Habit Bending — Manipulate the Trigger and the Reward

Coffee is the trigger. Chocolate is the reward.

Coffee is the trigger. Chocolate is the reward.

As regular readers know, I’m in the process of establishing a daily writing habit. I’m doing decently well; on most days I write between 600-1000 words of fiction in the morning. Keeping a writing log has been very helpful on a day-to-day basis, and having a 5-year commitment has been equally helpful in terms of big-picture thinking and motivation.

Still, I’m ironing the kinks out of the system. My biggest issue has been starting work in the late morning (usually after 10am, sometimes as late as 11:30am) when there is nothing preventing me from starting as early as 8:45am. This doesn’t always mean I’m wasting time. Sometimes I’m productive during that morning time (just not writing fiction), but sometimes I am wasting time (on reddit or other online distractions).

I’ve tried using site-blocking software, or just turning off my wi-fi. This works well once I’ve started, especially in terms of preventing tangential “research” that can so easily lead to checking email, clicking on links, etc. If my wi-fi is off, I’m more likely to make a note like “look up native species of evergreens in Harz mountains” and then continue with the actual writing (instead of going to wikipedia and then making a left turn to Facebook or Twitter).

So my problem was really how to start “first thing.” Sometimes I managed to do it, but I was having trouble establishing a consistent habit of starting my work early.

Watching the video below provided some excellent clues.

Duhigg offers some real gems in this video, based on a thorough review of the latest neuroscience. Some of the highlights:

  • Most of what we do during the day is habitual and automatic. To do something that isn’t already a habit requires willpower, which is a scarce and depletable resource (Duhigg uses the analogy of willpower being like a muscle: you can exercise it and it gets stronger, but it also gets tired over the course of a day).
  • “Keystone” habits like exercise and journaling tend to ripple out in terms of their positive effects on other parts of your life (I’ve found this to be true; taking quick breaks to lift weights during writing sessions helps maintain concentration and tends to boost both word count and quality).
  • Once your brain has established a trigger and a reward for a habit, it’s more or less impossible to get rid of it. What you can do is “swap out” one behavior for another.
  • Taking control of your triggers, queues, and rewards is pivotal in terms of establishing new behaviors to replace the ones you want to “overwrite.”

I watched the video, thought about it, and a few hour later got out my P-Touch labeling system and printed out two labels:

  1. COFFEE IS THE TRIGGER.
  2. CHOCOLATE IS THE REWARD.

I stuck them on my computer monitor and went to bed. This morning, I woke up, had breakfast with my family, got the kid ready for summer camp, and waited to have coffee.

At 8:37 I poured myself a cup of coffee, started to write, and had met my word count quota by 10:06. A much better start time than usual. Then I ate some dark chocolate.

I realized that coffee was already a trigger for me: a trigger to turn on my computer and start surfing the internet. So all I had to do was replace the behavior that followed the trigger.

This is only Day 1, but I’m excited enough by this new technique to share it immediately. I’ll write a follow-up post in a few weeks and let you know how it’s going. In the meantime, let me know if you have any success modifying your own triggers and rewards to change behavior.

 

Corporations Have Glass Jaws

Wall Street bankers enjoying the peak of corporatism.

Wall Street bankers enjoying the peak of corporatism in 2011.

This is a blog post about citizen action, public protest, and being a trim tab. It’s about how the common citizen wields more power than ever before in human history. I’ll get to that. But first I’m going to take a quick look at history from the perspective of the commoner vs. the sociopathic elite.

It’s a quick read — I promise!

Five Waves of Coercive Power

One way to look at history is as a series of power struggles between the hoi polloi (the common folk who tend to treat each other decently) and “masters of the universe” powermongers (the far smaller group who tend to be more sociopathic/less empathetic by nature).

The latter group has taken on different manifestations throughout the ages, depending on what kinds of (coercive) power are effective, and who has the subset of skills to accumulate that kind of power.

Warlords, for example, inspire the loyalty of armed strongmen and terrorize the common folk into paralysis and submission.

Somewhat later in history (with much overlap; warlords still exist today), monarchs acquired and hoarded power via feudal rule (with knights and samurai as playground bullies), familial inheritance of gold, land, and title, and to some extent protection of the common folk from barbarian hordes (aka the armies of other monarchs). Some charismatic monarchs inspired romantic loyalty among the commoners (especially if taxes weren’t too high and executions infrequent). Monarch warlords, such as Alexander of Macedon, expanded their territory (and sometimes national borders) in great swaths via epic military campaigns.

Wave three of sociopathic powermongers takes the form of The Church (not the saints and luminaries who have legitimate spiritual awakenings and dedicate their lives to inspiring and helping others, but rather the institutions that ossify philosophy into dogma, punish those who stray from doctrine, suppress knowledge and discovery, and rule by fear). The Catholic Inquisition is the most iconic example of abuse of power by a religious institution, but no religion is exempt. Possessing the official moral high ground is an ideal platform for perpetrating abuse.

Wave four is fascism, which is not a political system but rather a political pathology that occurs when sociopaths within a government consolidate power and attempt to destroy their detractors. The tools of fascism are surveillance (of known enemies, and everybody else to discover unknown enemies), the encouragement of xenophobia, violent suppression of political protests, covert assassinations, and constant war. Fascism can manifest within communist states, democracies, and republics alike (no doubt libertarian or anarchist states could also exhibit fascist tendencies, if such states existed). A total descent into fascism results in a dictatorship (Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, etc.), but “free democratic societies” also oscillate across the fascism spectrum (extreme examples in the United States include McCarthyism, violent suppression of the Civil Rights Movement, covert support of military dictatorships in Central and South America, and NSA surveillance of citizens).

Wave five of power consolidation by the sociopathic elite is corporatism, which is not the simple existence of the corporation as a legal business entity, but rather the perversion of the corporate entity into a tool for extracting wealth and labor from the poor, raiding the commons, evading taxation, avoiding personal responsibility for criminal activities, manipulating governments, screwing the consumer, and other shenanigans. Not all corporations do these bad things, and most people who work for corporations are good people. Still, corporatism is the current method of choice for the modern wave of sociopathic elites.

Corporatism works in the economic context of capitalism. Picketty points out that unmitigated capitalism is unsustainable, but so is any other form of unchecked power and resource hoarding by the sociopathic elite. The hoi polloi eventually realize what’s going on and claw back most of the power (with institutions like democracy, rule of law, human rights, public services, asset taxation, and distributing power among different branches of government). We’re slower, dumber, and less motivated than the sociopathic elite, but there are far more of us and we work together well once we’ve reached our limit of being abused and exploited.

I think corporatism, at least in the U.S., peaked in 2011. Occupy Wall Street, if it did nothing else, made it clear to the hoi polloi who the elite were (Wall Street investment bankers, mostly). While the investment bankers drank champagne and laughed at the raggedy protestors from their balconies (literally — see image above), OWS paved the way for federal investigation and prosecution of bank fraud, more progressive income and capital gains taxation, and stricter banking regulations.

The Glass-Jawed Enemy

As enemies of the commoners go, corporations-gone-bad are the easiest opponents so far. Compared to standing up to Genghis Khan, the Vikings, The Inquisition, or the Stasi, fighting corporations is easy!

Consumer-facing corporations often go down after one punch. Michael Moore realized this when he pressured Kmart to stop selling ammunition back in 2001, and succeeded.

These days consumer-facing corporations can be swayed with a few letters or tweets. Target recently reversed positions on customers carrying guns into stores, thanks in part to Twitter campaigns like this one. Target wants moms to shop at Target. If moms don’t want guns in Target, Target says no to guns in the store. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Corporations that don’t deal directly with consumers, like mining companies and investment banking firms, are less likely to yield to public pressure and social media campaigns. So are companies with their backs against the wall, like SeaWorld (the recent documentary Blackfish clearly demonstrated the horrors of keeping orcas in captivity, but without captive cetaceans SeaWorld has no business). But even in these cases, public (or employee) outcry eventually leads to legal investigations, increased regulations, fines, and audits, which for fraudulent companies leads to bankruptcy and dissolution.

To reiterate, corporations are not the enemy of the people. The corporate entity in the context of well-regulated capitalism is an engine of wealth creation, a golden goose that generates marvelous gadgets, streaming entertainment, cheap energy, the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, and other modern wonders. The enemy are the sociopathic elite who use the corporate entity to steal, exploit, destroy the environment, evade social responsibility, and generally be evil. Corporatism.

Tough and Evil

The non-consumer facing, privately controlled corporation (invulnerable to both shareholder pressure and consumer sentiment) is the strongest haven of the sociopathic elite. In this group we find Bechtel, Koch Industries, and Cargill, corporate actors who seem to openly delight in destroying the environment, exploiting the poor, and endangering the public.

Organized crime syndicates that function like corporations (and in many cases are tightly interwoven with real corporations) also generally don’t care about public opinion and social media.

But even those corporations and corporate fronts must operate within the context of nation states and their legal systems. Despite the Koch war against the minimum wage, the minimum wage is going nowhere but up. Cargill may keep ignoring safety and environmental regulations forever, but they will also keep getting sued and fined.

Why not a “three strikes and you’re out” law for law-breaking corporations? Keeping a corporate charter should be a privilege dependent on good corporate citizenship.

Keep Fighting the Good Fight

The important thing to remember when fighting for justice, the environment, and human rights is that corporations are made of up mostly good people who generally want to keep their jobs, cover their asses, and not work too hard. This makes corporations vulnerable and easy to manipulate (even privately held corporations).

For example, if we, the hoi polloi, make it more difficult for corporations to sell products containing bee-killing neonics than not selling them, the corporations are going to go with the path of least resistance. It’s only a matter of time.

Will the Sociopathic Elite Always Rule the World?

Yes, probably. But this isn’t necessarily bad news.

Even in a free democracy that values human rights, individuals who rate highly for traits like narcissism, self-importance, callous disregard for other people’s feelings, and a desire for power will probably end up in positions wielding political and/or economic power. Who else would want these jobs?

It’s the job of the hoi polloi to make sure that no single position or agency has too much power, and that institutions and entities that are ripe for the abuse (lightly regulated corporations) are constrained by law to protect the environment, worker, community, consumer, and general public, and to play fairly against other market entities.

Corporations won’t always be the preferred tool of the sociopathic elite. Eventually the crackdown on corporate bad behavior will be too wearisome to deal with, and the sociopathic elite will find a new entity or institution to abuse. Personally I think it will probably have to do with the abuse of artificial intelligence and/or cryptography (perhaps the sociopathic elite will use BitCoin or similar to avoid taxation and gain unfair market advantages).

Even if there is a macro trend towards the hoi polloi clawing back power from the sociopathic elite with each wave of coercive power, corporate abuses may still get worse before they get better. The outcome depends on citizen action (voting, letter writing, protests, exerting pressure via social media) and the subsequent reactions by our lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, and courts. The outcome is not written.

So if you witness a corporation behaving badly, do something about it. You may find the fight to be easier than expected.

If you have a story about pushing back against bad corporate behavior, please share below.

Radical Responsibility and the Creative Process

I'm starting a new company called "BoozeSnap."

I’m starting a new company called “BoozeSnap.”

Yesterday morning I showed up at my writing desk not quite ready to work. I was in a foul mood, a little tired and lazy, and feeling distracted. Not just feeling distracted but actively looking for distractions (which, on the internet, are not hard to find).

After an hour or two of wasting time and wallowing in my bad mood, I figured out (for the eleven-hundredth time) that I had nobody to blame for my mental state but myself. I could have said no thank you to the 18-year-old Lagavulin my friend brought back from Scotland and poured freely at the D&D game. I could have attended one decadent social event instead of two. I could have eaten better, exercised more, and gone to bed earlier.

Radical Responsibility is part of my personal system for living well. To me the phrase means looking for solutions and possibilities instead of excuses, and never passing the buck. It means being ready, brave, and confident. It means exercising my free will (and rejecting fate, powerlessness, and inertia).

Of course, having an ideal and living an ideal are not the same. But the point of having an ideal is to stop pounding your head against the wall before you hurt yourself.

So … I acknowledged to myself and my family that I was in a terrible head-space (I had kind of been taking it out on them up to that point). I sat down and meditated for five minutes. I turned off the wifi on my laptop, opened my working document, reviewed my notes, started writing, and kept writing until I had met my daily quota.

Immediately my mood lifted. I read the work and felt excited by it. 27 days in a row working on my current novel (“don’t break the chain” in full effect). There’s no better reminder that emotions don’t have to control you than pushing through and doing the work anyway.

But There’s a Better Way …

Ideally, I shouldn’t have to expend so much willpower to get rolling. I wasn’t ready but I could have been ready. Artists can choose to be ready physically by being reasonably rested and fed (but not overfed — less is usually more when it comes to food and creative productivity). We can be ready emotionally by not getting entangled in other people’s drama (Polish saying: “not my circus, not my monkeys”), by avoiding disputes and the need to always be right. We can be ready with an abundance of ideas by paying attention to the subconscious mind, by meditating, and by consuming brilliant work by artists we admire. If depression is holding us back we can do something about it. If we don’t have enough time or a fancy working space we can fit in bits of work here and there; we can create a distraction-free zone in some little nook.

We could make an excuse for not being ready, but do we want to? Why not just be ready when it’s time to work?

The Perfect Excuse Guy

When I was in my early twenties I had a shitty temp job at a warehouse packing boxes. I also had a few techno and house tracks signed and published (one with a major label) and I was working on music about twenty hours a week. There was a guy at the warehouse, probably in his thirties, who was interested in electronic music and frequently asked me questions about how to get into it. I told him my story: I had saved up money to buy a keyboard, figured out how to plug it into my computer, taught myself MIDI sequencing, sent demos to labels, and so forth.

Anything I told this guy, he had a perfect answer for why he couldn’t do it himself. A keyboard was too expensive (I had saved over a year before buying mine). He didn’t have time because of his job (I was currently working the same job and producing music nights and weekends). I would try to explain to him how he could get around the obstacles he was setting up for himself, but he always had an answer ready. I would give up trying to convince him, but then he would start asking me about music production again. He clearly wanted to get into it himself. He wanted me to talk him into it! I tried, but the excuse part of his mind always won out, and finally I just refused to talk about making beats with that guy.

A different guy from the warehouse was a DJ. He heard I was producing tracks and asked if he could come over and check out my home studio. I said yes and we had a great production session — we exchanged quite a bit of knowledge in just a few hours. It didn’t turn into an official collaboration, but it left me wondering why the first guy never asked to check out my studio and see what it was all about (I had done the same thing with Josh Davis aka DJ Shadow a few years earlier when we both worked at Steve’s Pizza in Davis, California — Josh showed me his four-track + turntables recording setup which was an eye-opener for me at the time in terms of ways to make music).

I want to be the opposite of the Perfect Excuse Guy. I want to be able to produce and create even when I have shitty tools, no time, not enough money, no great ideas, inadequate skills, and a lack of natural genius. Because I just jump in and start. And then keep going. And then get better. And then keep going. That’s the guy I want to be, forever, no matter the field or the game.

So what’s your story? Are you ready to be radically responsible for your own mental state and creative output?

How Meat-Eaters Should Relate to Vegans

Some reasonably happy looking cows.

Some reasonably happy looking cows.

As regular readers know I’m a fan of Steve Pavlina’s blog. I disagree with him on many points, but he’s an ethical, purpose-driven human being with a clear writing style, and I find many of his posts to be thought-provoking.

His most recent series of posts was inspired by the nationwide discussion of misogyny triggered by the Isla Vista shootings and the shooter’s insane manifesto. Steve wrote about how this triggered feelings for him in regards to what he calls “meat culture” (not just eating meat, but the cruelty to animals involved in factory farming processes). To Steve, misogynistic attitudes towards women are little different than the attitudes that enable us to mistreat animals. To Steve, it’s all objectification. He loves and respects women, but he also loves and respects animals, and he can’t reconcile how some people can so fiercely advocate for women’s rights yet ignore animal rights. His tweets sums it up:

My first reaction was to disagree. Because of our bigger brains and highly developed neocortex, human beings have a different degree of conscious awareness than animals; we have a wider emotional spectrum and a greater capacity for suffering. Killing (or raping or enslaving) a person is not the same as killing a sardine.

But then I immediately thought of exceptions to my own argument. Having worked with Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins, I don’t believe humans are significantly more conscious-aware than cetaceans. Yes, we have a greater capacity for abstract reasoning, but I doubt we have a wider emotional range or greater emotional sensitivity (perhaps less; dolphins are highly empathetic and altruistic). I don’t think dolphins or whales should be eaten, hunted, or kept in captivity for the purpose of entertaining us. Cetaceans are “people with fins” and should have legal rights within human societies.

Human brain on the left, dolphin brain on the right.

Human brain on the left, dolphin brain on the right.

Cows and pigs are also sensitive mammals who are capable of suffering, and should be not be mistreated. Fish — I’m not really sure how much they think or feel — but the fact remains that we should treat all ocean life and marine habitats with respect if we want to survive as a species.

With this is mind, I decided to reexamine my own ethical stance toward meat-eating. It’s something I’ve considered before, but maybe it was time to revisit the topic. I watched the video in Steve’s “meat culture” post (linked above) and found the images disturbing (even though it’s not the first time I’ve seen videos like that). Maybe it was time for my own thinking and behavior to evolve?

Like most thoughtful meat-eaters, I justify/rationalize meat-eating in the following ways:

  1. Meat-eating is traditional; there are no completely vegan traditional cultural cuisines.
  2. We are evolutionarily adapted to be omnivorous.
  3. Raising animals for food is not necessarily more environmentally destructive than mass-produced crops like corn, soy, and wheat (especially in cases where integrated polyculture is used).

These reasons still make sense to me. At the same time, reducing cruelty towards animals also makes sense. I don’t want to be part of the cruelty inflicted on animals by factory farming. I also don’t want to be part of the cruelty inflicted by animals by mass farming (millions of animals lose their natural habitats because of corn, soy, and wheat farming).

On the other hand, I’m a human being who needs to eat. I take up space in this world. Even if I eat only fruit and nuts, some animal is going to die (orchards destroy natural habitats too). There is no way to be ethically pure. Everything is on a spectrum.

So how should I relate to vegans? Especially to vegans who are critical of meat-eaters for ethical reasons?

From a place of shared compassion.

Vegans are right to be concerned with animal welfare. We should all be concerned with treating our fellow creatures humanely. If human progress exists at all, it takes the form of expanding the circle of empathy.

Even if you think vegans are misguided (in terms of their ethical stance and/or the supposed health benefits of veganism), you should still support and embrace their impulse to be kind and respectful towards other animals, and do the same yourself. Why wouldn’t you want to do this?

Meat-eaters can look to traditional cultures for an alternative to the callous disconnection that factory farming encourages. Tread lightly. Respect the animal. Eat the entire animal and don’t waste anything. Don’t eat more than you need to to thrive. Respect and protect the animal’s natural habitat and ecosystem.

At the moment, I buy cage-free eggs, pastured/grass-fed meats, and organic dairy products. Some of these foods come from small farms, others no doubt come from large factory farms. You can’t always trust the label on the package either; some terms mean nothing (like “natural”) and in other cases there is outright false labeling and fraud. Unless you visit the farm or raise the animal in your own backyard, you can’t be sure how it was treated.

Ideally I’d like to raise my own chickens (it’s legal to raise chickens in Oakland, and many of my friends and neighbors do so). I even briefly considered acquiring a goat, milking it, and trying to make cheese. Then I read an article along the lines of “The 49 Things You Need To Do To Keep Your Goats Healthy” and thought better of it. There’s something to be said for division of labor and efficiency — I’ll be buying my goat cheese at the store and leaving the goat care to the goat care experts.

Here are the concrete, non-labor intensive things that meat-eaters can do to reduce cruelty towards animals, conserve natural habitats, and ultimately protect the human food supply:

So that’s where I stand at the moment. I intend to continue to strive towards a diet and lifestyle that is both enjoyable but also has a low ecological impact and a minimum amount of cruelty towards animals. My own ideal is not veganism, but rather decentralized, distributed food production, reduced use of fossil fuels and artificial fertilizer, more intelligent and efficient land use (all forms of polyculture), and a worldview that values all forms of life.

As I’ve written before, the “diet wars” are largely a battle of straw men. For example, paleo diet advocates and vegans, both being concerned about what they eat and where their food comes from, have more in common with each other than they do with mainstream culture that embraces packaged Frankenfoods and deplorable, wasteful, cruel farming practices.

I’ll leave you with this video from Steven Pinker re: the expanding circle of empathy. What are you own thoughts? Please share below, but remember to be respectful of people who don’t share your exact beliefs. Your own beliefs might change over time!

Motivation Force Multipliers (3 Ways to Sustain and Expand Energy)

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How can we leverage any sparks of “natural” motivation we might have (our interests, passions, and desires) into steady and dependable motivation that does not fluctuate with our mood? How do we keep working when external rewards are few and far between (for example anybody who is starting out in a new career)?

I spent a few hours last week getting an error fixed for a particular Loöq Records music release on a particular website. The correction involved a number of emails, comparing spreadsheets, auditing code in our database software, rescheduling promotional activities for the release, and so on.

Fixing the error had nothing to do with my love of music production (my original “passion” that led to co-founding a record label). It was just work that had to be done. I didn’t mind doing the work, and then I started to wonder why I didn’t mind doing it. What elements were “bridging the gap” between my love of making beats and this laborious administrative fix that was taking up my time?

“Passion” is never enough to create and sustain a career or an organization. There are always boring bits; there are always difficult bits. You will never accomplish much if you rely only on your “natural” motivation (the things that interest you and excite you).

It’s a no-brainer to organize your career (or careers) around the facets of existence that you find most compelling. But how do you transform this “natural interest” into the kind of day in, day out drive and energy that propels you forward, regardless of external rewards (or lack thereof) and internal mood?

First, if you’re not feeling motivated, it’s important to determine if the problem is external or internal.

If there’s no flow …

If you are really having trouble getting motivated in a particular life area, it might be time to reevaluate. Maybe you should be doing something else instead. There is no merit in grinding away year after year if you are not experiencing any significant external rewards (money, prestige, appreciation) or internal rewards (pleasure, excitement, satisfaction, sense of meaning, enjoyable anticipation of external rewards) from the work.

It’s important to carefully consider major decisions about life areas (jobs, relationships, artistic goals) when you are depressed or discouraged. If possible, fix your brain chemistry first, then make the decision. This is easier said than done, as a heinous job (for example) might be the cause of depression or anxiety. If you’re not sure, ask your family and friends for advice. If they all say your job sucks, your job probably sucks. Some problems really are external (like abusive partners, or dangerous working conditions, or lack of demand for your product or service), and have nothing to do with your mental state or attitude.

For me, this happened with DJing. I had a good run, but at a certain point the “grind” aspects outweighed the rewards. So I stopped.

But if the problem is in your head …

On the other hand, if you basically enjoy the work (or life area), and nothing is obviously messed up about your situation, but still need a motivation “pick-me-up,” consider these three approaches:

1) Serve others

I often ask myself “Who am I serving?” when I work on something. When I work on Loöq Records, I serve the both the artists and music fans. It’s not charity work, but I do remember what a huge deal it was to release my first record on a label, and I try to create good experiences for artists on our label (with good communication, fair royalty rates, and sharing ownership of the process/artistic control).

Bottom line: I feel more motivated when my work is connected to a community, and when I’m empowering others as well as myself.

2) Go for greatness/highest possible quality

Quality doesn’t guarantee success, but releasing sloppy work pretty much dooms a project to failure. If nothing else, going for “great” allows you to feel proud of your work. Before I release or deliver a final version of something, I try to ask “is this the best I can do?” Usually the answer is no, and I’m back to tweaking, editing, or even starting from scratch.

This doesn’t apply to drafts and sketches. Sometimes it’s good to get something rough out there to your trusted inner circle. How else are you going to know if it’s worth pursuing further? Not every idea has to reach completion.

It’s not a good feeling to get feedback or a review that points out an issue that you were already aware of (especially of a “finished” product or release). Why didn’t you fix it? Avoiding that feeling can be a good source of motivation. You probably already know what needs to be fixed and improved, so do it!

Bottom line: pushing up the quality bar almost always increases my desire to work on something.

3) Challenge yourself/blast through your self-imposed limits

Do you ever catch yourself saying “I’m not …” (creative, musical, organized, good at math, etc.)?

How hard have you tried to achieve that result or state of being? What evidence do you have that you truly “can’t” do that?

I’m not saying everyone can be good at everything — obviously not. But it’s easy to underestimate yourself, and it’s easy to be lazy.

If you want to progress, create a simple, smart daily program for yourself and stick to it. If you are serious, commit to that program for five years.

If you don’t have any results after five years, then maybe your efforts are better spent elsewhere. But with any less of a commitment, saying “I can’t …” or “I’m not …” is just self-defeating talk.

Challenge yourself. Make a 5-year commitment to become the kind of person you want to be, and work towards that daily.

Bottom line: it’s tremendously energizing to become something that you weren’t, to do something that you once could not do, to shed the skin of your old self and assume a new form.

What are your own techniques to refocus your energy and increase motivation?