How to Beat Your Brain and Succeed

3 Insights for Overcoming Your Biggest Obstacles

Millions of people all over the world struggle to get things done at the office. A massive international study commissioned by the office equipment firm Steelcase found 37 percent of employees are disengaged from their work.

A similar poll by the Gallup organization found barely one in ten workers worldwide is really engaged on the job. Most people are just checked out.

This kind of disengagement is a constant source of frustration for those of us who need to find the focus and drive necessary to accomplish what matters most. The good news is that the solution is closer than you might think.

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Discipline Gets Results

I recently spoke with discipline strategist Rory Vaden, author of the New York Times bestseller Take the Stairs and his new book Procrastinate on Purpose.

In his job, Vaden has coached hundreds of incredibly successful people one-on-one about increasing their self-discipline, or, as he says, “doing the things we know we should be doing even we don’t feel like doing them.”

“It’s not that they’re smarter than other people, it’s not that they’re more educated,” or any number of other variables, he says. What really matters is that successful people have made a habit of doing what needs to be done.

So how do they muster the motivation to stay engaged when they feel like dropping out? They don’t rely on the joy of the task alone, which can be fleeting. Instead, they understand that engaged, hard work now will lead to the results that they want later.

3 Ways to Overcome Your Biggest Obstacles

Vaden knows this not just through observation but also experience. He used to be fifty pounds heavier. He dropped that weight through a combination of exercise and diet with “no cheat days.” It took him two-and-a-half years to land an agent for his book, then he landed on all of the bestseller lists.

One of the biggest obstacles to engagement comes not from outside annoyances or distractions, says Vaden, but from inside our own heads. He shared three insights for how we might turn that around.

  1. Get behind me, brain. “Our brain is not programmed for success. It’s programmed for survival,” Vaden explains. That means our brains are not always going to want to stretch to succeed or to banish distractions. They might even tempt us toward laziness. As long as we understand that, we can overcome it and succeed. But how best to do that?

  2. Reprogram your gray matter. Vaden compares the human brain to a computer in that it “does not believe what is true or what is false” but rather believes “whatever you tell it most often.” In other words, we become the stories we tell ourselves.

    You have to intentionally change that programming through repetition of what you think should matter most to you. One form of self-persuasion, which I use, is affirmations. But affirmations alone are not enough. We need to set exciting goals and identify our key motivations for reaching them. I detail that process here.

  3. Fire at will. How do you find the discipline or willpower to do what it takes to succeed? Phrasing the question like that is a mental trap, Vaden warns. Don’t concentrate on the willpower. Instead, he says, concentrate on what you’re trying to will. In other words, keep your eye on the prize. The lack of discipline is really a lack of vision.

What we need to do is understand that our patterns of thinking are an obstacle to full engagement. But we can reprogram our brain and stay focused on the steps to achieve our goals. If we do that, the will to keep going will be a natural outgrowth of our having the end in sight.

Question: Which of these three insights do you need to apply this week to make progress toward your goals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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