“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” — Thomas A Edison
Okay. It’s time to confess:
You don’t do everything you are capable of. You don’t even do most of the good things that you want to do, that you are capable of.
You struggle with self-doubt, procrastination, distraction, laziness, and fear. Some days, it’s a wonder you get anything accomplished at all.
And yet you know this is not all there is to you. A part of you yearns to find out what you could be and do, if only you were more motivated to get ‘er done.
The reasons for the gap between your current and potential selves are many and complex, and don’t boil down to any one factor. However, if there were a factor that could affect everything you do, it’d be MOTIVATION.
Specifically, the internal kind. The kind that doesn’t respond well to external punishments and rewards. How do you harness and/or draw out your inner motivation to be productive, achieve your dreams, become the person you want to be?
The following four books may help you find out…
For more Brilliant Book recommendations, check out:
Motivational Interviewing by Miller & Rollnick
“Far and away the most common place to get stuck on the road to change is ambivalence.” — Motivational Interviewing
“I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do —this I keep doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
The Apostle Paul said that, in the Book of Romans. And it’s a lament that has echoed on for generations. Because the real problem with you — and me, and everyone — most of the time, is not that we don’t know what to do (or stop doing), but that we can’t get ourselves to do it (or stop doing it).
Enter Motivational Interviewing. A book named after a psychological technique that helps people resolve their ambivalence and clarify their goals and actions. Because the reality is, you have a reason for everything you do or don’t do. Even “bad habits” that you want to get rid of have their “uses.” And it’s not always clear how to get yourself to do what you want to do.
Motivational interviewing is a technique skilled counselors use with the people who come to them for help changing their lives. Think of this book as that helpful counselor, walking you through your thoughts and behaviors and helping you figure out where your mental blocks may be, so that you can address them and perhaps, one day, remove them altogether.
Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin
“Great performance is in our hands far more than most of us ever suspected.” — Talent is Overrated
The first time I read Talent is Overrated as a youngster in college, it changed my life. For a semester. Rather, the most outwardly visible changes took place over the course of three-plus months, and then they faded away. But the ideas in this book left an indelible impression on my mind.
Talent is Overrated is a book about — what else? — Talent being overrated. Instead, author Geoff Colvin argues, it’s “mindful practice over time” (deliberate practice; 10,000 hours, respectively) that really makes a difference.
Colvin cites multiple studies (particularly that of K Anders Ericsson) on elite performers, and discusses what it takes to become an elite performer yourself, should you choose to. He uses interesting anecdotes to illustrate his point, including the stories of such greats as Mozart and Tiger Woods. It’s a good reminder that whether or not talent exists, and whether or not you have any so-called “talents” matters far less than what you choose to do with your time, attention, energy, and resources.
The Passion Paradox by Stulberg & Magness
“[Old Eastern proverb] ‘The master has failed more times than the student has even tried.’ We’d all be wise to take it to heart.” — The Passion Paradox
You know how people say “follow your passion?” Well, that’s all bunk, according to the authors of The Passion Paradox. Instead, this book makes the argument that passion is a poor leader, but a decent follower, if you point it in the right way.
Because there are two kinds of passion: harmonious and obsessive passion, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one is helpful and which one is harmful to human beings.
The darker kind of passion is fueled by the wrong motivations and can lead to burnout and suffering, and help you avoid parts of your life that are lacking. But the healthy kind of passion is motivated by good reasons, and involves joy and the pursuit of skill mastery.
The rest of the book also talks about overarching concepts like balance (it doesn’t exist, instead, the book presents a better option), self-awareness (the authors share a journaling trick that helps you get better clarity on yourself and your situation), and grit (using a veerrry familiar-to-writers tactic for helping yourself move through painful situations).
If you ever wonder what passion is, exactly, or how much you need it yourself, or how to funnel your passions into something productive, this book may just do the trick 😉
The Dip by Seth Godin
“Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.” — The Dip
Sometimes you can’t help feeling a dip in motivation, interest, energy, even when you’re working on a project you yourself chose and you yourself love. That’s why The Dip is here to remind you to suck it up!
Well, no, not really.
Or yes, kind of, really.
On the one hand, Godin tells readers that everyone loses interest in what they’re doing at some point in their lives, but on the other hand, he points out that it’s those who pursue their projects past “the dip” who succeed beyond the pale.
The question is, how do you know whether or not you should quit or keep pushing through? That’s what this book is all about. Written in Godin’s signature KISS (keep it short ‘n’ simple) style, The Dip is a great read for anyone who’s doubting their work choices 😉
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” — Start With Why
Start With Why is Simon Sinek’s most famous work on the concept that the most motivated, accomplished, successful people and organizations are driven not by what they do or how they do it, but WHY they do it.
Sinek argues that all action is formulated like concentric circles. At the center, you have your WHY, the driving force behind everything you do, whether or not you’re aware of it. The second circle is your HOW, the manner in which you do whatever it is you do. And the third outer circle is WHAT, the content of what you do.
The point is, those who are aware of and act consistently from their inner Why are more likely to feel motivated to do work that they find intrinsically meaningful. But this Why is not some frou-frou phrase that you create from the ether. Everyone has one, built over the years and based on their unique personality, background, experiences, etc. The trick is to find it and use it to power everything you do.
It’s a fascinating concept, and one worth thinking about.