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Learning about what usually happens with New Year's resolutions prompts me to expand our definition of motivation. It is true that if I had one word to describe motivation it would be the word "effort." However, if I can have two words, I choose "sustained effort."

Often with New Year's resolutions we exhibit "tem­porary motivation." That is, we exhibit effort over a brief period of time. Maybe we actually join an exercise club, and maybe we go to the club three or four times the first week. We even sometimes make it to the club for a second week in a row. But eventually we stop going.

What we have here is "temporary effort." We see ef­fort, but only as long as it's convenient. We see commit­ment, but only until there is an obstacle or a barrier. As soon as there are other demands in our life that make exercise inconvenient, the "commitment" to exercise ends. Or, how about that one morning we wake up tired and we decide to stay in bed and skip the morning exer­cise routine? We were "motivated" as long as it was easy, but when it gets hard we may realize the resolution wasn't all that important after all. Usually, as soon as we are faced with an obstacle of any sort we will quickly understand how motivated we really are.

"Sustained effort" over a period of time is my best understanding of the motivation needed to accomplish something of consequence in life. And sustained effort over a period of time requires something difficult. It requires that you make choices. It requires that you pri­oritize. And it sometimes requires sacrifice.

Case 1: Writing a book: Take the case of the book I wanted to write for so many years. To write a book would require a real commitment. It also requires that I un­derstand that I may not be able to do everything I want to do, so I had better prioritize what's important at that point in my life. If writing a book is important to me (i.e., has a high priority), I may have to make some hard choices. What this means is that unless I have a lot of loafing time in my daily routine, I will probably have to give up something. I will most likely have to sacrifice some activities I am now accustomed to doing in order to make time available for writing a book. In order to devote sustained effort to accomplish something impor­tant in life, I have to learn to focus, prioritize, and some­times sacrifice.

In my case, I've decided I must give up an enjoyable but time-consuming hobby. When I finally get serious about writing a book (i.e., motivated), I will have to give up movies. I have a large movie collection, and a special joy in my life has been that I watch a lot of movies, usu­ally one per night, either at home or in the theaters. In­stead of watching a movie each night, I will devote the same time to writing.

Case 2: Starting a business. How about the friend who wants to start his own business? For him to expend the sustained effort needed to attain his goal requires a great introspection and no doubt a great sacrifice. Golf is cur­rently an important part of his life. For a year or two, he will have to sacrifice most of his weekend golf games because he'll be working a lot harder and longer to get the business on its feet. In addition to giving up his lei­sure time, he's going to have to give up some of his cur­rent lifestyle, because for a while he won't be making the same kind of income. The choice is his, but the dif­ference between wishing for something and attaining it requires that he make these kinds of choices. And in most cases, in order to apply sustained effort toward something, we must prioritize our life's activities. Note that if our lives are already busy, we will most likely have to exchange something we are now doing for something we now commit we must do. In my friend's case, I sus­pect the sacrifice is too dear.

Case 3: Going back to school. And how about the friend who wants to complete her college degree? Be­tween work and raising a family she has a full schedule. For her to go back to college part time will require sub­stituting study activities for some of her current activi­ties. This may mean no longer enjoying TV shows at night after the children are in bed. In this instance she will need to exchange study time for TV time. This may also mean less leisure time on the weekends and per­haps fewer social activities. Prioritizing of this sort is not easy, and facing these choices helps us determine how motivated we really are.

To Be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 14

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