Have you ever gotten a book that you wanted to read and partway through, you just gave up and stopped? Yet another book, dumped into your “graveyard of unfinished books.”
This happened to me in the middle of reading The Two Towers. Goblins, anyone?
In the Wall Street Journal, clinical psychologist Matthew Willhelm believes our personality has something to do with the way we read books:
“Certain types of people are more likely to push through a book. Dr. Wilhelm theorizes that people with competitive, Type-A personalities might be more likely to abandon a book because they tend to be motivated by reward and punishment, and ‘if there are no consequences or public recognition, why finish?’
Conversely, he says more laid-back, Type-B personalities may never start a book they know they won’t finish.'”
And it’s not just books either. This applies to any task that we set out to do. Sometimes, we don’t even start in the first place (despite wanting to).
Just look at what a few people had to say about trying to stay focused on something they wanted to accomplish:
On moving somewhere new: “I’ve been rushing around, getting my new apartment set up, running back and forth to and from job interviews, and now I’m hitting that dead zone where all I want to do is play Minecraft.”
On studying: “I definitely did not pass since I did not write the exam. Seems that I am having a severe motivational crisis at the wrong time.”
On life goals: “I can’t make myself do anything. I’ve never been able to. I want to accomplish so much, I have goals, but for some reason, I just can’t make myself do all the things I know I’m capable of.”
Even though these people WANT to get things done, they just can’t get themselves to do the work. One individual has big goals and aspirations, but can’t seem to get “motivated” enough to do anything about it!
The problem is, we know what we want to achieve, but it isn’t enough to just want.
What’s going on here?
We internally believe that our motivation comes from inside and that it’s enough to fuel what we want to achieve to the very end. But motivation only lasts for a few months at the most, before the hard, grueling work begins to chip at us, breaking our stamina.
Here’s the second part of what Dr. Wilhelm had to say about finishing a book:
“The more important motivator of finishing a book, says Dr. Wilhelm, is social pressure, which is why book clubs are so good at getting readers to the epilogue.”
So often, we underestimate the power of accountability in getting things done. We proudly think that we can just get things done all by ourselves. But doing the actual work is only one part of the story.
One of the greatest motivators is having someone hold us accountable. When was the last time someone was there to personally guide you to reach a goal of yours? Someone who had been in the same situation and knew the potential pitfalls. Someone who pushed you to be your best, so that you could succeed.
The world’s best in any field – athletics, politics, entertainment – they all have someone to keep them accountable and to continue to improve, despite the fact that they’re at the top of their game.
So why do we feel like we can just “do things on our own”?
Succeeding in anything isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would be successful doing things solely on their own.
The good news is, putting in that extra step to seek external accountability will set you apart. Having someone hold you accountable for your work is a vital component for achieving large goals.
Most importantly, though, it is ultimately up to you to hold yourself accountable.
Have you ever struggled to finish something, and then decided to get external accountability? Did it make a difference in your performance?