Staying Motivated Tip #8: The Three Ps of Success

By , SparkPeople Blogger
In last week’s blog, I talked about how the Three P’s of Failure can lead to “learned pessimism” and cause all kinds of motivational problems–not to mention how they can make your emotional life pretty miserable. Now let’s talk about how to transform that pessimism into an effective “can do” attitude, and a more enjoyable state of mind.

The first step, I think, is to admit that the three assumptions behind “learned pessimism” are just plain wrong. There really isn’t any such thing as a behavior problem that is completely caused by some personal, permanent, and pervasive flaw in you. If that were true, you could never do anything “right.” Even though I used to do this myself, it never ceases to amaze me how people who work hard for hours and hours every day, holding down a job, going to school, taking care of families, and doing who knows what else, can still believe they don’t exercise because they’re “too lazy.” Or overeat because they’re “self-indulgent” or have no will power.

Who do you think makes all those other things you do happen? The Tooth Fairy? Could a lazy, self-indulgent, hopelessly defective person do all the things you do every day?

When it comes to behavior, it always takes two to tango, so to speak. Something “in you” has to react with something or someone “out there” to produce a particular action. You couldn’t give in to (or even have) a craving for ice cream if ice cream didn’t exist, and you wouldn’t be an “emotional eater” if you had been taught other ways of handling your feelings. Those are learned behaviors, not character flaws. And if they don't work for you now, you can change them by learning to do something else that gives you a similar payoff without as many negative consequences. Even when you can’t do much about what’s “in you” (a powerful sweet tooth, for example, or a strong need to comfort or distract yourself in an emotional situation), there will almost always be something you can do about your environment so that it’s less likely to trigger a behavior you’ll regret later.

You just need to give yourself a chance to think about it before it's too late.

The bottom line here is that there is always something that comes between the stimulus and the response. That something is YOU and your ability to direct your attention and thoughts where you want them to go and organize your immediate environment so that it supports your goals. That’s what human consciousness is all about.

You can't make it so that things "out there" never stimulate your natural, biological instincts and desires, and you can't turn yourself into an automaton who can always rationally control your urges and impulses. But you can decide how you will relate to these things--as a proactive manager, or a helpless victim. You’ll never get anywhere you want to go until you take responsibility for what goes on in your own mind. And that starts with saying “No” to learned pessimism.

The Three P’s of Success: Planning, Prediction, and Performance

Like anything else, learning how to stay in that mindful space between the stimulus and the response long enough to really make your own choices takes experience and practice. You have to learn how to consciously use your own experience to guide your way.

That's really the problem with learned pessimism--it makes it impossible for you to learn from your own experience because it forces you to come to a conclusion based on false assumptions. That’s where the Three P’s of Success come into the picture.

Step One. Plan for Success

Obviously, success at changing both thought patterns and behaviors takes more than just believing you can do it. You’re not going to take such beliefs seriously until you see some concrete, positive results. To produce those results, you’ll need to do everything you can in advance to make it easy on yourself when the time comes to actually perform.

One very good way to do this is to stop trying to figure out why you went off track when you slip up, and start trying to figure out what’s going on when things go right. What did you do (or think or feel) differently then, or what was it about that successful situation that made it possible for you to stick to your goals then? How can you make that happen again next time?

So, the next time you slip up and feel your mind drifting towards those Three P’s of Failure, just take a deep breath, remember a recent time or two when things went well, ask yourself why that happened, and figure out how you can make that happen again. If you’re new at this, try writing down the ideas you come up with so you can look at them again later when you need them.

Step Two. Predict Your Way to Success

Once you have a pretty good idea of what helps you be successful, the next step is to train yourself to be very “proactive” about organizing your life so you have what you need when you need it. If you’re like me, and have spent many years being passive or “reactive” instead of proactive, this will be a real challenge—you may feel like an alien in a strange land for a little while.

The best way to work on this that I’ve found is the idea of ending every day by trying to “predict” how your next day is going to go. Start with what you want to do, in terms of your eating and exercise. Then think about all the various obstacles, challenges, temptations, rationalizations, and other things that have frequently knocked you off course in the past, and are likely to come up again tomorrow. Actually assign a number value to each of these things, in terms of the odds that it will knock you off course tomorrow, based on your past performance. For example: there’s a 95% chance that someone will bring donuts to the office tomorrow, and a 50-50 chance I’ll have one.

Next, go through Step One again focusing on this particular problem, pick something you could do to improve your odds of not having that donut, and figure out how to make that happen tomorrow.

Then “recalculate” your odds of not having that donut tomorrow. Come up with a new number that feels right to you. Again, while you’re new to doing this kind of thing, it’s a good idea to write all this stuff down so you can look at it again later on. Be sure to include your actual prediction numbers—they will be how you measure your progress over time. At the end of the day, compare what you actually did to your predictions, and see how accurate they were.

Step Three. Perform Your Way to High Motivation.

Obviously, plans and predictions aren’t worth much if they don’t help you improve your actual performance and get the results you want. But people often make a very basic mistake at this point. They define performance only in terms of the final result—not eating the donut, losing weight, or whatever the goal is.

That’s not what performance is about. That’s merely a side effect of your performance. When it comes to staying motivated, what really counts as performance is what you actually do each time you have an opportunity to make a decision.

Did you give yourself a chance to succeed by saying “no” to the Three P’s of Failure? Did you use Step One and Step Two above (or your own versions of them if you find something that works better for you) to give yourself the best chance for success? Did you check in with yourself in the moment of decision to make sure you weren’t in autopilot mode, and were making a conscious decision? Are you ready and willing to use you own experience, whatever happens, to help yourself do well in the future?

When it comes to maintaining your motivation, these are the things that matter, far more than whether you eat one particular donut or skip one exercise session. It’s perfectly fine to decide that you want to eat that donut today, or skip your exercise session—as long as you actually make that decision. The real motivation killer is convincing yourself you didn’t have any choice—and you never have to do that, because it’s never true.

Are you ready to start taking control of your own motivation, one day at a time? What other ideas/approaches do you think might help you do this?

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VHAYES04 6/28/2020
Ty Report
ETHELMERZ 12/14/2019
Whatever happened to coach Dean, he disappeared into thin air? Seems he could not follow his own good advice after all..... Report
FISHGUT3 8/14/2019
thanks Report
Last week, I spend almost everyday planning my cardio, strength training and basic diet plan. Agree that it's best to plan than just surge forward as in the end, the result or (before reach the finish line) might be a bit frustrated. So, now I'm in my 1st week of rebounce, I think I'll use all the 3 Ps (though a bit so-so on prediction, haha). Report
I really have to use the 3 P"S it sounds positive and will make the long term goals better. I keep saying I will do this but I never get around to it. I must do it. thanks for the pointers. Teri Report
I love this. My motto in life is you can't control what happens to you but you can control how you react to it. Having a plan in place ahead of time helps with your reaction. And keeping in mind that you are actually making a decision (even though it may not be the best one) is very empowering...which I think in time will help in building the confidence to make better decisions. Report
When anyone brings me treats where I work, I smile and thank him profusely. Then I put the baked goods out of sight and immediately freeze them when I get home. I then pass them along to a very skinny friend who much appreciates it. Report
I sure need to hear this it will help to think of my choices more often. Writing them down will definitely help. Thanks Report
I really loved this blog and the great cognitive aspects to it! Sounds like something my therapist would say and I am alright with that! :) I will def. try to do this once a week for the next day and see how it goes. Report
What great advice. This is going right to my favorites so I can refer to it often. Report
This is awesome. I am going to be more mindful! Report
I sometimes think there should just be a way to make all of Dean's blogs be automatically added to my 'favorites'. Well put, as always. Thank you! Report
The learned behaviour is the biggest self-deception, thanks for your always clear analisis of what goes inside our head. I t amazes me to see how well you know what not even I am able to put it in words. Report
I appreciate these much-needed thoughts. Thank you! Report
Wow! I really needed to read this blog today. What a great motivator for someone who has CHOSEN to "fall off the wagon". Well, I'm back and I'm planning this time to succeed! Thanks! Report
great blog thanks Report
Great blog! I've written the 3 P's down where I can see them. I also wrote the 3 P's of failure down, with a big "x" through them. Report
I have lost the weight. I have conquered good nutrition. But I am not done. Now I am working on my posture. Sitting correctly, standing straight, and moving and bending in a manner that helps to keep me pain free so I can perform in the gym at my best is my goal. I am working on being conscious of my posture, aided by my exercise physiologist who gives me lessons again and again and cautions me to practice, practice, practice.

Planning, predicting and performing will help me in achieving that posture and form of movement that will contribute to my well being.

Thanks. Report
Thank you for all the exercises that you explain and show demos so that we can better understand what we are doing. Report
Thanks, Coach Dean. All the articles you write help me out. You deserve a big star.
Ashley Report
What a great "success outline" for us to follow!!!
The Three P’s of Success: Planning, Prediction, and Performance.

Thank you for these keys to personal weight loss success & life-in-general success too. Report
I saved this to my favorites, too. Thank you! Report
This was a great blog and much apprieciated. Report
WOW! What a great article. Really hit the nail on the head with this one. Thanks a bunch. Definitely going in my favorites file to review now & then! Report
Thanks, clear concise and applicable. Dont know what I would do without you. Report
I planned for success today! Believe it or not, for over a YEAR I have been wanting to try out an every-other-week contra dancing event on Wednesday night. I would forget about it, or get home from work tired, or have freelance work to do, or . . .

Here's what I've done to make this happen tonight:
1. I posted my intention to attend at a social networking website.
2. I thought about what I could wear to work to permit minimal changing at the site, & I chose something appropriate.
3. I stuck appropriate shoes in my backpack.
4. I checked the commuter train schedule & now know what time I need to leave work in order to grab a quick bite downtown & catch a train that will get me there in time.
5. I printed out a map so that I feel confident when I get off the train (it's only three blocks from that stop).

I'm fully expecting to have a fabulous evening.

Estimating probabilities doesn't figure into my self-motivation except in the most general way, but planning for success REALLY helps! I'm going to become more conscious about some other issues that I have found challenging. Thanks for the encouraging thoughts about our inner process. Report
great article thanks Report
I really loved pointing out the motivation killer! I have been in the habit latley of not taking ownership of my decisions! Thanks a bunch!! Powerful stuff! Report
Great articles. Please keep them coming! Report
I have been printing out and keeping all of these articles. They are great! Report
Great article! I always know this in my head but by reading it in the blog it's like super reenforcement of the subject. I know I am spending alot of time on Spark's people but it's a positive distraction while reworking my habits that seems to keep me focused. Report
Fantastic and usual of your articles, Coach Dean!

I viewed this as a whole-life approach rather than just in terms of diet-exercise-nutrition motivation. And suspect you meant to let us make such broader interpretations, too. Tip #8 covers much, is all-inclusive and works for many avenues of life.

If another approach were considered, I'd ADD (not substitute) the concept of recognizing the domino effect that exists in either success- or failure-prone thought 'orientation'. Then become proactive in rearranging the negative "dominoes" so they don't activate others. Report
There is a space between stimulus and response. Thanks for the reminder, it really is my choice. I love the power of this article! Report
I needed this TODAY!!! Report
Something about this article hit home. I do have the power to change my habits. I can change what I do with the cravings that I have. I can change my reactions to the urges that I feel like I have no control over. If I have the urge to eat after 7:00 p.m., I can react with a glass of water instead of that one cookie! If I have an urge to have something sweet, I can react with a banana instead of a miniature chocolate bar. I have cut way back and have been doing really well, but this article brought it home to me! Look out world!!! Report
I've starting challenging myself to beat the previous days workout. Report
I have been in charge of my motivation. I challenge myself to a longer workout each day.

Motivation is a key to our success. So is determination and I have both of those. I am going to definately surpass my goal by 2/31/09. You can bet on that one. Report
Hi I ove these tips. something else I have found that works is :
1) I leave reminder positive supportive notes around the house.
I would be happy to e-mail my positive note if some one would like them.

2) I wear a thought ring tha says" The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" I fiddle with when I feel like eating, or feel unmotivated.

3) I have a routine schedule that I have posted in my bathroom (read while I brush my teeth) on my front door (I can read it before I go any where) I also have a travel one.
I would also be happy to post/e-mail an example of my daily schedule. Report
Great!!! - Saved to SparkFavorites!! Report
Loved it and was so helpful! Report
Great article! Report
I saw a motivational speaker demonstrate this. Had the person tel themselves aloud that they were a good person 3x then hold their arm out and have someone push down on it, next the person would tell themselves that they were a bad person and repeat the arm part, but this time the arm was easily pushed down. Try it with your friends, but always end by having them tell themselves they are good. Leave them in a good place. Report
This is the best article I've read on SparkPeople so far. I think I can actually use this information. It was well-written and is very thought-provoking. I plan to put this article down as my first favorite on my SparkPage. Report
Thank you, Coach Dean for this! Your "Staying Motivated" series has been mind-changing for me. I'm starting to "get" it!!!!

When I start looking at motivation as a choice, and as a way of thinking, I am so much stronger! And I can bend with the wind (all those "slip ups" that would in the past constitute failure) rather than break in the face of it if I look at things this way!

Thank you so much! Report
I know for me it is my emotions that get in the way of my success. Tired, fatigue,anxiety and stress can redirect my focus to food daily. I have set some strageties when these situations happen but still at times they win out. However, little by little I have been winning more and can go back to good eating habits qickly without making a week long mistake. I exercise,clean,read and go to bed if I am really fatigued to prevent over eating. It takes time and we all slip from time to time. Report
Your article was very motivating, just what I needed. One thing I have learned that might be helpful to others is to be ready for temptations with a set routine,craving sweets..walk around the block, got the nervous a fun friend to distract you, and of course my favorite one since I've been a SP is: discouragement...log on and read an SP motivational article or someones spark page. Report
Many thanks, Coach Dean. I like the idea of focusing on what I did when things went right rather than trying to figure out what I did wrong. It also helps me remember that I don't always screw up.

Please keep these blog posts coming: you can't know how much they help! Report
Hello Dean.. This is really a motivating tip. What I normally do is plan what I'll be doing the following day like already thinking of doing my usual 60 minute walk and what to cook. Report
My husband has a saying: the 7 p's-
Prior planning and preparation prevents piss-poor performance.
Don't know if you (or anyone) will be offended by that one part, but the whole thing DOES have a point. Report
Dean, not only do I need this (very badly) but would like to know of the other "motivational tips". I must have missed them. Are they on your Sparkspage Report