- How to Stay Motivated in Life and Business -The Goldilocks Rule
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How to Stay Motivated in Life and Business -The Goldilocks Rule


When a ten-year-old child strolled into Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in 1955, he requested for a job. Labor rules were lax back then, so the young man landed a job selling guidebooks for $0.50 each.

He moved to Disney's magic shop within a year, where he learnt techniques from the senior personnel. He tried out simple performances on tourists and experimented with gags. He soon learned that he enjoyed performing in general, rather just magic. He decided to pursue a career as a comedian.

He began performing in small bars around Los Angeles when he was a teenager. His act was quick and the crowds were sparse. He rarely stayed on stage more than five minutes. The majority of the audience was too preoccupied with drinking or chatting with friends to pay attention. He performed his stand-up performance in front of an empty club one night.

It wasn't glamorous job, but there was no denying that he was improving. His earliest routines would last only a minute or two. His content had grown to encompass a five-minute act by high school, and a ten-minute presentation a few years later. He was performing regularly for twenty minutes at the age of nineteen. During that time, he had to read three poems.

He experimented, adjusted, and practiced for another decade. He got a job as a television writer and gradually worked his way up to hosting his own talk shows. He had worked his way up to being a regular guest on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live by the mid-1970s.

After nearly fifteen years of hard labor, the young man finally achieved fame. In sixty-three days, he visited sixty cities. Then eighty days later, seventy-two cities. Then, in ninety days, eighty-five cities. One of his shows in Ohio drew 18,695 people. For his three-day engagement in New York, another 45,000 tickets were sold. He rose to the top of his field and became one of the most popular comedians of his generation.

Steve Martin is his name.

Martin, Steve (How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work)

In 1978, Steve Martin performed in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Paul Natkin.)

How to Stay Inspired

Born Standing Up, Steve Martin's excellent autobiography, was recently completed by me.

Martin's narrative provides a unique insight into what it takes to maintain long-term behaviors. Comedy is not for the faint of heart. It's difficult to conceive a situation that would make more people fearful than performing alone on stage and not getting a single laugh. For eighteen years, Steve Martin had to face this terror every week. "10 years of learning, 4 years of refining, and 4 years of wild success," he says.

Why do certain people, like Martin, keep to their routines—whether it's rehearsing jokes, drawing cartoons, or playing the guitar—while the rest of us struggle to stay motivated? How do we create routines that draw us in rather than fading away? For many years, scientists have been researching this topic. While there is still much to discover, one of the most constant findings is that working on projects of "just manageable complexity" is the best method to retain motivation and achieve peak levels of desire.

Goldilocks' Principle

The human brain enjoys a challenge, but only when it is in the right difficulty range. You will rapidly become bored if you love tennis and try to play a serious match against a four-year-old. their present capabilities It's not that difficult. It won't be easy. It's just right.

Martin's career as a stand-up comedian is a great example of the Goldilocks Rule in action. Every year, he added a minute or two to his stand-up routine. He was always adding new material, but he also had a few stand-by jokes on hand. There were just enough wins to keep him motivated, and just enough mistakes to keep him on his toes.

Goldilocks' Principle (How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work)

Track Your Success

If you want to learn how to stay motivated to achieve your goals, you must first comprehend the second component of the motivation puzzle. It has to do with finding the right balance.

Working on problems of the right difficulty level has been discovered to be not only motivating, but also a key source of enjoyment. "Working on things at a reasonable level of complexity, neither too hard nor too easy," as psychologist Gilbert Brim put it, "is one of the primary sources of human enjoyment."

Flow is a term used to describe the state of euphoria and peak performance that athletes and entertainers experience when they are "in the zone." Flow is a mental state that occurs when you are completely concentrated on a task and the rest of the world fades away.

To achieve this level of peak performance, you must not only work on challenges of the appropriate difficulty, but also track your progress in real time. One of the secrets to achieving a flow state, according to psychologist Jonathan Haidt, is that "you get rapid feedback about how you are doing at each phase."

It's tremendously inspiring to see yourself making improvement in the present. Steve Martin would make a joke and instantly know if it was funny based on the audience's laughter. Imagine how addictive it would be to make people laugh. Martin's anxieties would most likely be overcome by the flood of positive feedback he received from one fantastic joke, inspiring him to work for weeks.

Measurement looks different in other aspects of life, but it's just as important for striking a balance of motivation and satisfaction. You get fast feedback in tennis dependent on whether you win or lose the point. If we are to stay motivated, we need a way to see our progress, regardless of how it is measured. We must be able to see our achievements.

Motivation in Two Easy Steps

If we wish to solve the puzzle of how to stay motivated throughout time, we may simply say:

Stick to The Goldilocks Rule and work on activities that are just difficult enough to be manageable.

When possible, track your progress and get timely feedback.

It's simple to want to enhance your life. It's a different story if you stick with it. Start with a small challenge, track your success, and repeat the process if you want to stay motivated for a long time.

This piece is based on Chapter 19 of my New York Times best-selling book Atomic Habits.
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