Look Back

Battert rocks near Baden-Baden, Germany.

Battert rocks near Baden-Baden, Germany.

Have you ever experienced situation in which you have struggled, come a long way, only to run out of energy shortly before reaching a satisfying goal or conclusion? I certainly have. 

Yesterday, I was reminded about a way of thinking that has helped me many times. I had been cycling up a steep hill for about one hour. I was getting tired, legs hurting. I could see the top of the hill about 500 meters away. A sudden lack of motivation set in. "I'll walk the rest of the way" I thought. That last section of the trail was too much. The straw that will break the camel's back. 

"No!", I shouted to myself. Then I remembered the trick. Think about how far I have come. Think  about how every additional meter adds to the achievement so far. It worked. I reached the top of the hill without dismounting.

Sometimes, when I am tired, I find myself focusing on the remaining task. In doing so, I feel my motivation drain away quickly. All I see is the pain and effort ahead. On the other hand, thinking about how far I have come somehow unleashes the hidden energy I need to complete the task. I suspect the psychological trick here has something to do with how positive perspectives influence my behavior. Focusing on the pain and effort ahead can create a negative perspective that drains my motivation. Thinking about achievements made so far is a positive view that boosts my motivation to drive my task to completion. This really does work for me. I often apply this simple principle in the projects I lead at work to help keep the project team motivated through to the end of the project.

How we think impacts how we behave, and how well we can tap into the energy inside us. It is worth taking a critical view of our thinking, and adjusting our focus when we face tough situations.