Hyper Motivated to Succeed

April 13, 2010 Douglas Cootey

If you start to notice that you're doing something wrong with your life, but you don't have a clear idea how to fix it, discouragement can usually settle in. Unless you work in Hollywood. Then you can market your dysfunction for a life on Easy Street. That's what I found happened to me seventeen years ago. Not the Hollywood bit. I refer to knowing something was wrong, but not knowing how to fix it. Although I do sort of market my dysfunction on the web, too, I'd hardly call my current life Easy Street. It's more like Detour Blvd. with lots of bills and no discretionary income.

But I digress.

Have you ever met somebody who was trying to master two completely different art styles simultaneously? Or a person that was learning desktop publishing on the Mac, C+ programming on the PC, and desktop videography on the Amiga all at the same time? How about a person doing all of the above? Would you be surprised that person was also enrolled in college, yet was failing his classes? This wasn't a case of simply having a full plate as much as it was carrying around a chuck wagon on one's head. Yet, there I was trying to do it all.

Pick one project to be the main one

Years later, I found myself again with a chuck wagon on my head. I was learning the recorder, the panpipes, the ocarina, the high and low pennywhistle, the melodica, and both the diatonic and chromatic harmonica. I was having a ball, but I wasn't very good on any of them. I found a jazz harp player who was giving lessons, and took them for a while, but found I didn't practice as much as I should have. He grew frustrated with me (and my constant tardiness) and dropped me as a student. It was a blow to the ego.

Then I had an epiphany. What if I didn't split all my time on so many instruments and instead focused on only one of them? After the initial panic subsided, I began to mull the idea over. How could I do it without boredom settling in and inspiring me to pick up the glockenspiel?

I decided to focus on the pennywhistle and allow myself to play only the ocarina and low D pennywhistle as distractions. Every day, I would practice for 30 minutes on the main instrument, and only play 10 minutes for the side two. Over a period of several weeks, I soon noticed a few things. First, on days I only had time for one instrument, the main one was played. Second, my skill on the main instrument increased exponentially. And third, I found myself able to dispense with the distractions altogether and play only the main instrument.

Do you want to know what was the catalyst? A mother at my daughter's dance class wanted me to teach her son how to play the pennywhistle. I was suddenly highly motivated to get my skills up to the level I felt comfortable charging for. If that hadn't happened, I may not have learned that I was able to focus on one thing at a time if I put my mind to it.

High Motivation: A Tool for Success

Once again high motivation proved to be instrumental in transforming my life. I've since used this technique with success in other areas. I cut through the ADHD distractions, prune them down to a few cherished activities, then go forward with hyper focus engaged, determined to see my goal to the end. Hallowell & Ratey talk about this in Answers to Distraction. "Motivation overrides ADHD." Since adults with ADHD can be so keenly excited about things, if we teach ourselves to channel this hyper focus, we can ride through the dull bits in life and reach our destinations without getting severely waylaid by distraction. Keep fun distractions on hand for those times you need a mental break, but don't let yourself lose that motivation. Just remember to focus on something you like immensely. It is your ticket to success.

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2010, April 13). Hyper Motivated to Succeed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

April, 13 2010 at 1:01 pm

Good advice. I wish I could follow it.
Left to my own devices, I prefer to drill into one thing at a time. It takes me a while to gain momentum on anything challenging, so once I have that momentum I don't want to lose it. Problem is, I have a day job, and a band, and other responsibilities. I can, say, focus more on singing than piano, but I don't want to give up the band altogether. I couldn't give up the day job even if I hated it.
What do you do when you can't pick one project to be the main one?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Douglas Cootey
April, 15 2010 at 2:16 pm

Good question. The answer is simple: I do everything and get nothing accomplished. Teaching myself how to focus on just ONE project as the main one was very difficult. Like you I need to do more than one thing. That’s why I boiled it down to the top three and then the top one. That way, I know what my main target is, but if I spend time on the others I don’t feel guilty about it.
I like drilling into one thing at a time, too, but I found that when things became boring, I’d then drill into another “one thing” at a time. Learning to focus on just one main project meant sacrificing a lot of other little ones that piqued my fancy. I hope this helped answer your question. Good luck!

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