What are the things that dictate our performance?

I got a Kindle for christmas this year from my girlfriend and I absolutely love it. I always considered myself a fairly avid reader but my appetite for books has been voracious so far this year. It hasn’t hurt that since there has been a lot more snow this winter (instead of last year’s surprise) I have spent the past two months commuting on the TTC instead of biking and driving around. It’s amazing how much reading time this adds everyday!
Today I want to share some thoughts from a great book I just finished called Drive , by Daniel H. Pink.

The main premise of the book is to explain the key factors in what truly motivates people, based on plenty of research and experiments from the past 100 years. For the most part, it’s fair to say that there is still a large disconnect between what we consider the important factors for motivation and what has been shown in the research.

Let me go over a few of the things that I felt were powerful take-homes. First, quantified performance goals are only effective in the short-term, and preferrably for activities that require little thinking. If you are focused on losing those 10 pounds of fat, you are much less likely to be successful in the long run than someone who is focused on process (making exercise a habit) or qualitative goals like looking, feeling, or moving better.

Second, in order to be succesful in your chosen activities, you need to have some level of autonomy. This means that you have control over your actions and some of the circumstances surrounding your task. If we are talking about fitness and health, this part is easy to accomplish because everybody needs to actually complete their workouts and for the most part prepare meals.

The third important aspect of success is the concept of flow. To me this is one of the more powerful concepts I have come across in a while. If you haven’t heard of flow, it is the concept of being completely engaged in an activity so that focus is at an all-time high. This is the moment where Picasso is painting a canvas or Kenny G is vibing on his saxophone. When you spend lots of time in flow, you tend to also have better mood, feelings of well-being and are very productive. No matter what you are trying to accomplish, it’s important that you find out what kinds of things put you into flow and do more of them. If we are talking working out, it probably means leaving your cellphone in the locker, playing something awesome on your ipod and trying to wait until the end of the workout to talk to the hot chick on the elliptical. I think this is one of the reasons why static stretching and long distance running are so popular, it is very easy to get into flow doing these things, which in turn will make you feel good.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened the book, but I was really pleased with what I got out of it. Anybody who wants to learn more about getting the best out of themselves or others should go pick this book up and give it a read. Don’t forget, take control of your situation, set meaningful process goals, and find flow, to get more out of your workouts, more out of your job, and more out of your life.

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