“Burning desire to be or do something gives us staying power – a reason to get up every morning or to pick ourselves up and start in again after a disappointment.”
“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action.”
“There isn’t nothin’ like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that.”
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino; Scent Of A Woman)
No problem can withstand the force of a definite plan backed by a burning desire to fulfill it.
In college, I wrestled for a team in a very unique situation. We were a Division 1 wrestling program supported by an incredibly small student body. Franklin & Marshall college only had about 2,000 full-time students. Most schools with a Division 1 programs have 10-20 times the number of full-time students. For example, there are about 24,000 students enrolled full-time at the University of Oregon and 38,000 enrolled at Penn State.
Additionally, F&M had one of the heaviest academic workloads in the country. In 2011, the college was ranked as the 4th Most Rigorous College/University in Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast”. The combination of a miniature student body and a intensive academic workload completely depleted athletic support.
As a result, the incoming freshmen who had wrestled their entire lives for the approval and support of other people would drop like flies at the beginning of each wrestling season. Either they would lose a few matches, go through one too many tough practices, get cut down by someone on the team, or start resenting the fact that they were missing supercool fraternity parties for wrestling tournaments. Without the usual extrinsic motivation to sustain them, these wrestlers would lose their ability to develop leadership skills and improve self confidence. They would quit by the middle of their first season.
After witnessing this cycle for a few years, I started recognizing a pattern in the freshmen that would leave the team. For the most part, there were two types of quitters. The first type would come into the program extremely enthusiastic and excited. These positive guys would light up the first few days of practice; they worked hard and seemed to know how to develop others and generate confidence. Then, without warning, they would miss a practice and never come back.
The second type of quitter would come into the program more quiet and reserved. These kids would pace themselves in the first few practices and slowly get a feel for how things worked. They would plug along and mildly interact with everyone, never really showing a lot of emotion one way or another. This type of quitter would last a few weeks, or even a few months, but would never start developing as a leader. He would phase himself out slowly and eventually stop coming to practices altogether.
The problem with the first group of quitters is that they lacked a definite plan for overcoming the inevitable hurdles of any tough pursuit. The problem with the second group is that they lacked the burning desire necessary to overcome constant hardship.
Intrinsic motivation relies on both strategy and intense enthusiasm. Without one or the other, the inertia of your obstacles will burden you like a heavy yoke. Burn through your obstacles and generate confidence by creating a definite plan and igniting a burning desire to fulfill it.
Create a definite plan.
Planning is obstacle practice. The most important part of having a definite plan is creating it.
The process of creating a plan helps mentally prepare you for the hurdles and hardships you may face. It’s like studying for a test by rewriting your notes; the mere act of writing down information helps integrate that information in your head. As you write, your brain asks and answers dozens of questions like, “this information would be the answer to potential question XYZ” or “how does this information tie together with what I wrote down 30 minutes ago”.
Similarly, as you create a definite plan for achieving your goal, you entertain contingency plans and rehearse decisions. This automatically increases your mental toughness and prepares you for the obstacles you will inevitably face.
Asking yourself questions as you create your definite plan is a critical aspect of self-motivation. It will help you develop leadership skills and improve self confidence. A 2010 study by University of Illinois Professor Dolores Albarracin found that people who ask themselves whether or not they will perform a task well do better than those who tell themselves they will perform it well.
Albarracin’s team had 50 study participants spend a minute either wondering whether they would complete a task or telling themselves they would complete a task. The participants showed more success on an anagram task, rearranging set words to create different words, when they asked themselves if they would complete it versus when they told themselves they would.
A second part of the study had the participants write two unrelated sentences, either “I Will” or “Will I,” and then work on the same task. Participants did better when they wrote, “Will” followed by “I” even though they had no idea that the word writing related to the anagram task. The authors of the study concluded that by asking themselves a question, people are more likely to build their own motivation by answering it positively.
A lot of people will either let other people answer their internal questions, or they will fail to answer their questions altogether. This includes the first group of quitters from the wrestling story. They had a great attitude and a burning desire, but their desire wasn’t tied to a definite plan. Their minds were not prepared to carry the weight of even small obstacles. As a result, they quickly crumbled.
Ignite a burning desire.
Use your definite plans as a launching pad for your enthusiasm, and use your enthusiasm as fuel to drive your plans home. Stop jumping over hurdles and start setting fire to them. Incinerate your obstacles with a burning desire to fulfill your purpose. (WARNING: Video Contains Explicit Language)
Have you ever had someone close to you lose his or her passion for something. Perhaps they were extremely motivated to get their degree, to climb a corporate ladder, to start a business or charity, or to be in a relationship. They were motivated and full of enthusiasm, hope, and expectancy. Then something happened, some internal or external event that you didn’t witness, and their passion died slowly. They forgot how to develop others, enjoy life and improve self confidence. What remained was an empty shell that didn’t show any evidence of anger, sadness, or regret .
Why does this happen? More importantly, why is this so terrifying to witness when it happens to someone?
It can be hard to recognize a person as a human being if they are not passionate about anything. Desire is at the core of what makes us human. Desire is life. Yet, so many people numb themselves to desire and become zombies. Instead of being alive, they go through the motions of being alive. Worst of all, these zombies will try to turn you into a zombie. Achieving your goals and developing as a leader is impossible if you’re one of the undead.
Fortunately, zombies are afraid of fire. If you find yourself surrounded by zombies, or notice that you’re becoming a zombie, set yourself on fire.
One great way to set yourself on fire is to establish a person, an organization, an institution, or an ideal as your adversary – something to be passionate against. The second group of quitters in the wrestling story could have maintained their desire by generating energy against the wrestling opponents that beat them early in the season, the coaches that were putting them through the tough practices, the haters on the team that were cutting them down, or the frat brothers that were having the parties. Instead, these wrestlers didn’t get upset or excited about the resistance they encountered and, as a result, slowly lost their passion and gave up.
Adversaries both help define your plans and keep your fire burning. Stir up your emotions productively by focusing on who you want to be and who you do not want to be. Find something to stand for or to stand against. Engage. Get excited. Even get a little angry.