Doing a small amount of work every day to make progress on a large project is a simple and easy way to succeed. You might be working on something straightforward like an executive briefing you are preparing to present in a week’s time. You might have a larger outcome in mind, like getting a venture funded or being hired in an ideal position at one of the companies where you’d most like to work.
Steady progress demands consistency, not just in your behavior but in your attitude. But it’s not any behavior or any progress that creates success. For example, many writers give themselves requirements like 500 words a day or a taller order like 5,000 words a day.The behavior is simple. You could just open Dictionary.com and type in the words you find there, until you arrive at the target number. But, of course, that’s not the intention of setting the requirement. The requirement isn’t any words: it’s words that tell your story or accomplish whatever you intend for your book to do for you and its audience.
The same way that showing up to work and doing anything to look and feel busy isn’t doing the job that will make you a success, nor help your company succeed. So behavior without the right attitude to manage it, doesn’t move you forward. Behavior just moves you: maybe one step forward but two steps back.
Thinking and feeling are the important forces that shape what it is you do. Thus, at work cognition and emotion are like the hokey pokey – that’s what it’s all about in business. That’s what you want to control and channel.
The number one obstacle my clients face is: consistently controlling themselves as they go about working toward long term outcomes. You might be challenged in the say way. There are some days when you know you feel motivated, and moved yourself forward. And, there are days when you’ve done nothing except procrastinated, and spun your wheels or worse.
Along with many coaches, mentors and managers, I’m always searching for some magic to help individuals harness their powers of concentration and drive for success. Specifically, I want the kind of magic that would work with almost anyone – that would be good general advice and universally useful. I excel at diagnosing and driving people when I work with them one-on-one but what can I tell people who won’t be able to have that relationship with me or another coach? What about people who are on their own, unaided in their pursuit of what would be their ideal jobs, ventures or lives?
It turns out my desire to help people help themselves is the secret to helping people help themselves. Dr. Adam Grant, at 31 the youngest-tenured, most highly rated instructor at Wharton and the most prolific academic and mentor, has found the magic. In his upcoming book Give and Take, Grant details that it’s altruism – the desire to help people lead a better life that causes you to be your best at the job you have (or at the pursuit you are engaged in). It is the knowledge that someone will directly benefit from what you are challenged to do, that will cause you to do it with all your might.
Altruism might mean you are a better sales representative because you know that a more profitable company will mean more stable employment for your fellow employees. So working on behalf of others doesn’t have to be philanthropy in the strictest sense.
You just have to connect your effort with a result that will benefit someone other than yourself. It might be your family enjoying a better vacation. It might be your customers being able to run their businesses better.
Never underestimate the power of helping others as the motivation for all the great things you hope to make happen in your own life.
Grant’s book isn’t out yet – in the meantime, give until it feels good.