I spend a large amount of my time with clients motivating them towards a state of mind where they feel confident in achieving their goals, and this takes self motivation on my part, because, just like anyone else, at the end of a long day I can feel low on motivation. I have my own strategies to help me keep my motivation high no matter how knackered I might feel and I wanted to share these with you today.
So if you are a coach, trainer, manager, leader, parent, in fact anyone who is in a position that includes the responsibility to motivate others, then this is for you.
A few questions for you. How do you motivate yourself and how do you motivate your clients? Is it working for you and your clients and what can you change to become even more effective?
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 you coach!
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 a lack of direction?
In a nutshell, motivation is an energy, a desire to do, to accomplish. In order to understand this energy 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 towards motivation strategy (positive), or an away from motivation strategy (negative). Now in this context ‘away from’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘bad’, and towards doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’.
I define away from 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 away from 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 do the dishes, 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.
In 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, particularly in relation to health and fitness 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 take your tee shot, and that’s often where your more than likely going to end up! Think about not wanting to get nervous and mess up an important speech, 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 or business for that matter 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 concentrate harder”; 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, and your clients, you manage yourself better and you don’t get ‘resistance’ from yourself or others 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 tidy your room, 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 and so are your clients.
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, 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?
I encourage you to try it right 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 training routine 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 YOUR CLIENTS
I recently read that because 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 client about improving their speed and agility, 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 routine. No missed turns, or sloppy foot movements.” OR “This time, no missed turns, or sloppy foot movements. Let’s start aggressively and maintain concentration throughout the entire exercise.”
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 turn and focus on good foot placement. Let’s start aggressively and maintain concentration throughout the entire exercise.”
Why be affected others’ negativity at all? Let’s teach them how to be positive!