You may not know it, but you’re in the concrete business…
And if you’re not, you should be. Because it’ll get you more of what you want out of every aspect of your life. And, it’ll let you tell, sell and persuade more people to do more for things…for you, for them and for the world.
When I say concrete, though, I’m not talking about the stuff skyscrapers are built upon, I’m talking about concrete…the adjective.
adjective – pertaining to or concerned with realities or actual instances rather than abstractions; particular (opposed to general ): concrete ideas.
The concrete I’m talking about the the opposite of abstract, general, vague. It’s graphic, vivid, detailed. And, adding this quality to the way you operate in the world can be very powerful on both a behavioral and communications level.
Concrete benefits and goals provide far more effective motivation that vague ones.
Case in point. In the beginning of Summer, we challenged my daughter to complete a number of workbooks relevant to each of her school subjects. Our goal wasn’t to give her a competitive edge, that’s not what motivates us. Rather, it was to help set her up to feel confident when she began school in September.
Sure enough, August rolled around and most of the workbooks lay barely written in. I’ve never been one to use substantial material rewards to motivate my daughter, but I’ve also come to realize not everyone has the same visceral joy of learning that I do.
So, we made my daughter an offer we thought she couldn’t refuse.
The deal was–finish every exercise in every workbook (more than 100 pages) before we left on our trip to the Outer Banks, and we’d get her an iPod nano.
“Are you serious?” came the enthusiastic answer? “For real?!”
So, we agreed and figured out how many pages she’d need to complete each day to reach her goal. The next morning she did all her pages, plus two. The morning after that she hit her cap. The next, she fell a page or two short. And, by the end of two weeks, the workbooks and the goal had lost their motivational luster. I’d remind her about the iPod and she’d reaffirm her desire for it, then ebb into some other activity.
Hmmm, what gives?
We defined the goal, made it concrete, even looked at colors at the Apple store every once in a while. But, I began to wonder if, in her 8 year old easily distracted mind, the simple “idea” of the iPod wasn’t really concrete enough to serve as motivation for daily action. So, I decided to test a theory.
The next morning, when my daughter awakened, I greeted her with breakfast…and a satiny white bag with drawstrings from the Apple store. She tore into it to find a shiny new iPod nano in the color she’d been jonesing for. As she went to peel the tape off the plastic container that housed her shiny new object, though, I said, “not so fast…”
“The iPod is yours,” I said, “only if you finish all your workbooks, before we leave.” At that point, there was a lot of work left to be done and only a week to do it.
Step 2, I then placed the iPod, in it’s clear plastic case, on top of the TV, which had been one of her major distractions. This served two sneaky purposes. One, it would be front and center in her sphere of awareness every day. And, two, was where the sneaky part came in. I knew that the juxtaposition of the iPod and the TV would create an anchor that said “TV equals no iPod.”
So, what happened?
She worked harder in the next 7 days than I’ve ever seen her work on a sustained project. Every day, she’d pick up the iPod case, handle it, ogle the contents, then put it down and power through her required pages. If she missed a day or fell short, she’d make up the missed work the following day.
I have to confess to being amazed at how much more powerful a motivator the actual object of the desire was, versus the idea of the desired object.
So, in the end, it all came down to how much concrete I could pour.
Because, the more concrete the reward, the stronger the bond with the desired outcome and the greater the need to resolve the tension between where you are and where you want to go/what you want to get.
As always, I’m curious whether you guys have ever experienced anything like this in your own lives, with your own goals or in the quest to motivate others?
Is this the real power behind vision boards, buying that 5 size too small bikini 5 months before summer or walking past the Hummer dealership on your way to work every day?
And, here’s the real open question for me…
When the desired outcome is not about acquiring something material or external, but rather about attaining a deeper, more intrinsic goal, can you still pour enough concrete to make a difference? Especially when it comes to kids
What do you think?
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