A Human Approach

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It’s Got to be Worth it!

Aha Moment Monday

When we were little, my mom found a way of getting us to try new foods.  She would put a small amount on our plates and say, “Eat it first”.  If you liked it you got more.  If you didn’t, you still had your favourite stuff to eat afterwards.  It worked like a charm.  My mom was an exceptional cook and our meals were colourful and nutritious.  So how creative of her to encourage us to expand our choices by getting the unwanted elements off our plates first and saving the best for last.

One of my really disciplined and enormously successful friends, Leslie, adopted this concept with her to-do list.  She makes her list of what needs to be done, starts on the item she least wants to do and sticks with it until it’s done.  Then she goes on to the next item.
I’m thinking she might fill her day with lousy tasks and not get to the fun stuff but she maintains that there is a greater sense of accomplishment in getting the difficult work out of the way right off the bat.  She’s full of passion and purpose and an absolute delight to be around so there must be something to this.

Most of us do the opposite.  We procrastinate on the work that we know that absolutely, positively, with no degree of uncertainty, is going to try us and we start on what we know we can do easily.  Once we ramp up, we tackle the tough stuff … or not.

It’s not really our fault.  We’re wired to conserve effort for when we need it most – like hunting for food or running from a tiger.  Effort creates stress, stress makes us anxious, and putting off – or abandoning completely – that which creates stress becomes a justifiable habit.  We’re conserving.

So what’s the ingredient to manage debilitating negative emotions that brew at even the thought of tackling undesirable tasks required for greatness?

Aha! ~ It has to be worth it.

A study in 2013 “… found evidence of a neurological system which anticipates the need to exert effort. It seems these brain regions automatically assess how much effort a task requires, what the outcome is and, crucially, combines them both to decide is it worth it? “ writes Dean Burnett in “The Happy Brain”.

In the end it’s wasted effort the brain doesn’t like: spending six months on a proposal to have it rejected, dieting and exercising for six weeks and not seeing any visible results or working at a job in the city that pays less than your rent and commute.

The waste is not always obvious at the start and we’re very clever at protecting our effort to the extent of altering our perception about it.  That is why overriding the brain is a habit of highly successful people, like my friend Leslie, who falls in love with the reward before she starts.   Are all of Leslie’s projects winners?  Nope.  But the formula is.

Decide when it’s worth it then give it all you’ve got.

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