The secret to motivation is the way you communicate with yourself, and others. Communicate in a particular way and all you'll get is resistance and apathy; change your communication style and you will get enthusiasm and positive action - from yourself and in those around you.
WHAT IS MOTIVATION?What is motivation, and where does it come from? How do we 'get motivated', and how can we motivate others in an effective manner? How come some people always seem to have so much motivation and energy, while others struggle with apathy and lack of direction?
Put simply, motivation is an energy - an energy to do, to accomplish. In order to understand this energy a little better, take a few moments now to think of a specific time when you were really motivated - a time when you felt that energy to do, strongly. Take the time to remember where you were, what you were thinking, and how you motivated yourself. How did you communicate with yourself in order to get motivated?
You will no doubt have found that you used one of two simple motivation strategies - either a positive motivation strategy, or a negative motivation strategy. Now in this context 'negative' doesn't necessarily mean 'bad', and positive doesn't necessarily mean 'good'.
I define negative motivation as a form of motivation that moves you away from a negative happening or experience - moving you away from something you don't want to happen. The essential motivating part of negative motivation is the thought of something 'bad' happening. Negative motivation often comes from an external source with the threat of some kind of punishment if you don't do something. For example, your parents telling you you have to clean up your room, or mow the lawn, or you won't be allowed to go out on Saturday night. Or your teacher saying you must have the assignment handed in by Monday morning, otherwise you'll get detention. Or your coach shouting that you should concentrate harder or you'll never make the team. And so you motivate yourself to do whatever it is, because you don't want those negative consequences to happen
Of course, you can also motivate yourself in this negative way - for example, leaving early for work because you don't want to be late; doing your homework assignments because you don't want to fail; watching the foods you eat because you don't want to get fat.
POSITIVE MOTIVATIONIn contrast, positive motivation is a form of motivation which moves you toward a positive happening or experience, moving you toward something you do want to happen, and the essential motivating part of positive motivation is the thought of this 'good' experience or result happening. Some examples of positive motivation are someone working out at the gym four times a week because they like the way they look and feel when they work out regularly; or working to a study timetable because you want a good grade; or putting in 100% effort in training because you want to be in the starting lineup for the game on the weekend.
It's useful to recognise that while both negative and positive motivation can have important roles in motivating us to avoid personal danger, get out of bed in the morning, earn a living, keep healthy and fit, achieve recognition in our sport, and so on, there is a significant difference in the consequences of using each type of motivation in your life.
Negative motivation can result in excessive anxiety and tension, while positive motivation tends to positively energise and arouse you. Negative motivation causes you to think about what you don't want, while positive motivation gets you focused on what you do want. Having a positive focus is just so important - because we move toward what we think about. I like to say that human beings are like guided missiles, and the guidance system of us is the thoughts we think. Think about not wanting to go into the water trap or the bunker when you're about to hit your iron off the tee, and that's often where your end up! Think about not wanting to get nervous and mess up the important presentation, and that's often just what you do! Think about not being late for that important meeting, and often everything seems to conspire to make you late!
We move toward what we think about, so it's important to imagine and picture what we want rather than what we don't want. It's been identified that the top performers in any sport are invariably more positively motivated than negatively motivated - what motivates them are strong desires for their dreams and goals, and this is one reason why having goals is so important.
HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE?One way to identify your current motivation strategy is to simply pay attention to the words and images you use when you're motivating yourself, or others. What words do you use when you want to motivate yourself, or someone else, to do something? How do you communicate with yourself and others to achieve motivation?
If you're saying to yourself things like, "I have to go to training today"; or "I've got to improve my fitness"; or "I must try and cut down on alcohol"; or "I ought to practice more"; then you're using a negative motivation strategy, and you're not managing yourself as effectively as you could.
Remember, positive motivation grows out of desire and wanting - not from should's, have to's, ought's, and must's. I believe the more you can choose to live your life and do every task from a "I'm doing it because I choose to and want to" way of thinking and talking to yourself, the better your life works, and the more successful you are in the long run. Working in this way with yourself, you manage yourself better and you don't get 'resistance' from yourself because you feel forced to do something again your will. Remember how you felt when your parents said you had to help with the dishes, or had to mow the lawn, or had to do some other chore, when you wanted to watch television or play with your friends? You felt pushed and of course you resisted, and as a result your heart wasn't in it when you did the chore, was it? The same thing happens if you communicate to yourself in that way - if you use "have to's", "ought to's", "should's" and "must's", then you'll find yourself unconsciously resisting yourself, even if it's a task that's worthwhile, for a cherished goal you want to achieve.
The thing to realise and understand is that often in sport the only thing that keeps a competitor going is their heart - and if your heart isn't in something, you'll eventually give up. Communicating with yourself using negative motivation language is a sure way to lose heart, and you're too good for that.
So from now on, every time you hear yourself say "should", or "ought to", or "must" or "have to" about any task that you're undertaking ..... stop, and deliberately change your language to 'want to". You want to "want to"! Rather than should, ought to, have to and must, use words like want to, like to, desire to, love to. You want to do this to enhance your motivation!
Of course, if you're a coach, team leader or manager, or personal trainer, or teacher wanting to build motivation in others, then this information is doubly important, isn't it? Listen to how you've been talking to your staff, players, students or clients lately. Have you been building "want to's" based on strongly desired goals and dreams, or have you been telling them they "should" train harder, or "have to" concentrate more, or "must" be more determined to win?
SIX TASKSRight now, think of six tasks that are on your agenda to do this week. They might be work tasks, an assignment due for some course you're doing, home chores, or training for your sport - it doesn't matter. As you think of each task, rather than say to yourself, "I have to do such-and-such", think instead: "I want to get that report to my boss by Friday morning"; or " I want to go to the gym three times this week"; or "I want to practice my chipping for an hour three afternoons this week"; or I want to get the washing and ironing done tomorrow". I now use this process for everything I choose to do - including wanting to put in my tax return on time!
Did you notice the difference in the way you felt about the tasks when you changed the language you used? You would have felt more relaxed and at ease about doing the tasks, and felt more 'motivated' to do them.
MOTIVATING OTHERSI recently read that because so many people are so used to motivating themselves negatively, in order to be most effective in motivating others, first state what you DON'T want, and then state what you DO want - in the same sentence.
What is important is the sequence in which the negative and positive aspects of the directions are given. For instance, if I were giving instruction to a football or basketball team about improving on their defence, notice how the order of what I say influences your response. Which of these two statements is more appealing to you? :
"This time, let's start aggressively and maintain concentration throughout the entire match. No missed tackles, fumbles, or sloppy passing." OR "This time, no missed tackles, fumbles, or sloppy passing. Let's start aggressively and maintain concentration throughout the entire match."
Most people find the second statement more useful, because you are made aware of what to avoid, and then given a positive direction or goal at the end - which is what remains most clearly in your mind. Of course, in my opinion, an even better alternative would be a pure positive motivation statement such as : "This time, make every tackle, hold on to the ball, and pass accurately. Let's start aggressively and maintain concentration throughout the entire match."
Why accede to others' negativity at all? Let's teach them how to be positive!
About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed Sportsmind, Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings and Sports Hypnosis training manual - All available in our Mental Training Zone.
He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sports clubs and successful athletes worldwide.
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