Daniel Kahneman (author of Thinking, Fast and Slow), says that our success is mostly about luck. If this is true, how do we stay motivated towards our goals?
We are a few weeks into January, and if you are already doubtful about the likelihood of hitting your goals for this year, you are not alone.
Firstly, it’s not too late to change your goals. Take another look at them. Get in touch with me if you want the support of a coach to set values-aligned, motivating, and realistic goals that aren’t going to tip you into burn out.
Secondly, I think we imagine ourselves as more powerful than we are – that if we just have determination and belief, we can do anything. But Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and economist, says that we grossly underestimate the role of luck, and that luck plays a huge part in our success (or lack of). Grit is important, but it’s not enough. We are not as able to control our destiny as we would like to believe. We can’t see the future. What looks possible right now, might turn out to look quite different.
For some people, feeling that they have control (whether or not it’s true) contributes to resilience: if they don’t get the result they hoped for they feel empowered to look at what they can do differently and try again.
But for others, (especially if you have an over-active sense of responsibility, or tendencies towards perfectionism, people-pleasing, or imposter syndrome), believing that you have more control that you actually do could tip you into self-blame, despair, giving up on the goal and even giving up on yourself, if things don’t go to plan. What starts as empowering can become toxic: if it’s all within your gift to make it happen and you didn’t make it happen, what’s wrong with you?
I know luck can make the world seem uncomfortably random, but you can learn to come to terms with an uncertain world, stay motivated with your goals and live a satisfying and fulfilling and impactful life even if you don’t have the control over your future that you hoped for. Here are four ways:
1. Goals set the direction, but keep your attention on the ‘journey’
The goal itself is the hoped-for destination and the reason to start the journey – let’s imagine it as the ‘moutain-top’. But, if you live as though the purpose is the destination, the whole of the journey becomes ‘en-route’ instead of being you ‘real life’ (an idea from The Courage To Be Disliked). The journey is more within your circle of control. The journey is where progress, growth, fulfilment and challenge happen, and where you grow physical and mental strength, fitness, stamina, speed, technique, knowledge, resilience, endurance, friendship and even wisdom. The steps in the journey lead to unexpected experiences, outcomes and maybe new destinations. They also make it more likely that you will reach your goal. But if for whatever reason you don’t reach the planned destination, you still have everything that happened on the way.
2. Build in flexibility
As a runner, my husband sets himself A, B and C goals so that he maximises the likelihood of achieving a goal, even if he missed the ‘A’ goal – because you can’t fully control what happens on race day.
3. Step back from data points and look at the ‘line of best fit’
when analysing each progress marker, all it takes is a couple of misses or disappointments to shake your belief that you can do it, and you might feel tempted to throw in the towel. By stepping back you see the ‘line of best fit’, and get perspective: these are just a few data points as part of a bigger journey – each point matters less than the overall line. It also helps you to be more objective and less emotionally reactive: you can genuinely ask yourself, was it a blip, or is there something i need to address?
4. Make your invisible lenses visible
There are so many factors in an outcome, but because of our invisible lenses and biases, shaped through our beliefs and experiences, we tend to focus on only some of them. For example, with imposter syndrome you tend to mostly see your failings, and if things go well all you can see is luck. When you are recovering from imposter syndrome you might practice saying ‘I did that’ instead of ‘I was just lucky’ when things go well. But as you become more aware and adjusted, more objective and less influenced by looking through biased lenses, you can come to appreciate BOTH how your personal attributes AND luck contribute to the outcome – and more able to celebrate, reflect honestly, learn and grow.
Determination, strategy, preparation and effort – these are all things that will take you far – and you are probably unlikely to get very far without them. however, (sadly), there is no formula where you can add in the factors for a guaranteed result. we can try to control, and we can certainly influence, but there are usually many factors not within our control. Accepting this, and gaining different perspectives such as those suggested here, can help you to keep motivated, resilient, and flexible, increasing your chances of finding meaning, fulfilment and success – wherever the destination turns out to be.
If this blog post makes sense to you but you know that you will need some help to genuinely make the shifts, get in touch to arrange a free introductory phone call to see how coaching can help.