When you understand that motivation is something that comes from inside a person, not something you can create in another person – it changes the questions you ask. Instead of “How can I motivate this kid?”, the question becomes “How can I help this kid find their own internal motivation?”
The thing we often we don’t realize is that motivation isn’t an all or nothing thing. For example, I do have some motivation to get up and exercise every morning. It’s just that I also have some motivation to relax and sleep in too, and the two get in the way of each other. Instead of seeing a person as lacking motivation, it’s more helpful to assume that they do have a level of motivation, and try to understand what is getting in the way.
Often we try to motivate people by rewarding (“I’ll buy you ice cream when you finish your homework”), punishing (“You won’t get allowance if you don’t do your chores”), or lecturing a person about why we think they should do something (“If you don’t put in more effort in school, you will never get into college!”). But none of these approaches will create results even close to what happens when a person is internally motivated, and decides for themselves that a certain course of action is something they really want to do.
I came across this really cool strategy to help people find their own motivation in a video from one of my heroes, Daniel Pink. The first step is to ask a person to rate their level of motivation for doing something on a scale of one to ten. My motivation to get up this morning and exercise is probably about a 3. The next question is: “Why didn’t you choose a lower number?” The answer to this question will bring to light my own personal reasons for wanting to exercise. The more I think about my own reasons and desires, the more likely I am to find that internal drive to take action.
How might this change the conversations you have with people you are trying to motivate?
Check out Dan’s video for yourself at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAL7Pz1i1jU