I have always wanted to be able to motivate myself and others. As a friend, family member, team member, coach, teacher, mentor, etc., there have been many times where I wanted to be able to motivate people. During college and most of my career as a teacher, I read, questioned and consistently thought about how to be a better motivator. Eventually, I discovered a strong connection between motivation, values and ideas. Here’s my humble attempt of explaining what I mean.
I remember coaching my son’s little league baseball team and wishing I could somehow motivate him and his teammates so they would work together as one cohesive unit. I wasn’t able to. I remember student-teaching and wishing that I could motivate the students I was responsible for, to pay attention to what I was teaching and follow my instructions. To be honest, I wasn’t successful. Oh, the students were fine, because my cooperating teacher (the true professional and experienced teacher) was able to “clean-up” after me. Of course, I was student-teaching and was learning how to teach. Part of what I was learning, while student-teaching, was how to motivate. What did I learn?
Well, the first thing I learned was that I can’t motivate someone else. I know, you’re probably saying to yourself: “That doesn’t make sense.” Really, trying to motivate someone is similar to didactic teaching (teaching by telling). When a teacher teaches by telling, s/he usually ends up helping her/himself understand better what was already known. In other words, it was good for the teacher and not, necessarily, good for the student.
Now, I know you are, most likely, aware of people who are very good motivators. So, what is it that they do? Let’s consider what good salespeople do. They don’t sell products, but instead, they sell ideas. They will find out what really matters to the people they are trying to sell something to and then build that into an idea. The idea is what they really sell. Take, for example, a salesperson trying to sell you a car. The good salesperson works at finding out what you value and then “sells” you on how the car fits your values. The salesperson isn’t selling the car, but instead the idea of how the car is what you value.
If you want to motivate someone, you must present the person with ideas that stimulate her/him into action. Be as clear as possible. Show a picture, a video, an article, and/or any other “thing” that helps clarify the idea and how it connects with what you are trying to motivate the person to do.
As a general rule, in order to motivate, you must show those you are motivating the personal “pay” for them. First, find out what they value. Second, tie in what they value to what you are motivating them to do. Third, illustrate the end result. Maybe the end-result is only, they will feel good. If that is it, then be sure to illustrate that end-result as clearly as you can. Describe the feeling and explain to them how they are going to absolutely love it. :-)
As an example of using this “general rule,” let’s consider trying to motivate someone to learn a particular subject in school. First, we need to take what they value and connect it to the subject they are learning. Specifically, let’s consider the subject of history. Suppose, the person we are motivating to learn history values baseball. Perhaps, we could connect the long and storied history of baseball to the study of history and show how using historical thinking allows us a greater appreciation for baseball. Finally, paint a vivid picture in the learners’ mind how history will give a deeper appreciation of many other interests, both current and in the future.
This, of course, is only a short explanation of how motivation is tied to values and ideas. Hopefully, if you value the power of motivation, then you have an idea of how to start motivating. I wish I could switch motivation and idea in the previous sentence. They didn’t come out in the correct order. :-)
I value your idea(s) and comments about motivation.
Value → Idea → Motivation