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How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win 2020

Akey moment in Tony Robbins’s “Unleash the Power Within” seminar
occurs when participants take part in the fire walk.
(Okay, it’s more like a “kinda-hot coals” walk, but “fire” sounds more
dangerous and macho and Katy Perry “Roar”-y. After all, Tony does know a
little something about branding.)
(Actually, Tony knows a lot about branding.)
(And actually, this is the last time I’ll take a shot at Tony. I think.) Robbins describes the fire walk as “a symbolic experience that proves if you can make it through the fire, you can make it through anything.”* The premise sounds great: Walking across kinda-hot coals gives you lasting
confidence and motivation by tapping into the amazing power lying dormant within you.
In fact, it doesn’t.
Fire-walking is a one-off event. Fire-walking is like listening to a motivational speech: You go home inspired and excited and all jazzed up . . . but you wake up the next day the same person you were the day before, because you haven’t truly accomplished anything.
(Except listen. And pay for the seminar.) Most people are confused about the source of motivation. They think motivation is the spark that automatically produces lasting eagerness to do
hard work; the greater the motivation, the more effort you’re willing to put
in. Actually, motivation is a result. Motivation is the pride you take in work you have already done—which fuels your willingness to do even more.
That’s why tips for how to feel more motivated often fall short. Most of that advice can be boiled down to “You can be more motivated. All you have to do is dig deep into your mind and find that motivation within.” (And burn your feet a little.) The same is true for confidence, confidence being closely linked to motivation. The thinking goes, “You can be more confident. All you have to
do is decide to be more confident.” It’s easy: Suppress negative thoughts,
suppress negative perspectives, repeat some really cool self-affirmational
statements, and . . . presto! I’m like Tony Robbins. Or not.
The main problem in both cases is the way we’ve come to think about motivation.
Most definitions of “motivation” involve some phrase like “the force or influence that causes someone to do something.” Motivation is viewed as a spark, a precondition, a prerequisite, a presomething that is required before we can start. If we aren’t motivated, we can’t start. If we aren’t motivated, we can’t do.
Bullshit. Real motivation comes after you start. Motivation isn’t the result of hearing a speech or watching a movie or crisping your soles. Motivation isn’t passive; motivation is active.


The best way to get motivated is to break a sweat, literally or symbolically.
Getting started is often the hardest part. Financial planners frequently
recommend paying off a small debt first, even though the balance on that
bill may carry the lowest interest rate of all your debts. Rationally, that
approach makes no sense: If you carry a balance on three credit cards, the
card you pay off first should be the one with the highest interest rate. But
the thought of paying off, say, a $7,000 balance when you can spare only an
extra $200 a month . . . ugh. The time horizon is too long for the payoff—
literally—to seem worth it. The “irrational” approach often works better:
Working to pay off the card with the smallest balance seems a lot more
attainable. Once you start, you can see the difference. Knocking $200 off an
$800 debt feels like you’ve accomplished something. After next month,
you’re halfway done! And once you pay off that card, you’ll be motivated
to keep going to pay off the next card.
Think about why you sometimes procrastinate. (Don’t say you never
put things off. Show me someone who doesn’t procrastinate and I’ll show
you a robot. Everyone procrastinates.)
I definitely procrastinate.

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