How to Trick Yourself into Success

23 03 2011

We could do so much, we could go so far—if we didn’t stand in our own way.  We are our own enemy!

We try to reason with ourselves, but we are unreasonable.

We try to force ourselves, but we are hard to move.

And so, sometimes, we have to get devious with ourselves.  We must trick ourselves into doing what we know we should do.

If your to-do list is longer and your tasks more intimidating than the US tax code,

If you cower under your desk because you feel undermotivated and overwhelmed,

If you feel that it would take five locomotives, four teams of horses, three grizzly bears, two elephants and a sharp poke from a cattle prod to get you moving,

Then this book is for you.

If you feel overwhelmed at how many choices there are in this book, close your eyes, open the book to a random page, and point.  Or do the self-deception that corresponds to your favorite number.  Or flip a bunch of coins.  Or read through the book until one grabs you.  Or ask a friend to pick one for you.  Or just do them in order.  Or in reverse order.  Or do the one that corresponds to your age.  Or your birthdate.  Or… there I go again, giving you too many choices.

Okay, do this.  I’m thinking of a number between one and one and whatever the last self-deception in this book is.  Guess what number I am thinking.  You’re right!  Do that one.


The First Big Self-Deception

23 03 2011

It takes a huge amount of self-deception to believe that you will be a rock star, a pro athlete, a CEO, a published author, or even that you will get your spring cleaning done before fall.  Or at all.

What is your dream?  Your big goal?  Can you achieve it?

Maybe, if you use…

1 – “I can do it. It’ll be easy.”

23 03 2011

When you have a big goal, a big dream, tell yourself…

“How hard can it be?

Go to the moon?

Become a billionaire?

Win an Academy Award?

Invent a new kind of cheese?

I can do it.  No problem.”

Of course you probably can’t do it.  And even if you can, it’ll be incredibly hard and take a long time.  But if you tell yourself you can do it anyway, you’ll begin the journey.

And like the climb up a mountain, you’ll think you’re nearing the goal, only to discover that what you thought was the “peak” only hides a higher and steeper path.

You go on anyway, though, because you can now see the top of the mountain.

But that “peak” hides an even higher and steeper path.

This happens over and over again as you climb higher and higher.  At times you want to quit, but you’re sure the next peak is indeed the top.  You are so close.  So you keep climbing.

And one day, if you didn’t freeze to death in a freak snowstorm, fall into a crevasse, or get eaten by mountain lions, you’re pleasantly surprised to discover that you have indeed reached the top.  And you look back over your journey, and realize that if you’d known how hard the trip would be, you would have never begun.

Self-Deception to Get You Moving

23 03 2011

You have your goal, you’ve deceived yourself into thinking you can do it, but now you have to actually act.  You have to climb that mountain.  It’s a big mountain.  You’re tired.  You look at that big mountain.  There’s no way you’re climbing that!  That’s too much work!  Maybe you’ll watch TV.  Maybe you’ll take a nap.  And then you can start climbing tomorrow.  Or the next day.  Or maybe next week.

Time to reach into your bag of self- deceptions.  “Oh,” you say, “but it’s a heavy bag.  And I’m tired from thinking about climbing up that mountain.  Maybe I’ll pick up the bag tomorrow.  Or the next day.  Or maybe…” Oh come on, you’re getting ridiculous.  It’s just a little metaphorical sack.  Come on, just reach in, and pull out one of the many tricks to get yourself moving.  DO IT!

2 – “I only have to do a little bit of this job.”

23 03 2011

When you have an overwhelmingly large job to do, tell yourself…

“I don’t have to do it all.

In fact, I’ll just work on it for five minutes.

Then I’ll do something more fun, like feed the crocodiles.”

After five minutes you’ll be on a roll and want to keep working on it.  You’ll become so obsessed with your project that you won’t want to stop.  You know how hard it was to get going, and you know that if you stop you might not be able to start again.  So you skip meals, you skip sleep, you don’t go home. But you get that job done.  You have beat it.

That should have got you going.  But maybe it didn’t.  Or maybe it did, but you can’t be fooled twice.  Or maybe you just get bored easily and like variety.

In any of these cases, here are some other self-deceptions that will help make you a winner.

3 – “I’ll do two tasks, then spend the rest of the day playing.”

23 03 2011

When you have a lot to do, but you can’t get motivated, tell yourself…

I’m just going to play today.

As soon as I finish two tasks.

I’ll put out the lion,

and then I’ll buy a new duck.

And then I’ll play.

After two tasks you’ll probably be up for more, and more, and before you know it, the day and your tasks will be done. You didn’t get to play today, but that’s okay.  You’ll play tomorrow.

4 – “I”ll let the dice tell me what to do.”

23 03 2011

Make a list of 11 jobs.

Number them 2 – 12.

Roll a pair of dice.

Whatever number you roll, do that job.

If you rolled the number of a job already done, take a 10 minute break.

Or roll again.

If you can’t decide which to do,

flip a coin.

5 – “I’ll only work until the buzzer rings.”

23 03 2011

Set a timer–an hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 5 minutes—

however long you think you can handle working without crying.

Get to work.

When the timer rings, you’re done!

Wasn’t that fun?

Let’s do it again.

6 – Your to-Do List Seems Too Long – “I’ll start with the easy stuff.”

23 03 2011

Do a quick and easy task first.

Pick up my socks.

Check it off your list.

Do another quick and easy job.

Put on my socks.

Check it off.

You’ll feel a quick sense of accomplishment as you see those tasks falling by the wayside.  And maybe you’ll gain enough momentum that when you run out of easy jobs, you’ll have the energy to tackle the tough tasks.

7 – “I just have to earn 100 points, and then I’m done for the day.”

23 03 2011

Just 100 points!

Give each task a point value.

For quick tasks– put something away, delete an e-mail, eat a bug– 1 point

For larger tasks–clean up after your pet elephant, write an apology letter to your neighbor, 10 points.

For huge tasks… relandscape your neighbor’s yard, 100 points

When you’ve earned 100 points, you’re done!

Though if you want to earn 100 more points, you could take tomorrow off!

Or earn 700 points and take a whole week off!

Now you’re talking!