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Being Motivated Externally vs. Internally

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.” –Unknown

I talk with lots of clients who are motivated by external factors and other people. This seems to be a source of a lot of inner-conflict as they try to make sense of a crazy world and it doesn't fit neatly into tiny boxes. Maybe it's a societal message to "put on a happy face and bear through it" but I think it misses a pretty big opportunity. What if my actions, behaviors, thoughts were guided more by my inner voice? What if it didn't matter so much what others thought? What if I did advocate in ways that might possibly make others uncomfortable?


With most things, I think there can be a balance too. It's not like we can isolate (well maybe this last year we could) and live disconnected from others. We need to make contributions to others, value friendships, nurture relationships, etc. The goal of differentiation in this would look like honoring our boundaries, standing up to others when needed, and trying to make a difference out of a healthy sense-of-self vs. feeling like we aren't enough. It doesn't seem like it's about the specific activity, but about our motivation behind the activity that in the end matters.


How to kill motivation and ensuing creativity:

1) Promise someone a reward for what they are about to do.

2) Lead them to expect they will be evaluated.

3) Restrict choice.

4) Restrict time.

5) Engage in surveillance and breathe down their necks.

6) Bring all those elements into an environment of competition.


How to encourage motivation:

1) Humans need the luxury of time.

2) To have freedom to work in teams or to work individually.

3) To try new things, to experience failure repeatedly and to try again.

4) To have exploration that promotes healthy sense-of-self.

5) To encourage a person's drive instead of forcing someone to study just to pass the criteria of a test. We learn this in school and then do this in jobs later on.

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