Big wins first

Dan Gregory @DanGregoryCo

Are small wins just as important as big wins? Depends who you ask.

Naval Adm. William H. McRaven famously suggested that one of the keys to feeling more motivated and driving personal success, was to start the day by making your bed.

A better strategy, in my opinion, is to start the day with Big Wins First.

Of course, if your life's work and personal mission is defined by crisp linen and hospital corners, then have at it. But you may, in fact, be psychologically conditioning yourself to prioritise the trivial, or in fact, to not prioritise at all.

So how does one achieve a Big Win First?

This simple piece of motivation design requires little more than a blank sheet of paper, or a softly humming digital screen and interface.

Make three lists:

  1. Big Wins

  2. To Dos

  3. Week Plan

Determine what your Big Wins are - for me, it's things like writing a new chapter for my latest book or authoring a new keynote speech, but it might just as easily be a core piece of a larger project. Yours will obviously be determined by your own personal and business ambitions.

Next, list the To Dos - those mundane activities that must be done, but are hardly inspiring.

Lastly, compose your Week Plan placing a Big Win at the top of each days' list.

The point is, this should be the first thing that has your attention each day and the day should not encroach on your Big Win until you've won. At this point, it matters little what happens to the rest of your day, how many people interrupt you or what little failures you experience. You've already won... and won big!

More importantly, you're conditioning your mind and your habits to prioritize your priorities, and over time, this leads to personal progress that truly matters.

Need to versus want to

Dan Gregory @DanGregoryCo

One of the things that has human beings turning to motivational literature in their multitudes is the difference between "Need to" and "Want to".

Typically, want todoesn't require a lot of motivation - it's intrinsically linked to whatever that activity might be. Few of us need to "motivate" ourselves to enjoy a good meal or a soft bed at the end of a long day.

However, activities that are more need to, or have to, or (shudder) shoulds tend to rely on extrinsic motivation in one form or another. This might be a deadline, or some kind of legal repercussion, a physical or reputational risk or something of the like. In other words, if we don't, we're going to get our procrastinating butts kicked.

Often times, this can be motivation enough. But that leaves what to do about those tasks where the outside, or extrinsic, cost isn't enough to motivate us. Famed author, Douglas Adams, once quipped, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshingsound they make as they pass by."

So what kind of motivation is required for a need toactivity that, may not be enjoyable or even pleasant, is still rather necessary?

This is where behavioral, or motivation, design can be of enormous assistance.

We've all used motivation design in one form or another throughout our lives - you may have placed an alarm clock on the other side of the room so that you couldn't just hit snooze, or you may have parked the car a reasonable distance from the office to enforce some daily aerobic activity, or you might even have coordinated your daily movements in order that your path might cross with a secret love interest (but this is clearly stalking and not to be encouraged).

The long and shot of it is, by designing our environments, and indeed systems, so that they support these necessary activities, and might even make them intrinsically motivating or at least hard to avoid, we increase our chances of success and critically, shift our mindset surrounding these activities in such a way that they become less paralyzing in the future.

So, if you need to, systematize it until it becomes unconscious competence. (But stop following people home... it's creepy.)


Dan Gregory @DanGregoryCo

So what is Mastervation? There’s a lot of misinformation around the concept of motivation - mostly perpetuated by so-called gurus who’s personal motivation is to lighten your wallet and line theirs.

We’ve been told to set goals (backed up by Yale’s 1953 goals study where those rare few who wrote down specific and measurable goals achieved far greater wealth, happiness and fame than their peers. A study that Yale contends never actually happened). Yet this so-called “historic precident” has informed business and personal motivation strategies for decades.

We’ve also been told to recite affirmations to ourselves in the mirror each morning, delivered in the present tense with vivid emotional expression (no doubt the mirror is there in order that our subconscious can observe our own spectatular hypocrisy - It turns out, “I am not a magnificent snow flake filled with the essense of pure potentiality” after all).

More recent psychological studies inform us that our minds, rather than simply accepting these affirmations, as some kind of inert mental computer programming, instead seek evidence for or against these statements and often come up with damning evidence to the contrary. This can in fact entrench the undesired beliefs, affirmations and outcomes we are seeking to avoid.

In fact, our 21st Centrury brains have become exquisite BS detectors for all but motivational spin.

So what is real motivation? Or are we all just jerk offs jerking off?

Well, yes and no.

Real motivation is something we all have experience of. When we’re engaged in something we care about or with people we care about we feel an emotion Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi describes as “Flow”.

So why the confusion?

Typically, when people talk about motivation, what they really mean is pushing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy or are not truly passionate about, like exercising or eating health food... eeeaaargh!!! This translates more accurately as mental compulsion.

That’s a problem, because this kind of ra ra style motivation is only ever a short term strategy. In other words it runs out!

Creating engagement around these challenging endeavours requires designing environments and processes that amplify engagement intrinsically, not just "mastervation".

So, stop it, or you'll all go blind...

How many decisions do you actually make?

Dan Gregory @DanGregoryCo

If you're like most people, you probably assume that most of your decisions are your own. However, virtually every decision you make is somewhat manipulated by decisions you have no part in.

Did you wake up this morning naturally, or through the use of an alarm clock?

Who determined what time you should wake up anyway?

Or go to bed last night? Was it just the TV Schedule?

Did you have a ‘healthy’ breakfast? How do you know? Do you know?

Did you start the day with a coffee or a juice? What brand did you choose? Decaf or Defibrillator?

Did you take the car? What model did you "choose"? Did you stay in your lane? Obey the traffic lights?

Did the morning news make you angry?

Who were you angry with? The government? The opposition? Foreigners? The locals? The presenters?

And that was just getting to work. Virtually every decision in our lives is to some degree, beyond our control. But rather than being a cause for alarm or an encouragement to live off grid, it’s a reminder to be conscious of the decisions we make.

For those of us who seek influence, who want to drive change, who desire to lead, it’s also a reminder that much of our capacity to persuade is unconscious and environmental.

If we want to be effective influencers, we need to do more than simply talk, we need to be strategic, to be curious and to design success into our processes and environments.

The right versus the risky

Dan Gregory @DanGregoryCo

Working with organizations all around the world, I often enjoy asking people provocative questions to have them reflect on what they believe versus what is a default position. It's a way of teasing out what they really feel about the concept of risk.

A question I often ask is, “In a situation, with an either/or outcome, are you more likely to base a decision on what is best for the organization you work for, or on what is the least risky for you personally?”

Now, in a public forum, few will admit to putting their own personal needs ahead of the greater good, but in fact, our behavior suggests that we regularly, if not mostly, do the opposite.

A recent Trulia Study revealed that whilst most Americans (79%) state they care about the environment and are concerned about such issues as global warming, in practice, they will do little to change the situation. Particularly if it requires personal effort or expense.

This is a critical understanding in human behavior. We often rely on such strategies as logic and emotional appeal to drive positive change, when in fact, a risk-mitigation strategy may be more effective.

Instead of harping on about the “rightness” or even “righteousness” of our position, we would do better to make ourselves easier to agree with.

This starts with reducing the risk of converting to our world view - physically, reputationally and financially.

Language is leverage

Dan Gregory @DanGregoryCo

Virtually every piece of information you take in, whether consciously or unconsciously, is laden with biases, judgement and meaning. It's all to do with the language the information is framed in.

For instance, consider the following questions:

  1. “Are you more afraid of never doing great work… or of losing a job that will never allow you to do the work you were born to do?”

This is a plainly manipulative message designed to have you consider a particular outcome - i.e. a work-life bereft of meaning. Compare this to the following:

  1. “Are you more interested in providing the safe and reliable financial environment your family deserves… or do you consider your own professional ambitions to be more important?”

Again, clearly designed to persuade, just in the opposite direction.

Now these questions have been exaggerated for clarity, however, every conversation, every news article you read, every tweet, post, piece of marketing or sales pitch you are exposed to is laced with the language of leverage.

This makes applying a filter to all you hear, read and digest incredibly important.

But it is just as important, we should all remember to choose our words carefully.

Frame your value in our values

Dan Gregory @DanGregoryCo

The sale, or engagement, or support, or participation is always more determined by those we wish to influence than we "influencers" would like to imagine. In other words, our value lies not in our product or service or idea, but in their values.

This is largely due to the fact that we filter our decisions through a values hierarchy that is unique to our personality and experience.

Some of us have family as our Number 1 value, whereas others, tend to think of family as people we visit in the holidays... and more out of a sense of obligation and guilt than of pleasure. If you haven't heard from a family member since December... well... it's you!

However, if we want to be influential and engaging, we need to stop judging the values of others and learn to frame our objectives, our goals, our arguments in termsof their values.

I became a White Ribbon Ambassador and Board Director for this very reason. I, as a man, have never experienced the violence of a man against a woman, nor have I ever witnessed it in my own family life. And yet, I spend a good part of my week campaigning to end it's prevalence in our society.

I do this because, rather than telling me about theirwork, theirworld view, theirprograms, they demonstrated how women's safety was a man's issue... how it was, in fact, myissue.

A fact illustrated by a simple but compelling headline, written in an unremarkable font on a plain B&W poster by Tom McElligott and Nancy Rice. It simply reads, "One in four women will be raped in her lifetime. Will it be you Mother? Your Sister? Your Daughter? Or you Wife?"

This simple poster powerfully illustrates how great leaders and persuasive business people drive willing participation by framing their world view - in ours!

Who do you help us to be?

Dan Gregory   @DanGregoryCo

Too often we spend our time focused on what we want people to do or how we would like them to behave.

We issue instructions to our staff, offer feedback to our teams and try to persuade our customers and clients using features and benefits - both logical and emotional.

The problem is, that’s not how most of us are filtering the world.

Every decision we make is to some extent determined by our sense of identity - who we think we are AND who we want to project to the world that we are.

This is an unconscious influence and bias in our lives that we are often scarcely aware of.

However, factors such as our gender, our nationality, the values we absorbed in childhood, the idiocincocies of our version of whatever language we speak, the uniform of our socio-economic status or the part of town we’re from, drive our decision making far more than any other factor.

The truth is, the sale is always in the prospect, not the product.

Influence and persuasion are always sitting on the other side of the table.

And if we want to engage our staff, our customers, our loved ones and our communities, we need to stop telling people what we want them to do or how great our product or service is and focus more on who we help them to be.

In other words, start with WHO.