It’s interesting how our accomplishments often depend more on the reason why we do something, rather than the difficulty of the task at hand. We can be compelled to take on great challenges if our reason for doing so is strong enough.
On the other hand, even a simple task can seem insurmountable if we can’t come up with a good enough reason why we feel we should do it. How many times have you avoided doing something just because there was no impelling motive? The power behind action, or inaction, often hinges on that simple three letter word, “why.”
When it feels like “I have to”
Think of all the things people are able to get themselves to do because they feel like they have no other choice. Millions, or perhaps billions, of people faithfully go to work five days a week for this very reason. It’s not because they love their job and the people they work with. It’s because they have decided that they simply have no other choice.
They have concluded that the cost of not going to work is just too great. They don’t see any acceptable options, so they use the “I have to” reason to get themselves up and going. We’ve all used this same reason to get ourselves to do something that needed to be done, and we know from personal experience that it works.
When having a choice just confuses the issue
Even though we always have a choice, feeling that we don’t can really simplify things sometimes. There are situations where we can use this concept to create a stronger sense of commitment than would otherwise be possible.
When we want to see something through no matter what, removing all other choices will raise our determination dramatically. I am reminded of how most marriage vows include the terms “for as long as you both shall live.” Obviously, the intention here is to create a high level of emotional commitment by eliminating all other options.
The power of financial commitment
In our culture, there is a direct relationship between financial commitment and motivation. The more invested we are in something; the more likely we are to take action to protect our investment. If you have a $60,000 Lexus, chances are you will take better care of it than you would a $500 beater.
When we are willing to spend more money on something it is generally because we place a comparatively higher value on it. The higher we value something, the more compelled we are to do whatever it takes to avoid losing it.
Going way beyond the comfort zone
Last summer I was reminded just how far we can push ourselves when something threatens the things that we value most. Before I tell you what happened, let me set the scene by explaining a few things about my situation.
My wife and I live in a house that has been going through a complete remodel. We designed it and we are doing almost all of the work ourselves. This is a project from our hearts and it’s one of the many things we do well together. However, the drawback is that because we are both busy people, progress is rather slow.
Enter the big bad insurance company
At some point a man from our insurance company came by and took some pictures of the house. Those pictures found their way to the underwriters who had a problem with some unfinished aspects of the project, and sent us a cancellation notice. They included their specific reasons, and our agent assured us that if the work got completed prior to the cancellation date, we would be fine.
Now, I’m not a big fan of hot weather, and as it turned out we were having a very hot summer. Not only that, but the amount of work that needed to be done to satisfy the insurance company was huge. With a window of opportunity that was only a few weeks long, I convinced myself that I had no choice. We simply had to make it happen!
When the going gets tough
Long story short, we spent seven days working twelve hours a day in uncomfortably hot conditions. It was extremely challenging to say the least, but we did it together and we made our deadline.
There is something deeply rewarding about pouring yourself into a seemingly impossible task that takes you that far outside of your comfort zone. You discover that your capabilities can dramatically exceed your self-imposed limits, once you abandon all the excuses and eliminate all the other choices. For us, having done this as a team was a truly gratifying experience.
Start with a compelling why
Whenever you are faced with a challenging task, start by examining your motives. The truth is, if you have a compelling enough reason, you can do almost anything. When you know why you intend to do something, you can always find the how.
For us, being without insurance in the middle of fire season represented an unacceptable threat to everything we have created in our unique little corner of the world. Under normal circumstances, I couldn’t imagine working that hard in such harsh conditions. But these were not normal circumstances.
Life is full of unexpected challenges
When you need to push yourself way outside the comfort zone, make sure you know exactly why. Once you have a truly compelling reason, then prepare to be amazed by how much you can actually accomplish.
How do you feel about challenges?
What gets you motivated?
The lines are open!