When Emma was 12, it was common to see her writing down specific water-skiing goals on colored paper with an artistic flair. Some goals were short-term performance targets, while others looked much further out at specific outcomes like making the U.S. team. She was competitive and determined to win a national title.

The family awoke one particular Saturday morning to find the weather windy, overcast and nasty. The lake was rough, but not too rough to ski. Emma's father knew it wouldn't be pleasant, but they were planning on a good day of practice. He announced that he'd go down to the lake and get the boat ready. Emma replied, "Dad, I don't really feel like skiing today." He said, "I understand. I'll go get the boat ready." She looked surprised and said again, "It's nasty out there, and I really don't feel like practicing." To which he again replied, "I know, you're right. I'll go get the boat ready." By then she was really frustrated. "Dad! Don't you get it? I don't feel like it!" Finally it was time to make the point. "Emma, it's perfectly fine that you don't feel like skiing, but what does that have to do with it? Let's do it anyway."

In business and in life, you commonly state your goals and plot your course for reaching them. However, there will be many days when you don't feel like doing the work, but go ahead and do it anyway; feeling like it is not a prerequisite. In Emma's case, it's theoretically possible to not feel like it all the way to a national title, if she's willing to do the work!

Doing the hard things is often accompanied by not feeling like it. However, true champions and those successful in the business world are willing to do the hard things despite their feelings at the moment. Digging down deep within yourself to do the things that must be done is the essence of self-discipline. The alternative looks easier, and therefore attractive, but actually includes a heavier price in the long run. Author Jim Rohn wrote, "We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons."

If you're serious about taking your performance in your business to the next level, examine your average day or week and identify the situations or opportunities that require you to do the hard things. What are the uncomfortable tasks for you? Here are some possible examples:

  • Completing the paperwork following a sale or agreement
  • Making cold calls to prospects
  • Speaking in front of a group of your peers, or a group of any kind
  • Meeting strangers and engaging in small talk
  • Confronting someone over a behavioral issue
  • Listening to feedback about your work
  • Writing a report
  • Sticking to a budget
The secret to not feeling like it yet doing it anyway is to discover the psychic income you receive when you overcome the urge to avoid the unpleasant tasks. Those who are good at doing the painful, distasteful tasks will tell you they experience an internal payoff. It is a satisfaction on a psychological level that feels rewarding and fulfilling. Be prepared for the natural tug of war that will rage within you as you face the hard things you'd rather avoid. Part of you wants to find something easier to do, but the part of you that says, "I don't feel like it, but I still have to do it," is the one worth listening to.

On Sept. 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University in Houston, a private university with an undergraduate enrollment of 3,000 - the school that donated the land for the Manned Spacecraft Center (now called Johnson Space Center). At the time, many people were asking why it was important for the U.S. space program to go to the moon. Kennedy answered his critics by posing another question the students of the small school would understand:

"But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard . . . "

Just Do It

The four steps to overcome the "don't feel like it" sensation can best be described as mental gymnastics:

  1. Recognize that you have a choice. You are at a crossroads where you must choose between two alternatives; the easy way, which provides relief, or the hard way, which includes some discomfort.
  2. Take yourself out of the equation by asking yourself three questions: "What choice would be made by someone I greatly admire?" "Why would her choice impress me?" "What would she gain by this choice?"
  3. Reinstate yourself into the situation by deciding if you would like to be that person. If so, the answer becomes clear. The choice is yours and so are the rewards.
  4. Take action immediately, without hesitation or second thought.
The gains from the pain are positive sensations for having done the hard thing, rather than hiding from it. Fear and discomfort have been overcome. Your psychic income is earned, and with it a reinforcement for doing it again. The long-term gains are best described not by what you get, but by what you become in the process.

Remember, it is more likely for you to act your way into a feeling than it is to feel your way into an action. Will yourself to do the things others won't do and you'll have the things others won't have.