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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why We Don’t Do It

Some excerpts and thoughts from David Maister

We often (or even usually) know what we should be doing in both personal and professional life. We also know why we should be doing it and (often) how to do it. Figuring all that out is not too difficult. What is very hard is actually doing what you know to be good for you in the long-run, in spite of short-run temptations.

Knowing what your company needs to do is relatively obvious: the test for us all is actually making it happen.

The primary reason we do not work at behaviors which we know we need to improve is that the rewards (and pleasure) are in the future; the disruption, discomfort and discipline needed to get there are immediate.

To reach our goals, we must first change our lifestyle and our daily habits now. Then we must summon the courage to keep up the new habits and not yield to all the old familiar temptations. Then, and only then, we get the benefits later. As human beings, we are not good at delayed gratification. We start self-improvement programs with good intentions, but if they don’t pay off immediately, or if a temptation to depart from the program arises, we abandon our efforts completely—until the next time we pretend to be on the program.

Just because something is obvious doesn’t make it easy. Real strategy lies not in figuring out what to do, but in devising ways to ensure that, compared to others, we actually do more of what everybody knows they should do.

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