This Book is For:
*Anyone who believes that, even though they work exceptionally hard, their goals are constantly out of reach, or that real, lasting happiness seems to elude them at every turn.
*Highly motivated businesspeople and entrepreneurs who want to accelerate their progress towards their goals, without burning out or becoming worn down by the daily grind.
*People who sometimes feel as though they're too hard on themselves, and who want to step off the success and happiness treadmill and start appreciating themselves again.
This book was responsible for several huge breakthroughs in my own life and work, and it's been the same for many others who have read it as well.
Here you'll find small, easy-to-underestimate strategies that pack a big productivity punch, as well as many other breakthrough ideas about happiness and overall success that could make a big difference for you too.
As just one tiny example, the authors of The GAP and the GAIN, leadership legend Dan Sullivan and world-renowned organizational psychologist Benjamin Hardy introduce the "Done" list. This, as opposed to the dreaded to-do list, which leaves many people feeling depleted, overwhelmed, and stressed out at the end of the day, instead of feeling proud and inspired, as the "Done" list has been known to do.
Keeping a “Done” list has skyrocketed my personal productivity and I’ve been using one every single day ever since I first read this book. Now, whenever I complete some task, I add it to my "Done" list, which serves as a visual record of all the wins that I've racked up throughout the day that I can look back on at the end of the day. It’s incredibly motivating to keep adding things to your list and see yourself making steady progress all day long.
This book is studded with small gems like that one that seems simple (and for the most part they are) but that ends up making a massive impact. The core idea of the book, the importance of measuring progress against how far you've come, rather than focusing on how much further you have left to go is one of those gems.
Most people, especially highly ambitious people, are unhappy because of how they measure their progress. They don't give themselves enough credit for what they've already been able to achieve and instead push on in the direction of the moving target of their ideals. As the authors point out, when we measure ourselves against that ideal, we're in "the GAP." However, when we measure ourselves against our previous selves, we're in "the GAIN."
When you spend less time in the GAP and more time in the GAIN, you're going to unleash a positive compound effect of productivity, success, and happiness in your life that many people have experienced as nothing short of astonishing. I am absolutely one of those people!
Our lives are the sum total of what we pay attention to, and holding this entire book together is the profound, yet often neglected, idea that we need to be extra intentional about what exactly we devote our limited attention to.
None of these ideas are hard to understand, and it doesn't take more than a few pages of explanation to gain a workable understanding of their implications. Indeed, one of the main criticisms of the book is that it's simply too long - it could easily have been a long blog post. I partially agree, as we'll discuss in the "View from the Opposition" section below.
It's not like Hardy's most recent book, Be Your Future Self Now, where I highly recommend reading both the Stairway to Wisdom breakdown and the whole book itself.
That being said, The GAP and the GAIN contains essential lessons about living intentionally, measuring what matters, and playing on your own side by appreciating how far you've come, rather than trying to live up to some impossible ideal that's always receding further into the distance.
I love Dan and Ben's work because it's an intelligent, nuanced approach to personal development that takes several different aspects of success into account at once for maximum effectiveness.
Their ideas will help you reshape the past in a way that serves you. They give you tools with which to expand your present possibilities. They show you how to create a compelling future vision for yourself, and they give you the motivation to keep moving towards it. All three work together, and The GAP and the GAIN is a wonderful introduction to these profound ideas.
It's time to step off the hamster wheel of constantly falling short of your goals and ideals and of looking to the future for your success and happiness.
Instead of remaining frustrated, pushing and grinding ineffectively for years on end, never advancing closer to an ideal that keeps retreating further into the distance, putting these ideas into action will be like taking the wheel of a supercar. And instead of trying to win the race with the parking brake engaged, you'll find that motivating yourself with your progress and measuring your current self vs. your former self is like stepping on the accelerator of your own life.
#1: Ideals Will Lead You Astray
“Ideals are meant to provide direction, motivation, and meaning to our lives. They are not the measuring stick. Our society has trained us to measure ourselves against our ideals, which by definition are unreachable. Goals, conversely, are reachable.”
"Be a better father" is an idle wish, whereas "Spend at least 1 hour every day playing with my daughter" is an actual, actionable goal. Being a better father is an extremely worthy ideal, absolutely, but it's a lousy goal.
Ideals, by definition, can't be "achieved" in any meaningful sense, and the authors liken them to a horizon that's forever stretching out ahead of you in the distance. You'll never reach an ideal - they're moving targets - but you can achieve a goal, which is fixed and more precise.
Ideals have their place, but we have to recognize what they're good for and what they're not good for. You can think of your ideals - your values, your vision - as a kind of North Star, pointing you in the right direction. Goals, by contrast, are specific, measurable steps you take in that direction. They let you know that you're on the right track.
The more powerful your ideals, the more powerful a force they will exert on your motivation, but due to their tendency to recede into the distance as you approach them, they should never be the goal themselves. This only leads to frustration, as you constantly fall short of your ideals and the goalposts keep moving, as Morgan Housel says in The Psychology of Money.
This profound shift in what you decide to measure will be discussed in depth later on, but for now, it's enough to realize that when you're constantly making measurable real progress towards your goals, you feel happier in the moment, and numerous studies have shown that when you're in a positive frame of mind, your performance improves, relative to if you were demotivated and frustrated by your lack of progress towards your impossible ideals.
#2: How Winners Measure Progress
“The way to measure your progress is backward against where you started, not against your ideal.”
This right here is one of the most important ideas in the entire book, and if you can internalize this idea at a deep level and never let it go, you're going to experience a ton of profound, positive changes in your life.
The authors explain that measuring your forward progress is a positive, uplifting way of appraising your current situation, and puts you in a sort of psychological headspace they call the GAIN. It's where you measure yourself according to how much progress you've already made, and how far you've come, instead of comparing yourself to others, to some external ideal. It means you don't look at the distance between where you are now and where you want to be, a place they call the GAP.
The future isn't real yet, and it can't be measured. Only real, actual progress can be measured, and by doing so you will increase your motivation, inspire confidence and faith in yourself, and build up momentum.
Again, having ideals - a vision of where you want to end up and who you want to be - is incredibly important, but focusing on that and forgetting to appreciate yourself for what you've already achieved and how hard you're working in the moment is demotivating in the worst way. As the authors advise:
“Don’t let your past be forgotten. Always measure backward.”
#3: The Never-Ending Pursuit of Happiness
“Your happiness as a person is dependent on what you measure yourself against.”
There's a story that's been around forever about an older cat who comes across a younger one racing faster and faster trying to catch his own tail. The older cat asks the younger one what it's trying to achieve, and he replies, "Someone told me that happiness is located in my tail, and so I'm trying to catch it."
The older cat then says, "I, too, learned that happiness was located in my tail, but then I found that when I'm moving in the direction of my goals and dreams, happiness follows me wherever I go."
I love that simple little story, and it beautifully illustrates how and why happiness shows up. "Happiness" is an ideal, and as such, it can never be pursued directly. Instead, it follows you as a natural result of dedicating your life to what's most important to you and remaining committed to constantly moving in that direction.
The wonderful part about all this is that, as an adult, you have the inalienable freedom to become self-determined, to choose your own way. You get to decide for yourself what really matters, and in a very real way, you get to choose your own happiness.
It's also important to realize that most people are woefully misguided about what happiness actually is. More than anything, it's a process, something that's unfolding in the present moment, not some object that you possess for all time. Your happiness is happening now, and it flows through your life like a wave that you can never catch. You can ride the wave for a period of time, but if you base your life satisfaction on being able to stop the ocean, you're setting yourself up for immense disappointment.
Many people have also discovered that happiness is often a direct result of pursuing growth and personal development. But plenty of other people walk around with these false ideas about what will bring them happiness (hint: it's not "more stuff), and even when they get it, they're underwhelmed and are left wanting more. The goalposts move.
Happiness, of course, is a huge subject, and it means many different things to different people. But one thing that's virtually guaranteed to make you happier is to set off in the direction of a worthy ideal and measure your progress along the way. Stay in the GAIN. Measure your progress according to how many steps you've already taken, and you'll be happy the entire time. As they say:
“There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way.”
#4: Not Needing It Will Help You Get It
“This brings up a highly nuanced and crucial distinction: you can want something and be 100% committed to that thing without needing it. This is the counterintuitive reality: by no longer needing what you want, you are actually far more enabled to get it.”
When it comes to dating, neediness is one of the most repulsive qualities you could have, and something similar occurs with respect to your goals. It's a peculiar kind of mental judo that you can practice - a kind of non-forcing - that will make it much more enjoyable to strive for your goals, and much more likely that you'll actually achieve them.
The terms "obsessive" and "harmonious" passion illustrate this point nicely. Harmonious passion has to do with self-determination and intrinsic motivation. It's choosing to go after a goal because you've decided it's important to you, and certainly not because you're trying to live up to someone else's ideal.
It's a much more powerful, sustained motivation, epitomized by the entrepreneur who would willingly work 90 hours a week on his dream, but not for 5 minutes on someone else's dream.
Obsessive passion, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. It's GAP thinking, influenced by other people's ideas for how you should live your own life. Certainly, we can learn from other people about what we might want, but the ultimate decision is ours alone. If we forfeit our power to make that decision, we will most likely be miserable for the rest of our lives.
By contrast, being in the GAIN is a much more productive attitude - literally - that will add a kind of compound effect to your efforts. When you pursue your freely chosen goal in a state of happiness, peace, and non-neediness, your performance improves, which, multiplied over time, makes it much more likely that you'll actually achieve your goal.
Being in the GAP, however, creates a negative compound effect in your life, as you steadily become more depressed and frustrated - leading to a lessening of your effectiveness and a lower probability that you'll actually reach your goals.
So remember, happiness is the way, and GAIN thinking is the optimal strategy for achieving your goals. Be so busy being happy about enjoying the climb that you don't have time for neediness or other people's priorities to slip in. Then, one day, you'll look up and see that you'll have succeeded beyond your wildest imaginings.
#5: What Gets Measured Gets Managed
"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates."
There's a popular saying among business professionals (and non-fiction nerds) that goes: "What gets measured gets managed." This is 100% true. For example, if your finances are running wild, what helps tremendously in getting them back under control is to make a budget. Just the simple act of recording where your money is actually going is often enough to get a firmer grasp on your situation. The same goes for dieting, etc.
So yes, it's a powerful strategy, but there's also a saying common in late-night infomercials that goes: "But wait! There's more!"
When you keep records and then you stay accountable to someone for those records, you'll get better even faster. Measuring works, but having support works even better.
The takeaway is to measure your progress, and then report that progress to a close friend, an accountability group - I even started an entire newsletter to keep myself accountable and to report on my progress. Now, my weekly Achievement Reports go out to the whole email list and whenever I don't follow through on something I said I was going to do, everybody knows about it.
There are plenty of positive benefits to recording and measuring your progress, and it's essential the epitome of GAIN thinking. It just makes you happy to see a record of your progress, and if you have a list of specific wins that you can look back on, facts of your achievement, then you're going to start making spectacular progress.
And remember, you can't "measure" an ideal, so you shouldn't base your happiness on anything so ephemeral. The future isn't reality yet, and it can never be part of any meaningful measurement of progress.
One of the reasons this is so effective is because you'll have something real and tangible to look back on to remind yourself of how far you'vecome and what you yourself have achieved. So take pictures. Keep records. Measure what matters, and always make sure you have some real evidence of what you've done and are working on.
And ideally (no pun intended), you should send these records off to a good friend (or hundreds of good friends) who care about you and actually want you to succeed.
It's so easy to forget what you don't keep track of. You can so often and easily take for granted all those things that you should be incredibly proud of yourself for, and in doing so, you miss out on the massive dose of extra confidence you get from having pushed through, earned a victory, and lived to tell about it.
#6: Practicing Mental Subtraction Will Add to Your Happiness
“Research shows that imagining the absence of a positive event in your life has a more powerful effect on you than simply looking back on that positive event. Likewise, imagining the absence of an important person in your life can be more powerful than simply appreciating the fact that they are in your life.”
Here's another kind of counterintuitive mental judo that can make you happier and more fulfilled by approaching certain things in your life in a "negative" way. To be in the GAIN more consistently, think about an alternate life scenario where you don't have the things that you actually do have.
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus had that same idea in mind when he said this:
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."
It doesn't seem like this would work better than just being grateful for what you have, but strangely, it does. And the same thing works for people in your life, experiences you've had - everything.
Just imagine the possibility that you didn't have this great thing in your life, and most people are almost literally shocked into stronger feelings of gratitude for whatever it is that they might not have had.
Being able to imagine these alternate realities is an example of psychological flexibility, which is what allows you to return stronger after a temporary setback. It's a vitally important life skill to have.
It all comes back to employing the most powerful psychological strategies you can to make your life better, improve your efficiency and productivity, and achieve the goals that are most important to you. It helps you stay in the GAIN by bringing your awareness back to how astounding your progress has been so far. As the authors say:
“By imagining that your greatest achievements or progress never occurred, you can see how far you’ve actually come.”
#7: The Most Important Hour of the Day
“When you end your day poorly and without a committed plan, you compromise the next 24 hours. Without a clear and committed plan, you become reactive to what’s around you and reactive to your own lack of energy.”
It's said that if you lose an hour in the morning you'll be chasing it all day - and that's absolutely true, but a great morning always starts the night before. In many ways, the most important hour of the day is the last hour of the day.
What you do during that final hour of consciousness has a tremendous impact on not only your sleep quality, but also the nature and quality of tomorrow.
You should absolutely make sure that you're implementing a superstar pre-sleep routine in order to ensure that you have a restful, recuperative sleep, and that you wake up in the morning refreshed, ready, and primed to notice the GAINS that are waiting for you to see them.
In a very real sense, you see what you're looking for, and if you wake up groggy, disoriented, and distressed, that's the filter through which you're going to look at your day.
Use the last hour of every day to set yourself up for further success and to adequately prepare yourself for what you need to do in order to make that happen. Don't sabotage yourself by making it more difficult than it has to be to approach the next day with fire, enthusiasm, and purpose.
Even if you do have a rough morning, it doesn't mean the whole day is shot, but it definitely makes it a lot harder the rest of the day, and why would you want to make it even harder on yourself than it has to be?
The comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a great routine about "Night Guy," the person you are before bed, and "Morning Guy," the person who has to deal with the fallout of what "Night Guy" has been up to all night. Seinfeld says that there's almost nothing that Morning Guy can do to Night guy to punish him - except, maybe, not go into work, so Night Guy doesn't have any money left to stay out partying all night!
The takeaway is that you shouldn't let Night Guy run your life into the ground. At the end of the day, Night Guy's job is to treat Morning Guy like a really good friend - like someone they're responsible for helping - and do everything they can to make the next day the biggest success it can be.
That starts with aiming to be good to your future self, and by setting up the ideal conditions for a strong, positive tomorrow. You'll want to make sure that you're turning off all screens at least an hour before bed and that you're practicing good sleep hygiene.
You'll want to make sure that you have some sort of plan for tomorrow - an idea about how you want it to unfold, and then you're going to put yourself in as strong a position as possible to make that happen. And if you make a mistake along the way? Realize that even if one particular part of your day didn't exactly live up to your ideal, the day as a whole can be a GAIN, and that's what you should be focusing on.
The last hour of every day is supremely important. I mean, every single second of every day is supremely important, but you need to make friends with Night Guy and get on the same page. Because after all, as Dan Sullivan and Ben Hardy say in the book:
“What you do during the hour before bed sets the tone for the rest of your life.”
“If you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. If you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack.”
“The rule is simple: the person who fails the most will win. If I fail more than you do, I will win. Because in order to keep failing, you’ve got to be good enough to keep playing.”
“When your happiness is tied to something in the future, then your present is diminished.”
“The day you stop racing is the day you win the race.”
“In psychology, inattentional blindness occurs when you are so fixated on one thing that you fail to see everything else going on around you. It’s easy to miss the GAINS happening throughout our lives or businesses because we may have tunnel vision on the problem in front of us.”
“By continuously learning, you’ll be enabled to do what your former self couldn’t do. You’ll be able to create what your former self couldn’t create. You’ll be able to have what your former self couldn’t have.”
“I don't think we set and achieve goals in an effort to become happy. We do it because we are happy and want to expand our happiness.”
“An experience only becomes valuable and useful once you’ve transformed it into a GAIN.”
“Social media is designed to stop people from being self-determined.”
“Billions of dollars are spent every day to manipulate and change your thoughts, desires, and behaviors. The reference points for your own success are being created for you, not by you. If you’re not paying for the product, then your behavior change is the product.”
“If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”
“Measuring your progress is a powerful signal that you’re serious about what you’re doing.”
“Seeing every experience as a gain makes you antifragile.”
“I’m humbled that I chose to continue fighting, when there were a million reasons to stop at a million previous mile markers behind me.”
“With every step you take forward, you get to measure backward and become increasingly humbled at how far you’ve come.”
Important Insights from Related Books:
“Assume the consciousness of being the one you want to be, and you will be saved from your present state."
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is the world's leading expert on the science of prospection and the Future Self concept.
Be Your Future Self Now is one of the absolute best introductions to the field, and inside this book, you're going to learn exactly why having a vision for your own future development is so critically important.
But you're also going to receive practical instruction on how to apply the science here and now to make your actual life better. Immediately. Today.
This is a rather long and detailed breakdown, but basically, who and what you're becoming - and your thoughts about it - directly affect the quality of your experience in the here and now.
Not only that, but when your imagined Future Self directs your behavior rather than your behavior being directed by your past, that can be the shift that changes your entire life's trajectory.
Instead of running away from something you don't want (pain in your past), you'll be moving toward an exciting future that gives meaning to all of your subsequent days. To this day.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“The first and most fundamental threat to your Future Self is not having hope in your future. Without hope, the present loses meaning. Without hope, you don't have clear goals or a sense of purpose for your life. Without hope, there is no way. Without hope, you decay."
“Despite acknowledging major changes in themselves over the previous 10 years, people consistently assume only minor changes in themselves over the coming decade."
“If you’re around people who have low expectations for you, you'll fall to those standards. If you're around people with high expectations, you'll rise to those standards."
Read the Full Breakdown: Be Your Future Self Now, by Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Whatever your limitations, there is someone out there who can help you move beyond them. The best way to solve a problem is to find someone who already knows how to solve it, and that's pretty much the "one-sentence summary" of this incredibly valuable business book.
Instead of asking, "How can I solve this problem for myself?" a better question is to ask, "Who can I get to help me solve this?" Asking the former is just asking for burnout, frustration, and inferior results. Because the truth is that there are people out there who are experts at doing the things you either hate to do, are bad at, or both, and they are more than willing to help you achieve your goals.
The right person already knows how to solve your problem, so they can get to work immediately. As the authors explain, freeing up your time is one of the first steps towards increased financial freedom, and if you want to experience the full power of teamwork you're going to have to relinquish at least some control over how things get done. Find your Who, so they can get to work on the How.
It's a mindset shift more than anything - retraining your brain to see potential and opportunities for collaboration and ease, rather than slugging through your daily tasks thinking you have to do everything yourself. You are limited in what you can do alone, but together, there's almost nothing we can't do.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“Once you’re committed to the result you want, you’ll find that Who. When you do find that Who, you’ll see how ridiculously simple it was for THEM to produce your desired result, then you’ll begin to see just how small you’ve been playing. You’ll begin to set bigger and bigger targets, and you’ll commit to those targets faster by getting the Who that is equipped to produce the result.”
“The best way to measure your progress is by noting the amount and quality of collaborations happening in your life.”
“If you work on something important for twenty years, it will transform everything around you.”
Read the Full Breakdown: Who Not How, by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy
"A commitment to growth was the solution to all of my worst problems."
What does it mean to live intelligently, consciously, and forthrightly in the magnificent and infinitely complex world of which we are a part?
This question and all of its astounding implications was Steve Pavlina's overarching obsession, and after years and years of patient and sometimes restless searching, he now believes that the answer lies in the intersection between three core principles: Truth, Love, and Power.
In Personal Development for Smart People, Pavlina also builds on this foundation by explaining that there are also four secondary principles that follow from the first three. They are Oneness, Authority, Courage, and Intelligence, all of which represent some combination of the first three.
Oneness emerges from truth and love; Authority arises from truth and power; Courage comes from the combination of love and power. All of them together lead to the seventh core principle, which is Intelligence.
Virtually every problem can be thought of as a misalignment between your current mode of thinking and these universal laws of life and the universe.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
"Working on your personal growth may seem like a completely selfish undertaking, but in fact, it's the most selfless thing you can possibly do. As you improve your alignment with truth, love, and power, you increase your capacity to serve others. The more intelligent you become, the more good you can do.
If you haven't already discovered this, you'll eventually realize that when you improve yourself, you inspire others to do the same. Those people then inspire even more people, and your positive ripples of growth ultimately impact everyone. As you improve yourself, you improve all of us. As the cells improve, the whole body improves.
If you forget everything else from this book and remember only one piece of advice, it is simply this: The most intelligent thing you can possibly do with your life is to grow."
“You can’t avoid the responsibility for what happens on Earth, because you're a part of it. If you think the planet needs saving, you're responsible for saving it. If you think our leaders have gotten off track, you're responsible for getting us back on track. If you see problems in the world that aren't adequately being addressed, you're responsible for addressing those problems."
“True success is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and be completely at peace with what you see. When your habits are aligned with truth, love, and power, the guy in the glass is your friend."
Read the Full Breakdown: Personal Development for Smart People, by Steve Pavlina
While the rest of the world thinks we're playing checkers, readers of this book will know that we're actually playing chess instead. The greatest Grand Masters in chess plan many, many moves ahead, and the best players in the game of life tend to do the same thing. That's what The Long Game is all about.
Creating the white space in our lives necessary in order to step back and take in the whole picture is one of the goals of this book, and here Dorie Clark presents a ton of high-level concepts to help you make this kind of thinking more common in your daily life.
Your personal goals need a long-term strategy, and this book will help you craft one for yourself. It will encourage you to "think in decades" and help you to think bigger.
In this breakdown, we cover several extremely important ideas such as strategic patience, raindrops of success, and more. We also explore the truth about ridiculous goals, how to tell if what you're doing right now is working, and the different ways that we can create opportunities for ourselves that give us "two ways to win, and no way to lose."
In short, this book breakdown will help you internalize the power of compound interest, and clear the chessboard with devastating long-term moves that the other players of the game of Life never saw coming.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“We radically underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”
“The whole point of playing the long game is understanding that ridiculous goals are ridiculous right now – not forever. When we force ourselves to take our goals to extremes – What would ultimate success look like? – we can create an honest road map for ourselves. It might take five years, or ten, or twenty. But that time will pass anyway. If a goal is worth pursuing, it’s worth pursuing the version of it we actually want – not one that’s watered down to protect our ego.”
“What I’ve come to love about patience is that, ultimately, it’s the truest test of merit: Are you willing to do the work, despite no guaranteed outcome? We earn our success by toiling without recognition, accolades, or even any certainty that it’s going to come to fruition. We have to take it on faith and do it anyway. That’s strategic patience.”
Read the Full Breakdown: The Long Game, by Dorie Clark
The View from the Opposition:
No one's ideas are beyond questioning. In this section, I argue the case for the opposition and raise some points you might wish to evaluate for yourself while reading this book.
#1: This Whole Book Could Have Been a Blog Post
This is not a long book by any means, but plenty of people say that it could have been a hell of a lot shorter, and it's not hard to see their point!
However, I will say that even though parts of it are repetitive, and many sections could have been made shorter, it does pay to expose yourself to big ideas for longer periods of time to ensure that you have time to fully engage with them.
You could easily skim a blog post version of this book and "get" the ideas presented therein, but you'd really be shortchanging yourself in the long run, because you wouldn't be giving them enough time to work on you, to sink in, and to actually change your life and how you live it.
#2: It Can't Possibly Be That Simple
Again, when people criticize this book by saying, "There's more to it than that! Success just isn't that simple!" they're right, but it's still beside the point. I mean, it's a 200-page business book...you expect it to hold all the answers to life's biggest questions?
But there are plenty of worse ways you can spend your time than focusing on the powerfully underestimated ideas you'll find in this book. And the authors do a great job of explaining them, so what's the downside?
You may as well read about them here and start putting them to work in your own life as soon as humanly possible.
#3: As the Gap Starts to Close, Motivation Rises Fast
I will say, though, that focusing on the "GAP" isn't always a bad thing, especially when the GAP is closing fast. Due to a quirk in how our brains work, our motivation tends to spike once we're closer to achieving our goals or realizing some end result. It's why you have more energy when you know that you're closing in on success.
For example, when I was nearer my goal of reading 1,000 books, I experienced a surge of motivation around Book #950 that just wasn't presented at, say, Book #290. 290 is a long way from 1,000, but as I got closer, I started realizing how close I actually was, and I started to experience even more motivation to finally achieve my goal. In that case, focusing on the "GAP" actually increased my motivation, rather than killing it.
Two things to think about here: First, you should make sure that the immediate goals you're thinking of are realistic enough that you stand a good chance of actually achieving them. When you have the confidence to know that you can close that gap, then you're more likely to witness that spike in motivation.
Second, you don't have to choose the GAP or the GAIN. You can focus on both at different times, depending on where you are in your journey. Nearer to the start, look backward and celebrate every single small win along the way. Then, when you get a little closer, you can use that little tiny gap as motivation to surge ahead the rest of the way.
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Questions to Stimulate Your Thinking:
The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions. That's also how you get the absolute most out of any book that you decide to read:
You ask great questions the whole time - as though the book was on trial for its life.
Here in this section are a few questions that can help guide and stimulate your thinking, but try to come up with your own additional questions, especially if you end up deciding to read this book the whole way through...
#1: "What are 2-3 "small victories" that you've won in your life within the last 60-90 days that you haven't given yourself enough credit for?"
#2: "When was the last time you were in "the GAP" for longer than a half hour? What finally got you out of it? Can you recreate those conditions the next time you go into the GAP?"
#3: "When was the last time you went into the GAP after comparing yourself to someone else?"
#4: "When was the last time you reframed a negative situation or experience and were able to extract some benefit from it or at least something that was positive?"
#5: "Am I setting impossible targets for myself - unrealistic, unattainable ideals - that are too far off in the distance for me to avoid becoming overwhelmed by them?"
#6: "What kind of small, or big, wins am I capable of engineering for myself over the next 90 days? The next year? The next ten years?"
So you've finished reading. What do you do now?
Reading for pleasure is great, and I wholeheartedly support it. However, I am intensely practical when I'm reading for a particular purpose. I want a result. I want to take what I've learned and apply it to my one and only life to make it better!
Because that's really what the Great Books all say. They all say: "You must change your life!" So here, below, are some suggestions for how you can apply the wisdom found in this breakdown to improve your actual life.
Please commit to taking massive action on this immediately! Acting on what you've learned here today will also help you solidify it in your long-term memory. So there's a double benefit! Let's begin...
#1: Allow Yourself Just Five Minutes to Be in "the GAP"
Sadness, anxiety, frustration, and other negative emotions are all a normal part of life. Experiencing them every so often doesn't mean that there's anything "wrong" with you, or that you need to be "fixed."
Feelings are never "wrong" - they just are. With that in mind, it's normal to be sad or disappointed when life gets hard, or you encounter a difficult situation. This is called being in "the GAP," but it's critically important that you don't stay there.
So the next time any of these negative feelings come up for you, allow yourself to really feel them - don't ignore them, try to suppress them, or pretend they don't exist.
Then, when a certain time limit has been reached (I suggest 5 minutes, but you can allow yourself an hour, etc.), do whatever it takes to exit the GAP and focus on the GAIN. Bring yourself back to life. Flood your brain with positive emotions, get up and move (not necessarily in that order), and leave the GAP behind.
#2: Make Detailed Records of Your Starting Point
The comedian Demetri Martin has this great joke about how he used to take "progress" pictures of his body before he started a new exercise program. Except, he never actually followed through on the program, so he said, "I just ended up with all these pictures of me standing in my living room in my underwear getting older."
I love that joke...but he raises an important point! It's a fantastic idea to make detailed records of where you're starting from and to keep recording all your progress along the way, wherever it is you're headed.
Obviously, this works great with a fitness regimen (if you stick with it!), but you can record your monthly income over time, the books you've read and taken action on, the paintings you've brought to life, the skills you've learned - basically any result that didn't exist in the world before you made it happen.
I've also found it enlightening to track how my mindset and beliefs have shifted over time. I literally keep a list of things I believe to be true, and a few statements about my general outlook on life, and I periodically review these over time. It's astonishing how much we change and grow over the years, and you may surprise yourself (in a good way) if you make this a habit!
Not only that, but it's incredibly motivating and inspiring to look back on a list of what you've actually done, the things you've achieved and the wins you've racked up, whenever you're feeling down, so you can get yourself out of the GAP by reminding yourself of how far you've come.
#3: Design a High-Performance Nightly Routine
The last hour of the day is the most important hour of the day, and it matters what you do during that time. A fantastic habit to get into is to write down 3 wins that you've achieved today and visualize 3 more wins that you want to actualize tomorrow.
On top of this, you're going to want to wind down properly at the end of the day by shutting down as many screens as possible, making sure you're not being exposed to blue light, keeping your bedroom as cool and device-free as possible, and planning for as much sleep as you can possibly get, ideally between 7-9 hours.
This way, you're setting yourself up for an extremely successful tomorrow, and you can start that day refreshed and ready to look for GAINS.
About the Authors:
Dan Sullivan is the world’s foremost expert on entrepreneurship and has coached more successful entrepreneurs than anyone on the planet. He is the cofounder of Strategic Coach®, the leading entrepreneurial coaching program in the world, and author of more than 50 publications on entrepreneurial success. Over the past 30-plus years, Strategic Coach has provided teaching and training to more than 20,000 entrepreneurs.www.strategiccoach.com
Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and author of Willpower Doesn’t Work and Personality Isn’t Permanent. Together, he and Dan co-authored Who Not How and The Gap And The Gain. His blogs have been read by more than 100 million people and are featured in the Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, and others. For several years, he was the #1 most-read writer on Medium.com. He and his wife, Lauren, are the parents of six kids. They live in Orlando, Florida.