What motivates? In the final analysis, pain and pleasure. We move away from pain, we move toward pleasure.

There are as many permutations and ramifications as there are people and situations but essentially we have “moving toward” values and “moving away from” values. Being good at something is motivational for me—improving, being the best I can be. I also am competitive. The thought of being beaten or having someone gain ground on me is motivational. It creates incentive for greater effort, a burst of surge performance.

I tend to look for statistics that may show problems or a relative disadvantage for my company and use them to spur efforts toward improvement. Stats come in all shapes and sizes and can be manipulated in numerous ways. One common response to a statistic is to find a way to explain it away, come up with a reason why it does not apply. This may or may not be valid. To me, as long as there is at least some validity to the number, it is almost always beside the point. I believe that it is ALWAYS possible to get better, there is always a better way. Any statistic that points to a possible way to get better is my friend, any statistic that motivates me to a higher level is my buddy. I will use any motivational trick in the book, no apologies.

A small illustration: When playing racquetball, the server calls out the score before each serve. Most games are to 15 points. If I am leading, I will drop the leading digit when I call out my score; if I’m up 11 to 9, I will call out 1-9 as the score. Why? The main reason is being behind motivates me and coming from behind and winning is extra sweet. A second reason is that it is possible to tense up when one is too far behind. At least being psychologically used to being in deep holes and surviving/winning, I believe it better prepares me for the real thing. Down 10 points? No problem, been there, done that.

In one sense, this is small-time stuff. Yet in another, success is the sum of small efforts, compounded day in and day out. 1,000% improvement often comes one percent, sometimes a fraction of a percent, at a time. I find “the wolf at the door” motivational. I enjoy tackling that wolf and having him for dinner.

Something else may motivate you. Listen to yourself, become aware of your triggers, buttons, and leverage points. Know how to “play” yourself, how to motivate yourself, how to get the best from yourself. Self-motivation is a skill and the better you learn it, the farther (and wider) you can go!