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How To Make Progress When You Are Terrified

Adam Grant

"Ultimately, what we regret is not failure, but the failure to act."

Adam Grant

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Make Some Space

Give yourself periods for resting and thinking so you’re not overwhelmed by the constant challenge and lose motivation. By taking breaks, you’ll be better able to perform and come up ...

Learn From Losses

While overcoming your limitations, you’ll likely experience failure and you should scour those for lessons. 

Use a Little Healthy Imitation

It can be beneficial to find a role model and engage in some healthy imitation. Done well, it can give you some confidence.

You shouldn’t copy everything about the person. But notice how they act and try mimicking their successful habits until you can adapt them to your own style.

Motivation is a complex process
Motivation is a complex process

Motivation is a complex process to explain or to realize fully.

Motives are internal experiences that can be categorized into needs, cognitions, and emotions that are influenced by envi...

Motivational strategies that show success
  • Teachers that plan lessons to be interesting, curiosity-provoking, and personally inspiring have better success in motivating their students to read.
  • Leaders have better success in motivating their employees when they take the employees' perspective and invite them to create their own self-endorsed work goals.
  • Parents are more successful when they try to truly understand why their children don't want to do something and then take the time to explain to them the benefits of the activity.

Most successful interventions do not try to change another person's motivation or emotion directly. Instead, they make changes to the person's environmental conditions and the quality of his or her relationships to encourage them to leave behind neglectful or abusive ones.

The basic psychological needs

According to Self-Determination Theory, there are three basic psychological needs which we want to satisfy:

  • Autonomy (self-determination). We are motivated when we have a choice in terms of tasks, time, team, and technique.
  • Competence (capability and effectiveness). Mastery is a mindset. When we strive toward something greater than ourselves, it demands effort.
  • Affiliation needs (association and belonging). We are motivated to form long-lasting positive relationships with others.

External rewards do not work because we don't do rule-based routine tasks. Instead, we need to create environments where intrinsic motivation thrives, where we can gain satisfaction from the activities themselves.

Taking action = eventual success
Taking action = eventual success

Inaction is the biggest cause of our failures and our miseries. If we could consistently do the things we know we should do, we would be more successful, and our lives would be better. Yet w...

Explaining inaction

Some possible but weak reasons why action is hard:

  • Talent. But the world is full of brilliant stars that flame out and mediocre minds that build empires.
  • Preferences can explain our failure to try, but don't explain our inner struggles with inaction.
  • Capacity for effort. If your capacity for doing things is lower, it does not explain chronic bursts of activity with inevitable crashes in your goals and projects.
  • Motivation. Some people with the most reason have the hardest time taking action. 
Confidence
Motivation and expectation of success create a feedback loop:
  • Your motivation to complete a task depends on the value of the reward and your expectation of success. 
  • Your expectation of success depends on your motivation.

If your projects tend to fail, your expectations are low, and motivation fades. If your projects tend to succeed, your expectations go up, and motivation stays strong.