Based on a legendary course Roth has taught at Stanford University for several decades, The Achievement Habit explains:
- Why trying and doing are two different things
- Why using reasons (excuses), even legitimate ones, to explain one’s behavior is self-defeating
- How to change your self-image into one of a doer and achiever
- How subtle language changes can resolve existential dilemmas and barriers to action
- How to build resiliency by reinforcing what you do rather than what you accomplish
- How to be open to learning from your own experience and from those around you
Flip the switch yourself
Whenever anyone makes an important change, it’s because a switch has flipped.
Someone who has struggled her whole life with her weight finally decides to get fit. Someone who has put up with an abusive boss for years finally has enough and quits. Someone who has harbored a secret crush finally takes the plunge and asks her beloved out for coffee. A shift has happened that has made action favorable to inaction.
You can sit in the dark waiting for the light to come on, or you can get up, walk across the room, and flip the switch yourself.
There’s a big difference between trying and doing
They’re totally different actions. The difficulty arises when people conflate them.
- If you try to do something, it may or may not happen. If it does not happen, you might try using an altered strategy, and again it may not happen. Although this could go on indefinitely, usually it lasts until you luck out and succeed, get tired of trying, or get distracted by something else. Clearly this is a very unproductive way to go about your life.
- If you are doing something, then no matter how many times you hit a barrier, or how frustrated your original strategy becomes, you intend to get the job done, and you bring to bear on it the inner resolve and intention necessary to fulfill your intention. Doing takes intention and attention.
[bluebox]If you don’t really want to do it, then the world might be nice enough to give you gooood reasons why it can’t be done. If you really want to do it, those reasons are not going to stop you. [/bluebox]
The meaning of achievement
Getting on the honor roll, graduating from college, getting a high-paying job, being salesman of the month, getting the corner office, getting a company car, getting interviewed by the media, winning awards: this is what most people think of when they think of achievement. To me all that misses the mark.
Each of those things can be a genuine achievement–something that means something to you for more than a day–or each could just be a badge of importance that you use to show people that you’re somebody.
Do those things make you happy in and of themselves?
I know mega-millionaires who are miserable. They spend their money getting the fat sucked out of their love handles and hiring bodyguards because they’re paranoid (maybe rightfully so) that people are out to get them. They’re always concerned with outdoing themselves and making the next million and the next–and for what? Conversely, I know artists who barely scrape by yet are happy and fulfilled. Neither is a sure path to happiness or enlightenment; you can surely be rich and happy, but one doesn’t necessarily mean follow the other.
Achievement for achievement’s sake, then, is pretty hollow. It’s the endless pursuit of a carrot on a stick as you race around a track. For me, real achievement is traveling to a foreign country, learning some of the language, and finding my way around on my own. Real achievment is learning to be self-sufficient. Real achievement is making lifelong friends.