You’ve probably heard the expression – “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” From personal experience, you probably agree with it. So, why is it that busy people seem so capable of taking on yet another task?
The obvious answers are that they excel at time management or that they’ve already built a habit of taking on more tasks at once. Nothing wrong with these thoughts, they most likely have some validity to them. Like most seemly simple questions though, by looking a little further below the surface, we quickly realize that there may be more to the story. More answers, but more questions too. Questions like “Why is it that some ‘high activity people’ burn out while others go on to achieve so much?” or “ What is the secret behind the long term, or ‘legacy’ achievers? What separates them from those who peak and then burn out, or those who are simply “busy” without creating long term effectiveness?” In his book Perpetual Motivation, Dave Durand draws from years of experience working with and monitoring legacy achievers, to teach us the formula for the seemingly limitless fuel that some seem to possess. How can we keep ourselves truly motivated?
What Durand focuses on in his book is the specific recipe that leads to motivation. As he puts it,
Motivation = The Pursuit of Life’s Perfect Balance
Plus Integrity-based Influence
Plus Creativity and Humor
Minus Runaway Self Esteem
Perpetual Motivation, page 4
While Durand does a great job of explaining and teaching all four aspects of this formula, it was his insight on balance that was most unique. As he puts it, motivation is largely based on the pursuit of life’s perfect balance. It’s that word “pursuit” that makes all the difference.” Durand sums it up perfectly in the analogy of a surfer. If you’ve ever had the privilege of watching a truly talented surfer, you’ll be almost awed by her sense of composure; her sense of grace and balance. (As a side note, if you have not had the opportunity to witness great live surfing, a short term substitute is the Jack Johnson DVD – Thicker that Water)
Here’s the thing about surfing – while they may look flawless and perfectly balanced from the shore, what’s actually happening on the board is another story entirely. A surfer certainly strives for perfect balance, but inevitably, as soon she reaches that point, the ocean makes an unpredictable shift (as Oceans are prone to do), forcing the surfer to redistribute her weight or change direction slightly; compensating for the situation – perpetually off balance, but correcting as she goes. No surfer ever achieves perfect balance, but they spend their entire time on the board working to do so. The more she practices, the more capable she is to handle the uncertainties of the ocean. It’s the Pursuit of Life’s Perfect Balance that is a key element in creating a life of perpetual motivation. Great. So how can we practically apply that our idea to our lives?
Six Spinning Plates
If you’ve ever been to the circus, you’ve probably seen this before – a performer demonstrates great talent and focus by balancing many spinning plates on long wooden poles. The performer gets one plate spinning at a decent speed before setting up the second plate. As he gets the second plate spinning, he returns to the first every so often to give it a little extra push. It’s important that he return to the already spinning plates regularly, or they begin to wobble. In a worst case scenario, they’ll actually fall from their delicate perch and smash. Here’s the comparison:
For all intents and purposes, there are six aspects to life that play a role in our mental wellbeing and sense of balance:
Education and vocation (knowledge in motion)
Perpetual Motivation, page 51
If any of these six aspects are neglected for an extended period of time, they can “crash”, causing us to focus exclusively on them until they are fully repaired. Not only does the actual “repair” require a ton of mental energy and can be quite draining, focus on one to the exclusion of all others cause the others to weaken as well. Jumping to put out fire after preverbal fire is one of the fastest ways I know to burn out. The trick is to spend a little time on each “plate”, each day. Even 20 minutes on one particular aspect in a given day can make an incredible difference in your level of motivation. And, if you’re really feeling that time starved, the answer may be to consolidate…
“People who integrate the balance points by involving family in their work objectives, health goals, spiritual growth, and other balance points will sustain and even grow motivation.”
Perpetual Motivation, page 104
I know a couple who make investment decisions a fun, monthly event. They save automatically, and then spend one night a month with a nice meal and a decent bottle of wine planning which charity and which investment vehicles they will put their money into that month. Think about that – they’re giving a little extra spin to three of the six plates at once. Lots of couple exercise together, and some take adult education courses. With his charity, The Front Row Foundation , my friend Jon Vroman has joined the growing number of charity fundraisers that are learning the power of “combining plates” by organizing walk/runs, giving people a chance to work on their health while raising funds for a worthwhile cause. (Jon will be showcased in the weeks to come in our “Inspirations” section of the GEM website.)
I encourage you to find creative ways to stack your plates.
Something lost, something gained
“Balance is not about avoiding, it’s about doing.”
Perpetual Motivation, page 51
For a lot of people, the term “balance” is equated with “moderation”. The truth is, effective balance is as much a matter of doing as it is a matter of avoiding. Take “Dieting” as an example. Avoiding fatty foods alone is not enough. We need to do – exercise, eat healthy foods and sleep well. For every task you commit to not doing, be sure to pick an action you will replace it with. To expedite the process, pick an activity you’ll enjoy. It is through proactive focus that we will find the most satisfying kind of balance.
The subtitle for Perpetual Motivation is “How to light your fire and keep it burning in your career and in life”. Full of anecdotal asides and applicable wisdom, Perpetual Motivation is a great starting point for those looking to find or rebuild their own motivational fire.