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Dyan Nyad Routes

I have the privilege of meeting with many different kinds of people. My clients, both men and women, range in age from 15 to 75 and can only be described as an eclectic group. I designed my practice this way, and I have to tell you that, from a certain perspective, it was a selfish act. See, in addition to helping my clients, working side-by-side with them to create inspired lives, I also wanted to learn everything I possibly could.

I have not been disappointed. Sitting down with a person, listening to him or her describe life, both struggles and triumphs, has and is teaching me more about human potential than a million hours of reading or research.

Admittedly, my clients are unusual. They have a clear (except when they don’t) agenda when they walk through my door. They are not coming just for the conversation; that would be pretty expensive conversation, relatively speaking.

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It is too bad that good intentions do not get anything done. If they did, most of us in the coaching business would be out of business.

One of the things you begin to notice about people who want change, whether to get more of something or less of something, is that they are very well intentioned. Everyone has his or her reasons or “whys” and that can facilitate some powerful motivation.

Someone said that if you have a strong enough “why”, the “what’s” and “how’s” will take care of themselves. I agree for the most part. There is nothing quite as powerful as a person or group, with a clear picture of exactly what they want and with a strong belief in “why” they want it.

There is a whole set of strategies to create that kind of perspective and energy but that is another subject.

Another thing you notice when you start working with yourself and your clients on creating a new future is that for the most part we underestimate the time and effort it takes to change ourselves.

That is sure true for me.

And that can be discouraging if you let it.

We often start with great intentions, lots of energy and willpower and then find that our motivation is fading well before our desired destination.

The fading process can be a complicated process…if we could figure it out and bottle the solution; we would not have to work again.

So what happens to bring on this shift of momentum?

There is a saying used by my trainer, Mack Newton, that might be useful when reflecting on this question. It is, “Elephants don’t bite, mosquitoes do.”

What this refers to is the presumption that certain things do not count or at least do not count very much and what you have to worry about is the big things in life.

For instance, let us say you start an exercise regimen to be at the gym working out every day for the next thirty days. You have great reasons and start with a bang. You are at the Gym as planned for the first 10 days without fail.

Then something happens. Circumstances change, maybe you are tired and sore, or you just need a day off. You may begin to reason, “My working out for 10 days was more working out than I’ve done in the last 20 years and more than anyone I know my age does anyway” and so you take off for the day.

You even feel good about your decision.

That is a mosquito bite.

An even better example is going on a diet and swearing off sweets. You hit it hard for a time and then something subtle begins to happen. You begin to reason that one bite will not hurt anything. That is usually accompanied with an “I deserve it.”

You have only one bite. A small one.

That is a mosquito bite.

(The insidious part about mosquito bites is they are usually so small we hardly notice them and the next thing we know we have dropped the gym and have eaten the whole cake.)

Mosquito bites do not hurt much at their onset but as we all know, mosquitoes are one of the most dangerous creatures on earth. They carry with them certain viruses and germs that can kill.

The subtle reasoning we use to justify our digression from our goal is very mosquito like…a virus if you will, that can fester into a full-blown shutdown (an Elephant).

Bottom line…everything counts, every thought, word, deed, decision and intention.


Those are useful questions Larry. All four of the aspects of motivation we have discussed to this point operate together, as you have indicated, and yes, the motivation to sustain what we already have can be a hidden factor. In my personal experience and in my coaching work what becomes apparent is not that “there something we love about our misery, our confusion, [and] our pain;” rather, there is sometimes a hidden aspect to motivation that involves preserving what we already have.

If a person is motivated to extinguishing the discomfort of being obese, and motivated to obtain a new body and life, and motivated to avoid the certainty of weight related illnesses and associated miseries, yet there is an unconscious or conscious motive to sustain some hidden gain, such as safety, it will be hard for them to move forward.  (We do not know if this was a factor in Karen’s case, and you are correct in pointing that out.)

Why don’t we look at another example. Suppose a person is uncomfortable driving their current car, and they are thinking about making a purchase of an expensive new car or truck. They may feel drawn to possess the new “toy.” They may want to “obtain” status, good feelings, and the experience of driving an exciting vehicle. They may believe that obtaining the new vehicle will lead to accomplishing additional valued outcomes such as attracting a mate or improving business.

On the extinguish side of the equation, they want to be rid of the uncomfortable feeling they experience driving their old car. On the avoid side of the equation, they may want to keep their total and monthly payments low.

They may also have additional values that they are motivated to sustain. Perhaps the old car posses certain features they would not like to lose, XM radio, a sunroof, whatever the case may be. Possibly, the older vehicle may fulfill other more abstract values, such as the freedom they feel when they stay completely out of debt. Or perhaps, they may lose access to valued recreational activities if they take on an additional payment.

Whether we wish to motivate ourselves to act or motivate others to act, it is helpful to look at all four domains: motivation to obtain, sustain, avoid, and extinguish. Using this approach, a car sales person might ask their customer, “What does your old car give you or make possible that you would like keep even after making your purchase?” Are their certain features? Is there anything related to your lifestyle that we must preserve?

We will want to explore the relationship between these four domains of motivations further, because there is much more we can offer our readers, but in our next post, I would like to introduce the fifth aspect: the motivation to express.

In the four aspects we have discussed to this point, both the direction of motivation and the source of energy moving us forward are outside of us – not so with the motivation to express.


It is common to read in the newspaper or to see on the television stories of people who have accomplished something extraordinary. Common people who, from a place of near hopelessness, have made a decision to stop doing something that has been tearing their life apart and start doing something they deem critical to themselves or others. They catch fire, burning with a new mission or goal.

Karen Daniel’s story is a great example of such spirit.

Karen’s journey has to do with weight, way too much of it, the kind of extra weight that steals your energy, isolates you, leads to ridicule, and can kill you .

I first heard about Karen two years ago at a private Gym named “Basic Training” owned and operated by William Crawford. I had been working out with Bill for a couple of years and knew most of the people who frequented the gym and had seen many people come and go.  I could not help but wonder if Karen even belonged in a gym. Karen weighed 375 pounds and was 67 inches around.  Here is how Jackie Adams from CNN described her:

“Karen Daniel was wider around than she was tall. Weighing 375 pounds, the 45-year-old wife and mother had high blood pressure; her knees hurt and she was always hot. She felt fatigued and could barely breathe at the slightest exertion. Even the simplest things became a chore — tying her shoes, crossing her legs, getting in and out of the car or trying to fit into a chair with arms.”

That was two years ago. Fast-forward to today and you see a woman who has completely transformed her life.  Please read her story as I found it inspirational.

Karen Daniel’s story 

Last week I talked with Karen just after CNN had interviewed her.  She looked and felt great, and it was an inspiration to see her again.

And, given my work helping people succeed, I became deeply curious.

I asked Karen, what had made the difference?  She had tried hundreds of times to get unstuck. Why was she successful this time? Her answer was straightforward.  Karen had become sick and tired of being sick and tired. She knew if she did not take action, she would continue to live a life of painful compromise.  She wanted less pain, and she wanted more fun and pleasure.

Well, lots of us want less or more of something. Most have tried hundreds of times to get unstuck, yet real and lasting change can remain elusive.

So what was it that made the difference for Karen?  Why was she able to trudge through two years of sweat and tears in support of her goals when many people cannot stay true to a new resolution for even one weekend?  Do we really need to become sick to muster the will and energy to transform our lives?  What motivates lasting change?

We will explore these types of questions in this Blog – questions that make a difference.


Dan, my conversation with Karen was very brief, but from the depth of our questions and inquires, it was useful in that it pointed to the one of the most important elements in all humankind; how do you get yourself and others to move towards desired outcomes?

This subject raises hundreds of questions, maybe thousands. All you really need to do is go into almost any bookstore and ask where the self-help section is located; if it’s not the largest section, it is close. That’s not to say that the philosophy, fiction, health, science, literature and even the romance section are not pregnant with similar musings and discussions. Motivation seems primary to understanding ourselves and others.

So I still come back to the question we asked about Karen, “Why this time,” First of all, if I had known my brief conversation with Karen would be the catalyst for our exploration, I would have spent more time with her. There is a risk to concluding why Karen was successful after such a short conversation and I want to preface the remainder of our conversation with the idea: We really don’t know why she was successful or what motivated her.

That being said, your comments about motivation styles as outlined in our communication model are spot on and give us a good chance to move our understanding of motivation to a new level. To review once again, in our coaching practice, we have identified five motivation styles, four of which you described thoughtfully.

We can be motivated to obtain what we do not yet have. We can be motivated to sustain what we value and might lose. We are motivated to avoid what we dislike, and we are motivated to end or extinguish conditions and experiences we find uncomfortable.

Three of these styles are readily applicable to understanding Karen’s motivation; obtaining, avoiding and extinguishing. She was certainly motivated to extinguishing discomfort, obtaining a new body and life, and avoiding the certainty of increasing her weight related illnesses.

However, what about sustaining what we value and might lose? This aspect of motivation is often subtle, even hidden. What about being grossly overweight is valuable? Why would someone want to remain at risk, in pain and uncomfortable?

Let me be clear, that in my brief conversation with Karen she gave me no clue that I was able to discern in this regard. But, it has been my experience that this domain holds some of the juiciest structures of understanding.

What have you noticed about yourself and your clients? Is there something we love about our misery, our confusion, our pain? It is so easy to imagine a better future, to envision a better day and life for our self. But that gets me thinking: Why can it be so difficult to obtain as well as to sustain?