In the summer of 2012 I visited the  NBC TODAY Show in New York. The topic discussed in that segment was weight loss. As the reporter turned to me, she asked me if I had any questions. Thinking quickly, I replied: "I know what I need to do to lose weight. Knowledge is not the issue, how do you find the  motivation?" I didn't get an answer I could use, so I started thinking about it myself. That would lead me to publishing my second book: Worst Diet Ever

However, the principles of that book apply to much more than weight loss. They apply to how you find the motivation to make sacrifices today for a major benefit in the future such as investing in R&D. But, in order to address that, you need to first understand why you are not motivated enough to do so. 

Discipline is not motivation

Whether losing weight, executing a strategy, or simply saying that "you must have the discipline" is not enough. Of course you must have the discipline, but you need the right motivation, first. The relationship is: motivation-discipline-actions-results.

Intrinsic motivation

To start with, there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. The intrinsic motivation is originated from within you. It is driven directly by the benefit or the impact of your actions. You eat less and you work out more because you want to reap the benefits of living healthy in the future. You spend time developing new products and you invest in research because you want your company to be successful in the future. So why aren't you willing to make that sacrifice? 

Net Present Value

The reason is that the benefits, albeit great, will be reaped only in the future. Only after months and years of watching what you eat and working out will you see those benefits. Only after years of investing in research and development will you see the benefits in the form of increasing market share, revenue, and profits. However, that benefit looks much smaller today. Today, you can only see the Net Present Value of that benefit and, compared to the sacrifice you need to make today, it is not enough to motivate you to make those sacrifices. 

Extrinsic motivation

In comes extrinsic motivation. It is the type of motivation that has nothing to do with the sought-after benefit. It is possibly determined by other people. It could be positive (the "carrot") or negative (the "stick"). It could be financial, or any other way that you value. It is promising you (or your employees) a benefit for making sacrifice, when the intrinsic value of the outcome of that sacrifice is not motivating enough. 


Now the extrinsic motivation complements the intrinsic one. Together, there is enough motivation to make the sacrifice--to make the effort today. As you continue to do that, you start to form new habits. And when new habits form, the sacrifice or effort doesn't seem that high anymore. As those continue to decline, you will reach a point where you don't need the extrinsic motivator anymore. 

Try it.

This article is an adapted excerpt from the book Worst Diet Ever.