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2 min readWhy “Why” Matters

by Guy Gage | December 2, 2018 | Business

What do you do when you’ve been working for a while and you’re getting tired, frazzled and punchy? It could be on a single project or over a long season. Regardless, you have to somehow push through it all in order to provide a quality result for your clients. Over the course of your career, your ability to do so will have a dramatic effect on how satisfied you are.

There has been a lot of research on how to sustain effort when your energy and focus have been depleted. I recently read of Mark Muraven’s work, which is cited in a psychology blog by Meg Selig. Here’s what she writes:

“Psychologist Mark Muraven did a series of experiments that tested the power of willpower. In one, he used standard psychological methods to deplete the self-control of a group of study participants. Then participants were asked to work on two frustrating puzzles. Group 1 was told: “Your work could help create new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.” Group 2 was told: “Try your best.” Which group performed better? Group 1, of course. The value of “helping others” gave a frustrating task some purpose and amped up the willpower of the participants.”

I’ve long been a proponent of attaching your immediate work to something that is important to you: some value, principle or aspiration. That way, your efforts are not just for the task at hand, but for a higher, personal purpose. When you do so, you will be able to stay with it long after your motivation has left.

This was the experience of a participant in a Partner-Pipeline® course on establishing habits and routines for professional development. This participant wanted to get to the office at an earlier time than she typically arrived. The problem was that neither the firm nor the office partner insisted she do so, meaning she had to rely on her own resolve make it happen. She admitted that she had tried numerous times before, with success lasting only a day or two.

The way she described her goal and having no driver or expectation for it made me think there was something else going on. As we discussed her desire and failures, she finally became conscious of the real issue: if she arrived at work early, she could leave earlier and spend more time with her children at the end of the day. That was the “why” that made her goal make sense. Now, when her alarm goes off, she has a choice to make. Will I hit the snooze button and get a bit more sleep or will I get up so I can spend more time with my children this evening? Because her “why” is much greater and personal, she will be successful getting to the office earlier.

What goal or discipline have you been unable to establish? Take a lesson from the Partner-Pipeline® and learn from a colleague about how she did it. You too, will be able to establish habits and routines that matter to you.

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