How to Keep Your Motivational Mojo When the Chips Are Down

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How to Keep Your Motivational Mojo When the Chips Are Down

Image credit: John M Lund Photography Inc | Getty Images

Tiffany Delmore
Co-founder of SchoolSafe
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The road to entrepreneurial success isn’t paved in gold. It might, in fact, be strewn with nothing more thrilling than horse manure. After all, according to the list of startups to watch from The New York Times and CB Insights, many next-gen business entities are in the booming agricultural technology space.

Somehow, the visual of a road dotted with the droppings of our four-legged friends fits. After all, any serial entrepreneur will tell you that being an early founder can feel crappy. Late nights turn into early mornings, and all the while, you’re wondering if the time spent is worth it.

If you can stay motivated, it will be worth it — beyond your wildest dreams, perhaps. But you have to stay the course, and far too many would-be founders let go too early in the journey.

It’s about finding bliss amid the cow chips.

The key to staying the course is to unearth the innately wondrous aspects of working at 2 a.m. to tweak a product design or construct an airtight elevator speech. In that vein, Thomas Corley’s five-year Rich Habits Study gives a peek into the behaviors and motivations shared by folks who hit the million-dollar mark.

What Corley found is that even though entrepreneurship can be difficult, the difference between winners and losers is a matter of perspective. Those entrepreneurs with self-confidence, passion for their work and eternal optimism found love for their work, even in the midst of frustration.

Related: 7 Life Lessons From My Entrepreneurship Journey

Most entrepreneurs who have made it can attest that enthusiasm and motivation amid hardships kept them plodding along, despite the temptation to give it all up. If you want to join their ranks, you must accept what they learned: Nobody can authorize or deny your entry into the hall of entrepreneurial heroes — except you.

In other words, get out your waders because it’s time to go knee-deep into what may stink today but provide rich soil for a fertile tomorrow. Use these three strategies to stay motivated:

1. Identify your raison d’étre.

Once you’ve started a business, you’ll constantly be asked to validate your commitment. If you have no answer to the question “Why do you want to do this?” you’re already done. Dig deep into your psyche to find out what makes your venture important to you. For Chase Jarvis, the CEO of CreativeLive, the biggest concern was not allowing the desire for money to become his No. 1 focus. “Be careful if you’re only committed to something for the next two weeks or the next paycheck,” he advises. “Pretty soon, that eroding mentality of constantly chasing the next thing will hurt you. Alignment provides a level of hunger that can’t be achieved when you’re just working towards a paycheck.”

Shift your thinking to mirror Barry Turner, one of the founders of Lenny & Larry’s protein-rich cookies. He still has a palpable commitment to and enthusiasm for the company he founded 25 years ago. As he told one interviewer, “I always dreamed when I started this that it will be sitting between Oreo and Chips Ahoy.” Put your own “why” in language just as colorful and specific, and your hustle will feel worthwhile.

Related: 5 Learnings From an Entrepreneurial Journey

2. Go for four.

Forget about a seven-day workweek. Chances are good that it will only drive you crazy and make you less productive than before, according to one Wharton professor. If you really want to get good at managing your finite moments, try budgeting your tasks within a four-day workweek. This challenge should leave you asking yourself how you can boost your efficiency. And if you manage it, you’ll find you have the time you need to take care of yourself and spend time with friends and family.

To be sure, pulling off a quick-as-lightning workweek takes some chutzpah and discipline. Rather than use day five as a chance to veg out, concentrate on making it count in other areas. It might be a day of personal development or an opportunity to research new business opportunities. Just keep it free from all the operational stuff so you can focus on adding breadth and depth to your business and yourself.

3. Hunt down your missing skill.

What would you never list on your résumé? Public speaking? Coding? Networking? Identify your underdeveloped skill set, and then do something about it. Chances are good that you’ll find some important stuff you need to know — or will if your company takes off. For example, when he moved to Texas, Ignitia Office co-founder Josh Bobrowsky realized that business deals happened at the gun range. The trouble was that he wasn’t a gun-toting guy — yet. After taking private lessons for months, he nailed the ability to shoot from the shotgun and the hip.

Be aware that what you lack might not seem important today, but it could be critical in the future. For instance, if you’re having trouble building your business brand, why not begin by developing a personal brand through social networks like LinkedIn? Your self-discovery could open new doors and launch you into opportunities you never realized existed.

Is it tough to remain curious and optimistic while trudging through what looks like mud but smells otherwise? Sure. But getting through the bad stuff with a smile on your face will help you persevere — not to mention appreciate the beautiful crops that will one day burst forth from the entrepreneurial soil you’ve laid.

6 Daily Habits That Can Make You the Most Productive Person in the Office

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Ever wish you had 30 hours in a day to get more stuff done? Then again, how tired would you feel? You may already be exhausted by working eight hours per day.

Well, if you’re struggling to juggle work and life while trying to maximize your day without killing your health in the process, remember this: Being more productive doesn’t mean working harder or longer; it means working smarter.

Here are six ways to be more productive, the smart way:

1. Cut down the distractions.

Distractions are productivity’s biggest enemy. To make the most of your day, ax whatever is keeping you from being focused and productive. Take your work environment into account. Is sound/noise, lighting, the way the room is configured–like open-floor plans–a problem? Try relocating to a different space or make a case for working remotely. The key is finding out what distractions are messing with your productivity, and then doing something about it.

2. Have good boundaries.

Let me ask you: What’s most important for you to get done? Whatever it is, focus all your energy on those things. Take billionaire Warren Buffett, for example. With all the demands on him every day, Buffett learned a long time ago that the greatest commodity of all is time. He simply mastered the art and practice of setting boundaries for himself. The mega-mogul once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

3. Simplify.

Productive people are masters of simplifying things down to what matters most. They have a simple schedule. They live according to their values and purpose. They have no problem saying no to people or things that don’t serve them. If something coming their way on Tuesday has little value and doesn’t make them better on Wednesday, they simply walk away.

4. Exercise the “Pomodoro Technique.”

If done correctly, this classic time-management hack can help you get things done in short work intervals. First, decide on the tasks you want to check off from your to-do list. Next, set a timer to 25 minutes and knock off those items until the timer rings. After you finish, take a five-minute break and repeat the cycle four times. After the fourth cycle, take a 15- to 30-minute break and start over. The key is to focus on the short bursts, as it helps you to concentrate on your tasks without distractions.

5. Take more breaks

This sounds counterintuitive to being more productive at first, but according to a New York Times article, research shows that “daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office, and longer, more frequent vacations” actually boost productivity and job performance. Truth is, humans aren’t wired to concentrate for more than three hours at a time. Anything beyond that without a break and you’ll start to experience the negative effects of decision fatigue, lack of focus, and even impaired vision.

6. Schedule your to-do list items.

This productivity hack helps you be more realistic about what you want to get done. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says, “Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture, you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.”

5 Surprisingly Underrated Habits of Super Successful People

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Success is often no accident.

It requires patience, effort, and consistency. The most successful people know that the daily routines we have make up our journeys to success — or towards failure. Today’s leaders are aware that even the small habits someone has can leave a huge impact on the kinds of accomplishments achieved.

If your daily habits are in need of some fine-tuning, or your performance at work could use some improving, consider adopting these underrated habits successful people are known to practice.

1. Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid of asking too many questions. Successful people stay curious, and they care about details and how things work. If there is something they are not sure about, or something they do not know, they ask for an explanation. Asking too many questions doesn’t make you look stupid. In fact, you are more likely to look foolish if you don’t ask enough.

2. Analyze feelings and emotions.

Successful people don’t suppress their emotions. Although these leaders yield great results and are highly efficient, they are still human at the end of the day. Try regularly monitoring and managing your emotions. Be aware of how your emotions influence how you think and act, and understand that success will require you to sometimes keep your emotions at bay.

3. Stand up to inner critics.

It’s easy to beat yourself up after making a mistake, isn’t it? If you’re looking to succeed, remember that self-compassion is something you should practice regularly. Forgive yourself for what goes wrong, and speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a loved one or close friend. Practicing compassion for yourself will help you become mentally strong and successful.

4. Say no.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, says, “Every time you say yes to something, you’re really saying no to something else.” Practice setting and maintaining boundaries — successful people know progress comes from saying yes to priority items and projects and no to those that aren’t. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

5. Leave the office.

Working from home might not be a bad idea. In fact, one 2016 survey revealed how the most innovative employees divide their time between in-office and remote work. The survey suggested the ideal proportion of the workweek that you should spend in the office is 80 percent. This leaves 20 percent — or one entire workday each week — outside the office.

Each day is comprised of hundreds of decisions and actions, which ultimately determine your levels of productivity. No matter how innocuous your habits may seem, the reality is that these habits shape the course of your life, professional or otherwise. Try examining your current habits, and see if you can experiment with new ones.

17 Powerfully Inspiring Quotes for Enchanting, Fascinating, and Influencing People

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Need a skill that can bolster your personal and professional relationships in incredible ways?


Learn how to enchant others. An enchanting person has a special aura about them — they have a unique ability to attract and fascinate, to charm, to be down to earth, sincere, and open-minded. Who wouldn’t want to be enchanting?


Here are 17 quotes that will show you the power of enchantment.

1. “Charm almost baffles definition, yet it is quickly recognized by the world.” — Grevillea Kleiser

2. “Enchantment is the oldest form of medicine.” — Carl Jung

3. “When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.” — Guy Kawasaki

4. “We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.” — Laurie Buchanan

5. “Every age can be enchanting, provided you live within it.” — Brigitte Bardot

6. “‘Aura’ is what one reflects in the heart, what you bring into the world, and what people want to learn from you.” — Ozuna

7. “Sometimes your joy is source of your smile, but sometimes, your smile can be the source of your joy.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

8. “Influence is like a savings account — the less you use it, the more you’ve got.” — Andrew Young

9. “The aura given out by a person or object is as much a part of them as their flesh.” — Lucian Freud

10. “Unleash your influence not authority.” — Joseph Wong

11. “Charm is the ability to be truly interested in other people.” — Richard Avedon

12. “I have always tried to live by the ‘awe principle.’ That is: Can I find awe, wonder and enchantment in the most mundane things conceivable?” — Craig Hatkoff

13. “In order to be enchanted we must be, above all, capable of seeing another person simply opening one’s eyes will not do.” — Jose Ortega Y Gasset

14. “Nothing’s more charming than someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously.” — Melissa McCarthy

15. “One of the best ways to influence people is to make those around you feel important.” — Roy Bennett

16. “Charm: the quality in others that makes us more satisfied with ourselves.” — Henri Frederic Amiel

17. “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” — Brené Brown

Whether you’re about to enter a job interview or want to improve at making small talk, don’t forget to bring out this powerful skill of enchanting others.


How To Make Yourself Do Something You Don’t Want To Do

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How to make yourself do something you don’t want to do
[Photo: Olga1205/Pixabay]

I am so grateful that I get to write for a living. I also really, really don’t want to start writing right now.

That’s more or less my constant mind-set. When I manage to get started I get a lot done, but I rarely want to get started on something that I know will take a lot of time or effort. This leads to me to fall back into the dopamine-rich environment called “internet,” where algorithmically designed distractions devour time until it’s 5 p.m. and oh well, I’ll seize the day tomorrow.

You’ve been there. We’ve all been there. There’s a “thing” you should be doing, but for some reason just can’t get started on. Maybe the thing is setting up a website. Maybe the thing is a coding project you’ve been putting off. Maybe the thing is something small like a phone call you need to make. Whatever the thing is, you just can’t get started.

I can relate. Which is why over time I’ve found ways to force the issue on myself. Here are a few tricks I and a few of my coworkers use to get started, even when we really don’t want to do the thing. In other words, how to motivate yourself to start a task when you don’t feel motivated.


I’m very good at feeling like I have plenty of time to get things done. When I feel this way I take it easy, only to wonder at the end of the day where all of my time went. That’s why I started planning things in advance. Every workday morning, after breakfast, I look at my to-do list, my inbox, and my calendar. I then figure out how I’m going to use my unscheduled time in order to accomplish what needs accomplishing by putting each task on my calendar.

This does two things. First: It forces me to see my time as a resource I have to allocate. Second, adding things to my calendar means notifications on my phone and computer throughout the day, reminding me of the intention I set for myself. It’s amazing how that reminder can keep me motivated.


I’m really good at lying to myself. I can convince myself that watching a YouTube video right now will help me get this article done because it will help me relax, which will make it easier for me to write. I can then convince myself that the next video will help me relax even more, and so on and so forth.

You know who doesn’t fall for that? Literally anyone outside my own brain. Which is why telling someone else about the thing I need to do is a good idea. Find someone you trust to keep you accountable and tell them what you intend to do.


Still can’t make yourself do the thing? Find some chore you like even less than doing the thing, then do that instead for a while. You’ll be itching to do the thing in no time.

The idea is that you’ll hate doing whatever chore it is you’re doing so much that you’ll be excited to do the thing instead. Cleaning is a particularly good task for this because it’s almost totally mindless, meaning your brain can wander a little while you’re doing it. That scattered thinking is perfect for brainstorming, helping you think up ideas that will come in handy when you finally get back on task.

Don’t open your browser when you’re struggling to get started. Clean the bathroom instead.


In your head the thing is a massive project that you will never, ever finish or will be painful to do, so you don’t even want to get started. But can you handle working on it for five minutes?

Next time you don’t feel like doing a thing, simply set a timer for five minutes. Force yourself to work on the thing for those five minutes. Everyone can focus for five minutes, right? But the trick is that by the end of those five minutes it won’t feel too bad to keep going.

Oh, and if you’ve got something on your list that will only take two minutes, just do it. Now. Make a habit of doing small tasks immediately, and they will never clutter up your to-do list, leaving you with more mental energy to tackle the big projects.


It’s easy to put off big projects and instead focus on smaller, more manageable tasks, which is why your kitchen looks so clean during tax season. But every overwhelming project consists of smaller, more manageable tasks.

If the thing you keep putting off is some large project, consider breaking it down. Outline all the small steps you need to do in order to complete the thing, then get started on one of those small steps. You can do this using a to-do list application, a text document, or even a pen and paper. Just take the time to break the thing down into smaller things. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to get started on something small.


Every dog owner (and parent) knows that bribery is a very effective way to reward good behavior. Use that on yourself. Promise yourself something, then only let yourself have that treat if you actually do the thing.

Food works, sure, but so does the promise of time outside, a TV episode, or a phone conversation with a friend. Reward yourself for getting things done and you’ll find getting started that much easier.

This same strategy is the thinking behind the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working for 25 minutes then taking a five-minute break. The five-minute break is a reward for getting through the 25-minute work session.


Are you still not doing the thing? Why not ask your coworkers to help you brainstorm about the thing. The ideas you generate could help you bring new energy into the task, which will make it more likely that you’ll get started.

Okay, you caught me. I couldn’t motivate myself to get started writing an article about getting started at doing a thing (and the irony was not lost on me). I turned to my coworkers for help, asking for ideas. It worked.

People need each other. There’s no shame in it. If you’re stuck in your own head, unable to start doing the thing, ask the people around you for ideas. It will help.

It’s Never Too Late To Succeed—And Here’s The Secret

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Everett Collection
Julia Child was 50 when she hosted her first TV show.

This article is reprinted by permission from

In his new book, “The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success,” Northeastern University professor of network science Albert-László Barabási offers lessons we can learn from men and women who’ve achieved success after 50 based on his research. The following is an excerpt from this book.

When, at the age of 50, John Fenn joined the faculty at Yale, he was old by academic standards. He was 35 when he got his first academic appointment, at Princeton, where he started working with atomic and molecular beams, research that he continued to pursue at Yale. Though Fenn was hardworking and diligent, he was largely a low-impact scientist. His department chair must have felt some relief when Fenn turned 70 and they could force him to take mandatory retirement.

Yet Fenn had no interest in stopping. Three years earlier, at 67, he was already semiretired at Yale, stripped of lab space and technicians, when he published a paper on a new technique he called “electrospray ionization.” He turned droplets into a high-speed beam, allowing him to measure the masses of large molecules and proteins quickly and accurately. He saw it as a breakthrough and he was right.

A late-in-life Nobel Prize

After idling at Yale, he relocated to Virginia Commonwealth University and opened a lab. What he did in these later years was revolutionary. Improving upon his initial idea, he offered scientists a robust way to measure ribosomes and viruses with previously unbelievable accuracy, transforming our understanding of how cells work. In 2002, in his mid-80s, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Fenn’s story embodies a simple message: Your chance of success has little to do with your age. It’s shaped by your willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough. Realizing this was transformative for me — I started seeing Fenns everywhere.

There’s Ray Kroc, who joined the McDonald’s MCD, +1.02%   franchise at 53; Nelson Mandela, who emerged after 27 years in jail and became his country’s president at 76. There’s Julia Child, who was 50 when she hosted her first TV show.

Key to success: the Q-factor

But these late-in-life successes had something else in common besides tenacity. Their pathways to success were guided by a hidden factor that unveiled itself throughout their careers. My team and I named it the Q-factor, and it helped us answer the question: Where do highly successful ideas and products come from?

Your ability to turn an idea into a discovery is equally important, and that varies dramatically from person to person. A person’s Q-factor translates the process of innovation into an equation. Each of us takes a random idea, with value r, and using our skill, we turn it into a discovery or “success” S, which captures its impact on the world. Multiply your Q-factor by the value of your next idea, r, and you get a formula to predict its success. Written as a formula, it is: S = Qr

In other words, the success of a product or a deal, or the impact of a discovery, will be the product of a creator’s Q-factor and the value of idea r.

Give your work qualities a chance to shine

Once my team and I figured out how to measure a scientist’s Q-factor, we learned it remained unchanged throughout her career. That’s right. The data was clear: We all start our careers with a given Q, high or low, and that Q-factor stays with us until retirement.

Well, I had a hard time believing that I was as good a scientist when I wrote my first research paper at 22 (the one with absolutely zero impact) as I am now. And you probably feel you weren’t anywhere near as good a teacher, writer, doctor or salesperson in your 20s as you are now. However, we spent six months rechecking our findings, and we came to the same conclusion.

The key to long-term success from a creator’s perspective is straightforward: let the qualities that give you your Q-factor do their job by giving them a chance to deliver success over and over.

In other words, successful people engage in project after project after project. They don’t just count their winnings; they buy more lottery tickets. They keep producing.

Prime example: J.K. Rowling

Take writer J.K. Rowling, who followed “Harry Potter” by creating a successful mystery series (under the name Robert Galbraith). Each time she publishes a new book, her new fans go back and read the older volumes as well. Each new book, then, breathes life into her career, keeping her whole body of work present and relevant.

A high Q-factor, combined with Fenn-like persistence, is what drives the engine for career-long success. People like Shakespeare, Austen, Edison, Curie and Einstein are not remembered for a single work that changed everything. They tower over their fields thanks to their exceptional Q-factors — and their willingness to test their luck repeatedly.

Stubborn creativity, combined with a John Fenn—like tenacity, not only gives our lives their essential meaning, it also provides the true secret to career-long success.

Stubborn creativity + tenacity = career-long success

The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai is one perfect, parting exemplar of that. “All I have produced before the age of 70 is not worth taking into account. At 73 I have learned a little about the real structure of nature,” he wrote at 75. What followed made my day. “When I am 80 I shall have made still more progress. At 90, I shall penetrate the mystery of things. At 100 I shall have reached a marvelous stage, and when I am 110, everything I do, whether it be a dot or a line, will be alive.”

Hokusai lived to be 89, and he created his most memorable works in the final decades of his life, including the iconic woodblock print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” The image is of an enormous white-capped wave that slowly unfurls over a half-drowned skiff, dwarfing Mount Fuji in the background. It’s an apt depiction of how success ebbs and flows over a lifetime, building sudden momentum and crashing over us, only to start all over again.

Albert-László Barabási is a Northeastern University professor of science and author of “The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success.”

Excerpted from the new book “The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success by Albert-László Barabási.” Reprinted with permission from Little, Brown, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Copyright © 2018 by Albert-László Barabási. This article is reprinted by permission from, © 2019 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

17 Super Wise Quotes to Live Your Life By

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Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for. –Bob Marley

Relationships are the lifeblood of business. Bob Marley understood that sometimes the people we care about can hurt us, but life without good friends — both on and off the job — would hurt more. Cultivate your relationships and you will live well.

Here are 17 more wise quotes to live by:

1. “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” —Bill Gates

2. “Each person must live their life as a model for others.” –Rosa Parks

3. “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” –H. Jackson Brown Jr.

4. “If you can’t tolerate critics, don’t do anything new or interesting.” —Jeff Bezos

5. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” –Nelson Mandela

6. “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” –Bobby Unser​

7. “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” –Harold S. Geneen​

8. “Predicting rain doesn’t count. Building arks does.” —Warren Buffett

9. “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” –John Wooden

10. “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” –Reba McEntire

11. “Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” –Jim Rohn

12. “To get rich, you have to be making money while you’re asleep.” –David Bailey

13. “The most simple things can bring the most happiness.” –Izabella Scorupco​

14. “There is always space for improvement, no matter how long you’ve been in the business.” –Oscar De La Hoya

15. “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.” –Helen Keller

16. “Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.” –Margaret Walker

17. “Family and friendships are two of the greatest facilitators of happiness.” –John C. Maxwell

Tell me if you can relate to this: When a new week approaches, you feel stressed out because you’re not prepared at all. By the end of the week, you feel frustrated because you didn’t use your time in the most productive way.We’ve all had the Sunday scaries for the week ahead. We’ve all left…

via 5 Ways To Plan Your Most Productive Week — The Blissful Mind

19 Ways to Get Through a Challenge, According to Science

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Waiting in line at the post office. Paying attention to a monotone lecture. Commuting on a tuna-scented train. Life is full of unpleasant and necessary tasks like these — what psychologists call “aversive activities.” A new studyasked a simple question: What are the best ways to get through them?

19 Ways to Lose Your Lazy

For the study, which was published in December in the European Journal of Personality, researchers sought to discover the key to success (at least, self-reported success) in aversive tasks. Was there a secret recipe for perseverance?

To start, though, they asked exploratory questions via the crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk. What strategies did online respondents use to “keep themselves going” through mentally and physically taxing challenges? Researchers boiled responses down to 19 broad strategies, which included giving yourself a pep talk, promising yourself a reward at the end of the task, and taking a substance (say, chugging an energy drink).

The strategies were as follows:

  1. Changing the activity itself, or how it’s performed (without adding an external incentive), like running slower on the treadmill or taking notes while you study
  2. Changing the environment in which the activity is performed, such as working from a coffee shop or taking a new running route
  3. Reducing or removing distractions and temptations like closing social media or turning off your phone
  4. Seeking social support like taking a friend with you to the gym
  5. Taking a substance like drinking coffee or downing an energy drink
  6. Task enrichment like listening to music while you work out or watching TV while you fold laundry
  7. Focusing on the activity itself and how you’re performing it
  8. Distracting your attention by focusing on something else
  9. Anticipating self-reward like playing a video game when you’re done with homework
  10. Focusing on the negative consequences of not completing the task
  11. Focusing on the positive consequences of completing the task
  12. Goal setting, or breaking the task down into sub-goals, like “I will write 200 words in the next 20 minutes.”
  13. Monitoring progress, like checking how much time is left in your workout
  14. Planning/scheduling, like setting a specific time for performing the activity
  15. Reappraisal, or using a different frame of mind for the activity (for example, imagine you’re running in a race)
  16. Motivating self-talk, or telling yourself you can do it
  17. Thinking about the finish and letting yourself know you’re almost done
  18. Suppressing the impulse to quit even though you want to
  19. Emotion regulation like trying to stay in a good mood throughout the activity

Researchers then asked a second group of Mechanical Turk recruits to take a self-control assessment and rate each of the 19 broad strategies. How often did they use each type? All the time? Never? This gave a sense of which strategies were most popular.

More importantly, by comparing the strategy ratings with the respondents’ self-control assessments, the researchers could get a sense of which strategies were most popular among people with high self-control. For these people, the most popular strategies included things like setting goals, making plans and schedules, regulating their emotional state, and focusing on the positive consequences of the unpleasant activities at hand.

Then came the meat of the study: Researchers followed 264 participants, mostly female students, for a week. Each day, they checked in with study respondents seven times; the check-ins were always at least an hour apart and conducted via a digital survey that expired within an hour.

The survey had three parts. First, it asked respondents if they’d done something unpleasant in the last hour, and if so, what type of unpleasant task it had been. Then it asked them what strategies they had used to persevere through the task. Finally, it asked if they had successfully completed the task.

You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It

Ultimately, there was no silver bullet. People used different strategies for persevering through different types of activities. For example, respondents rarely used “task enrichment,” like listening to music, for emotionally challenging tasks like a relationship talk, but that was common for physically challenging tasks like running on a treadmill.

However, a cluster of strategies still emerged as possible keys to success. Focusing on the positive consequences of finishing an activity — or, conversely, on the negative consequences of abandoning it halfway through — was linked with success. Another successful strategy was imagining the finish line was near, even when it wasn’t. (In other words, it was helpful to break the task into a series of mini-tasks, so you were always near a finish line.)

Finally, emotional regulation — so, doing whatever you need to do to boost your mood, or at least keep it from falling into the deepest depths of despair — was correlated with success. Once people were in a bad mood, their tenacity dropped.

Researchers found that among respondents with high self-control, focusing on positive consequences and regulating emotions were especially popular. However, these strategies didn’t explain self-controlled people’s higher success rate with aversive tasks. They seemed to still bring some special sauce to their treadmill workouts and dull study sessions that transcended any one strategy.

Even if you’re a naturally self-indulgent soul, though, you can use perseverance hacks to get closer to your goals. You don’t have to be innately disciplined to send a package at the post office — though we won’t lie. It helps.

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Learn more about how to get through challenges in Angela Duckworth’s book“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

The Strangest Way I Ever Improved Myself

Author Article

For a few months I tried, almost every day, not to utter a single word for the whole day while living my normal life. I’m married, have three kids and at that time, I had a full time job.

I never succeeded.

But I tried more than a hundred times, and I think my biggest accomplishment was to say something only about two dozen times in one day.

It was definitely strange and I definitely improved. I imprisoned words in my head and it triggered a cascade of changes.

1. Self-awareness

I became more aware about my internal dialog. Normally, it goes on autopilot and spills from your mouth without an ounce of conscious reflection. Because I kept the words inside me, I had a chance to notice how they bounce inside my head trying to get out.

2. Emotional Intelligence

I’m an introvert. Give me some good books and I can spend a few months not seeing another human being.

But I’m also a human being. We are so social animals and we don’t admit that. When I kept my mouth shut, I quickly realized how many of my verbal interactions were just an attempt to create a rapport with others. My words weren’t meant to convey information. Rather, most of them were meant to emphasize my positive traits, make me feel better because I was trying to impress others or simply create a bond with people.

That was a huge discovery for me. Quickly, I recognized the same patterns in other people. Once I became aware of how much we interact only to socialize, I was able to notice when someone tried to inflate their ego, to impress others, to entice compassion with a self-pity party or say something only to be heard in the conversation, with no sensible agenda at all.

Nowadays, it’s very hard to make me angry in conversation. I see through the other person’s words straight to their intentions.

And I find people less irritating. I have a workmate who simply loves the sound of his voice. In the past I wanted to rip the guy’s guts off. Now I’m telling myself: “Well, I’m exactly the same; only the scale differs a bit.”

3. Self-control

“There is no labor from which most people shrink as they do from that of sustained and consecutive thought. It is the hardest work in the world.” — Wallace D. Wattles

Taming one’s tongue is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It’s an enormous mental effort. My practice of silence increased my focus, sharpened my attention to details and contributed to my ability to work deep for extended periods of time.

Steering your speech is almost as hard as steering your thoughts. Everything you say begins in your mind first. The most efficient way to control your tongue is by controlling your thoughts. And if you can control your thoughts, you become a master of your fate.

Of course, I didn’t gain the ability to think whatever I want to think in each and every second. Probably every novitiate for a Buddhist monk is better at that than me. However, my ability to steer my thinking and mindset definitely increased, and it improved while living my totally average normal life!

4. Personal philosophy

I rebuilt my personal philosophy from “Live to just get by” to “Progress is my duty.” I credit my silence to at least part of how swift and smooth this process was. I was able to control my thoughts better, thus I was able to get a grip on my internal interpretation of everything that happened in my life.

This is a crucial part of changing one’s philosophy. You can read a lot, you can interact with successful people, but it may be all in vain if your self-talk is destroying your progress as you build it.

You can diminish every success principle and deride any good advice in your mind and stay the same, despite of loads of new insights. That’s the secret behind the phenomenon of self-help junkies who read and listen a lot, but progress very little.

I avoided this trap thanks to my silence. I became self-aware of my thoughts, so I could quickly notice when I torpedoed my own progress. I didn’t allow my internal voice to neglect what I was studying, thus I was able to solidify my new personal philosophy relatively fast.

Or is it not so strange?

Scientists have concluded that it’s beneficial for our health — it lowers blood pressure, boosts the body’s immune system, decreases stress by lowering blood cortisol levels and adrenaline, promotes good hormone regulation, and prevents plaque formation in the arteries.

A 2013 study found that two hours of silence could create new brain cells in the hippocampus region, and a study from 2006 concluded that two minutes of silence relieves tension in the body and brain and is more relaxing than listening to music.

Scientists connected silence with increased creativity, better cognitive abilities, and relief from insomnia.

Shut up. Silence is a powerful tool for improvement.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

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