Success orientation

In the first stage of the Self-Efficacy Blessing Spiral (SBS), we focus exclusively on one thing: to act in a successful manner. But of course, the concept of success implicitly resonates with the concept of failure. That’s why we will almost completely abolish failure as an option in the second stage of the SBS, and we’ll get to that later.

We want to charge our motivation battery. We want to tap into the source of our ambition. We want to overcome an inner state of lethargy. And the best way to go about this is to abolish any feeling of inadequacy. That’s why our main concern when it comes to motivation is to ensure success in all circumstances.

Again, this only applies to the first stage. As soon as we reach the second stage, we can become more daring again and risk failure. And we can do this without harming our motivation for a very simple reason: failure will take on a completely new meaning from the second stage on.

In fact, on the second stage, you transform your whole life from a battlefield into a dance floor. And you transform the tragedy into a comedy worth being part of.

All we need to do, is to apply three major changes in dealing with our tasks and goals

  1. We change our language habits and call anything that takes more than two minutes or takes more than two steps “project” and no longer “task”. We do this in grateful reference to David Allen, the author of the book “Getting things done”.
  2. Further on we no longer measure our success by whether we complete our projects, but by whether we master the tangible task we have in front of us.
  3. If we manage to master the current task, then we are successful. And if we are successful, then we celebrate it with a smile and a modest “that worked out extremely well!”

The great thing about this approach? With two steps or two minutes per task, it becomes extremely difficult to fail.

And what’s even more ingenious: With an average of 16 hours of waking time per day, we suddenly have nearly 480 opportunities to succeed and celebrate our successful actions. And this is true regardless of the role that accomplishing this task plays in the overall context of our lives and the world.

With this minimal change of perspective, with this little adjustment in our inner storytelling with regards to success and failure, we create a foundation for our motivation that we can rely on.

It is about our decision to understand only tasks as tasks. It’s about recognizing our success at this low, minimal level. And it’s about celebrating these small successes one by one.

With every little success and every little party, we celebrate, we increase our drive to turn to the next task with vigor and esprit.

Believe it or not: In this inner change of attitude lies the key to our motivation in almost any situation. Due to the close connection between success, motivation, and happiness, this is also the key to a happiness that was previously only granted to the naïf.

And that brings us to another topic.

It is difficult to remind ourselves of the things we need to do daily if we want to get closer to our overarching goals. It can be about fitness, professional development, academic success, or anything else.

But to pull ourselves together is even more difficult than remembering the important activities. Going for a run, taking care of accounting, or sticking to our research: it’s easy to do these things once or twice. It is just as easy, if uncomfortable, to think of these things with a guilty conscience.

But sticking to it? We usually reach our limits quickly. And we now know why this is so: The meaning and importance of our overarching goals have almost no influence on our drive.

That is why there is great consensus among productivity gurus and their students. If we want to get things done in our lives, then habits are very powerful. Formulated with vigor: Habits are crucial when it comes to achieving larger goals or maintaining standards in our lives in the long term.

Gurus and their students take on supposed tasks, which we now call “projects”. This includes habitual projects such as an hour at the gym, meditating for half an hour in the morning and evening, or working on an important project for three hours every day.

The supposed productivity heroes focus on continuity. Putting down the longest possible streak is crucial. This refers to a long series of days without interruption on which we complete the project that we want to transform into a new habit. And the wannabe productivity heroes come up with something else: habit chaining, i.e. linking multiple habits. In this way, they turn one habit into a trigger for the next. And this is all well and good.

I don’t know how those who achieve this way do it…

We less gifted fail with the intention to establish a new habit in our lives. Why? We are taking on too much. And the ingenious trick that the gurus recommend, to make our goals public to increase self-commitment, does not help much either. On the contrary, our failure is accompanied by public disgrace.

Luckily life has sent us Stephen Guise and his book Mini-Habits. Because he proposes, following Bandura, to replace our ambitious habit projects with minimal ones.

  • Do you want to go running every day? Plan to have your running gear ready every night. And forget about the plan to leave the house or set foot on the treadmill.
  • Would you like to meditate for an hour every day? Light an incense stick once a day or breathe three breaths consciously. And forget the idea that you must sit on a cushion with your legs crossed twice for half an hour.
  • Would you like to make progress with your project? Turn on the computer once a day and skim your project plan. And forget the idea that you must sit down for three hours and work on your project.

The idea: Do things that you can do with certainty. And “with certainty” means: Come what may. This is especially true when it comes to cultivating new habits. Take on less. Take on a minimum.

And of course, you are allowed to do more than you planned. But you commit yourself exclusively to the absolute minimum that you will do and achieve under all circumstances.

If you’ve done the minimum, then you’re successful. And because you can do it every day, you establish new habits with manageable effort.

Maybe you think I’m making fun of you

But the opposite is true. It’s totally easy to take on something huge and fail. What is much more difficult is to take on something big and be successful. But there is something that is as simple as failing with our ambitious habit projects: mastering minimal requirements.

Any small fire can very quickly become a large fire. More precisely, every big fire starts with a small one. For a monumental forest fire, the tiny embers of a cigarette, that we carelessly throw out the window of a car, are enough.

You probably also know the effect of the domino chain reaction, which circulates as a video on the Internet. The smallest domino is half a centimeter high and one millimeter thin. The largest domino is one meter high and weighs about 50 kg. In between, there are eleven other dominos, each about one and a half times the size of the previous one.

Domino Chain Reaction (short version): geometric growth in action

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In the same way, we establish trigger activities in our lives with mini-habits and mini-habit chains. We are continually successful with these activities. We celebrate those successes secretly. All the time. And we pour the energy of success, the power of our small parties directly into the next activity.

These enchained activities can be a continuation of what we started with our mini habit. Maybe we’ll go for a run. Maybe we sit down and meditate. Maybe we’ll sit down at the computer and work on our project. But it can also be something else. We are completely free to remain true to our existential path and to do what is most important to us at the moment.

We celebrate from morning till evening

Regardless of whether it’s our new definition of tasks or mini habits, our essential job is to celebrate what we accomplish.

Can’t get out of bed? Turn to the other side and celebrate if you succeed. You don’t want to work? Then first clean your teeth and be happy about it. You don’t want to leave the house? No problem, pour yourself a glass of water, drink a sip and congratulate yourself on this amazing success.

Believe it or not, this is the only key there is to your motivation. And luckily, it’s also the only key you need. Almost…

Isn’t that completely and brutally ingenious? You have over 480 opportunities a day to celebrate and tap into your ambition. It’s up to you to take advantage of these opportunities. It’s up to you to move mountains. Completely relaxed. With a spoon.

To learn more about the link between self-efficacy and motivation, I recommend the book “The Motivation Myth” by Jeff Haden.

But we can take things one step further

So that we are prepared for every situation in our everyday life, we go a little further in the next step and supplement the key with a lock pick.