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Get and stay motivated

Getting Things Done: A Surprising Lesson from the Science of Motivation

by Ayelet Fishbach, Little, Brown Spark, 2022

In the early years of the last century, Hanoi had a rat problem. To solve this problem, the French colonial authorities placed a one-cent bounty on rodents, to which anyone who delivered a rat’s tail could receive. Thousands of tails were auctioned, but Hanoi’s rat population did not decrease. Instead, tailless rats are running through the streets, and rat farms are discovered. To make money from selling rat tails, you need more mice to raise more mice. Moral of the story: be careful what behaviors you reward.

Ayelet Fishbach, Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller, Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, tell the story of rats in Hanoi in Finish it. The book is a deep dive into the real ocean of behavioral research, including some substantial research done by the author. This field of scholarship is so fraught with intricacies and complexities that it is hard to believe how managers can push themselves, let alone those in charge of them.

Consider the role progress plays on motivation. Would you be more motivated if you focused on how far you have come to reach your goal or if you maintained your attention on how far you still have to go? The not-so-simple answer, Fishbach explains in chapter 5, is: it depends. What are your emotional inclinations — are you the kind of person who is half-empty or half-full of glass? Is the goal you are pursuing a conditional goal with all-or-nothing benefits paid on completion, or a cumulative goal from which you get the benefit of continuing? And how far are you on the road: how close are you to achieving your goal? Your answers to those questions determine how you should use progress as a motivator. Furthermore, if you don’t ask those questions and answer them appropriately, the progress you make toward your goals can become a demoralizing motivator and an obstacle to achievement. target.

Would you be more motivated if you focused on how far you have come to reach your goal or if you trained your attention on how far you still have to go? The answer is not simply: it depends.

Each chapter in Finish it reiterates the multifaceted nature of self-motivation and highlights important nuances in the kind of advice found in social media articles. The idea of ​​really learning from mistakes—”forward failure,” as traditional Christian leadership expert John Maxwell put it—is a prime example. Fishbach agrees that negative feedback is essential for growth, but she also points to its tendency to “decrease our motivation and our ability to learn”. (The author describes the psychologist Martin Seligman of “learned helplessness” experiments in which dogs and people who could not avoid punishment in one situation didn’t even try to avoid it in another situation they could.) Fishbach explains: the more committed a person is to the goal goal and the more confident they are that they can achieve it, explains Fishbach, the easier it is to accept and learn from negative feedback. On the contrary, the less committed and professional a person is, the more likely they are to give negative feedback that leads to the failure of the goal.

Finish it It’s a guide to self-motivation, but it’s also packed with advice for leaders. Perhaps its most useful management application is working directly with employees. In this regard, the question-driven summaries at the end of each chapter can serve as a useful training tool.

Although Fishbach doesn’t refer to groups of motivated employees, there are clear implications for that situation as well. For example, in chapter 7, she discusses “the matter in the middle”—a often protracted period during which goal-setting efforts can become a tagline. “Long mids… should be accompanied by a warning sign: FRAGILE MOTIVATION. HANDLED WITH CARE,” she wrote. “While most people are enthusiastic and dedicated at the beginning and end of the pursuit of a goal, in the middle, both the drive to accomplish and the drive to do the right thing (with a high standard) are tend to be affected.” For better middle management, Fishbach recommends paying attention to the actions taken there and making them more memorable, setting sub-goals, and defining “timelines, optional for marks a new beginning”. All of these tactics can be used to motivate groups as well as individuals to achieve goals.

Fishbach is an expert – and articulate, if sometimes lengthy – guide to motivation, and Finish it tackle this perennial challenge without taking the kinds of shortcuts that could sabotage goal achievement. Leaders are likely to find themselves consulting that on a regular basis as they seek to achieve personal and organizational goals.

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