the violinists agreed on one thing: practice was not only the most important single thing they could do to improve as violinists, but also the most difficult and the least enjoyable.  that helps explain why so few people achieve greatness.

“meaning and significance are a unique source of energy that ignites passion, focus and perseverance”

tony: well, meaning is a big subject, but there is a simple answer here.  when something really matters to us, we bring vastly more energy to it.  many of us spend our lives trying to please others, or live up to some external standard.  that’s not nearly as powerful a source of motivation as simply loving something for its own sake, regardless of what anyone else thinks.  i feel exactly that way about all of the ideas i’m talking about here.  it gives me joy every day of my life to engage with them, and to share them, and to believe that they have the power to improve people’s lives.

motivation, marriage and work relationships

as you can see, i haven’t been a very busy posting beaver lately.  i’ve been watching my energy level and need to put some things on the back burner.  every morning i come up with all kinds of wonderful ideas for blog posts but by the time i find a moment to post something, there’s not much left in the ol’ battery.

but let me just say a few words.  here are some things i’ve been thinking about.  motivation is one.  motivation is something i think about a lot.  how come there are sooo many solutions to problems out there (and more importantly, in here) and we don’t reach for them?  doesn’t that baffle you, too?  “there are more solutions than problems” said one of my clients today.  i totally agree.  what is it that doesn’t let us go for the solutions?  there is a lack of drive, of motivation.  how can that motivation be increased?

i’m also mulling about a 7-part relationship model, comprised of physical, sexual, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social and cultural aspects.  obviously, that goes for romantic relationships.  not entirely sure why i keep insisting on separating the physical and sexual aspects.  will the model hold true for non-romantic relationships as well, say, for friendships?  and why don’t i have a financial aspect?

talking about romantic relationships.  some of you are probably familiar with the work of john gottman, one of the most important researchers in the area of marital relationships (my blogging friend from coffeeyoghurt talks about it here).  i’ve been wondering how to apply his findings to work relationships.  among other thingsm he talks about the “four horsemen” that herald a breakup or at least a major crisis in a marriage – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.  probably i’m not the first person who’se been wondering this; maybe i’ll have time one of these days to check it out.

so there it is.  a few things to ponder.  hopefully i’ll have something a bit more substantive to say soon.  in the meantime: peace and love to you all!


researching motivation

a beautiful body, a calm mind, health into old age, a job that makes you bounce out of the bed in the morning with excitement – aaah, we all want it. and for many of us, these dreams area attainable.

what often stands in the way is our sluggish attitude towards changing our ways to make those great things come true.

once in a while this really bugs me and i sit there frowning, pondering the mysteries of motivation. today i went on a hunt to see what other equally puzzled people have found. here are five researchers who are working on interesting angles:

jeff stone: how hypocrisy motivates change
in their article, stone and fernandez wrote:

“the dissonance and the need to restore consistency are induced by subsequently making people aware of the fact that they themselves have failed to practice the target behavior in the past. mindfulness for past failures is accomplished by having people examine or generate a list of their reasons for not performing the behavior when they had the opportunity.”

when a person has the realization, the co-authors wrote, they begin to feel discomfort which then leads them to feel motivated to make a change.

one study in particular asked students to help develop an aids prevention and education program. during the process, students talked publically about important safe sex acts and half of them were later asked to write down their own personal behaviors. others were also asked to video tape messages about safe sex.

“it’s really most effective when people publically advocate to people and allow people to discover on their own – or lead them to discover on their own – that they don’t perform the behaviors that they tell others to do,” stone said.

the researchers found that those students who were realized that their words did not necessarily follow their actions were most likely to report that they would change.

this is tied to a person’s perceptions of self-integrity and also to honesty and sincerity. “following a hypocritical act,” the co-authors wrote, “maintaining or restoring these perceptions of self-integrity requires that people act in a more honest and sincere manner than in the past. thus, when they behave like a hypocrite, people become motivated to be honest and sincere about the norms for behavior, which is most directly accomplished by bringing their behavior into line with the proposed course for action.”

what motivates older people?
an excerpt from the online book when i’m 64 by the committee on aging frontiers in social psychology, personality and adult developmental psychology:

older people might have unique motives for change: for example, they might be especially and uniquely family oriented, and thus, wish to be less of a burden to their families, or they might be motivated to maintain an exercise program in order to retain physical functioning. or they might be uniquely motivated by a behavior change that would promote global good. for instance, older adults might be willing to make a contribution to the needs of one generation in hopes that their contribution might flow through to other generations.

stephen intille – cell phone health
dr. stephen intille from MIT is

developing and evaluating software for a common mobile phone that uses context-aware, tailored, just-in-time presentation of information and operant conditioning, a training technique, to encourage brisk walking. the system uses subtle audio cues as positive reinforcement. the prototype is an example of a ubiquitous computing health intervention that presents behavior-specific prompts and encourages incremental behavior change using successive approximation. to evaluate the effectiveness of the system, it is being deployed in a population of finnish mobile phone users. the impact of the technology on physical activity and feelings about fitness and readiness to engage in physical activity will be measured.

fear, romance and motivation
vladas griskevicius (university of minnesota) suggests that the effectiveness of persuasion tactics can be dramatically changed by two primal emotions – fear and romantic desire.

in the forthcoming paper “fear and loving in las vegas: evolution, emotion, and persuasion,” griskevicius and his co-authors find that the emotion we are currently feeling has a strong effect on whether we decide to conform or to go against the grain “being afraid especially leads people to go along with the crowd, activating a ‘safety-in-numbers’ psychology,” says griskevicius. “a feeling of lust, however, motivates people to go it alone, activating a desire to be seen as unique. feeling scared or amorous can greatly change the way people make decisions.”

power motivates
the thought of acquiring power motivates people to act.  in the wake of barack obama’s “yes we can” victory, a study has emerged from stanford about what motivates people to take action. the prime mover, say researchers, is acquiring a position of power.

specifically, it is people’s new, more elevated perception of themselves after assuming a position with more power that inspires them to take more risks and pursue goals more confidently. taking on a formal position of power”be it managerial, political, or cultural”gives people the illusion they have more control over their organization and their world, which, in turn, can propel them to go for the gusto. in the best-case scenarios, this can lead to achieving unimaginable accomplishments. in the worst, it can lead to poor decision making and devastating losses.

free-form writing frenzy #4: motivate or mayonnaise?

free-form writing prompt #4: are you motivated?

are you motivated? are you motivated? are you motivated? are you motivated yet???? sounds like some frenzied sports coach. yuk. i don’t WANNA be motivated. so there. hows DEM apples, as t would say.

it sounds like someone with a whip. i don’t really like whips. slave driver. i don’t like slave drivers.

what i DO like: soft, friendly people who look at me with their heads to the side and ask cool questions. like, “what delights you?” “what do you WANT?” as in what do you fancy right now. a pony? a peonie? a penny? a p p p p … hm what else could be wanted that starts with a p? a penis? a putterfly? penny pincher?

those are things and words that i like. what do YOU like? what do YOU fancy? what are words that make YOU go, yes! yum! hmmm? yum?

yum is a good word. can you tell i like food? but who doesn’t. yum is so much better than “motivate”. mayonnaise is better than motivate.

what mayonnaises you?

and then there is a picture of munch’s “cry” beside the quote that elizabeth chose for the quote. that doesn’t help. maybe that’s why i went “yuk” instead of “yum” when i read “motivate”.

it also makes me think of tony robbins and his big teeth. the king of motivation. the emperor of “just do it”. he means well, he really does, i believe him, somehow, even though he probably lies through his white teeth once in a while. but he does it kinda cute-like. i can’t get mad at him. and i get his desire to get people motivated. so that’s ok, tony. i’m just not ready to go and drop $1,309 in your lap so that you can MOTIVATE me.

i’ll stick with mayonnaise for now. white gooey half-fat mayonnaise. with tuna. or in the mustard sauce. yup. that motivates me.

4 questions to help men who binge

yesterday, i was talking about the issues faced by men who are dealing with binge eating disorder. this was a follow-up on the promise i had made to talk about men and obesity quite a while ago.

before i continue on this topic, let me make it clear that obesity is not always a result of binge eating disorder. as the rush university medical centre states, the causes of obesity are complex.

however, today i will limit myself to discussing a few things that can help men who suffer from binge eating disorder.

let’s assume that the old adage, “eat less, exercise more” is correct. the question then is not even how to do it – most people know that – but how to motivate oneself to start doing it, and more importantly, how to keep up the motivation.

men’s motivations tend to be different than women’s (although some studies show there is no difference when it comes to exercise; overall, though, i’m quite convinced there is a difference). however, most efforts towards helping people lose weight (from research to marketing) are geared towards women. thus, men tend not to feel “spoken to” when it comes to weight loss help. that increases the feeling of isolation that comes with binge eating disorder.

binge eating disorder is to a large degree an emotional issue. thus, some sort of emotional support (counselling or a support group) is highly important. what tends to motivate men to do that is a sense of crisis, a strong need to fix a problem. in absence of a crisis (that’s a good thing, isn’t it?!), the next best move could be to take a hard look at the consequences of continuing to battle with binge eating disorder.

here are a few questions that might help:

when i binge …

  • what does it do for me? (i.e. what’s the payoff?)
  • what does it do to me? (i.e. how does it hurt me?)
  • how does it affect others?
  • what are the long-term consequences of continuing it?

every man needs to answer this for himself. however, here is an example to illustrate it:

when i binge …

  1. what does it do for me? it calms me down, occupies my hands and mind and helps me forget the problems at work.
  2. what does it do to me? the next day i’m in a fog, i feel terribly bloated, and like a total failure. i should be able to keep this under control!
  3. how does it affect others? when i feel a binge coming on, i don’t want to have anything to do with anyone. last friday, mom asked me to help her go shopping and i didn’t because i wanted to be alone with the food.
  4. what are the long-term consequences? i only have to ask my doctor. he says i’ll need an operation on my knee if i can’t lose the weight. my father’s sister died from complications from diabetes. it was awful. i have diabetes. need i say more.

it’s best to use this series of questions for different aspects of the problem. therefore, in addition to starting of with when i binge …, one can also look into other aspects, for example

  • when i isolate with food …
  • when i watch TV instead of going for a walk …
  • when i eat so much i can’t sleep …

if you’re a guy suffering from binge eating disorder, please use these questions to help you find out whether you are in a crisis and don’t even know it.

another thing – it is difficult for most men to talk about their challenges. but many men also know a woman to whom theyman and woman talking can talk, and most women are happy to lend a guy an ear. maybe you’re not into talking to a counsellor or checking out groups like OA – but at least, talk to a trusted person, talk to that woman friend of yours or talk to a buddy, someone who will listen to you and support you.

that’s a courageous thing to do.