I have always thought of myself as a self-motivated person. As I am maturing and growing into different values and new ideals, my motivation has been shifting and changing as well. I’m wondering just what motivation is, how best to harness it and where it is most useful?
The Oxford Dictionary says motivation is the “reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way”. Its more than just a desire to DO stuff, it is the get up and go and the reason that I get out of my chair and do it. It’s the action.
Recently I have been witness to a few of my friends (finally) making the step to stop smoking. I know with myself a number of years ago when I confronted smoking, I needed to really make a firm decision before even attempting to give it a go! Looking back I what really motivated me was the kind of person I could imagine myself being without cigarettes. So with any given task, goal or outcome, there must be some motivation to complete it. Where does that reason stem from?
If we explore a take on the Nuerolingistic (NLP) theory of ‘away from’ or ‘towards’ motivation, there are 2 types of people.
The first is ‘motivated’ by a desire to move ‘away from’ something. Mostly this is associated with pain of some sort, as humans are programmed to move away from pain and towards pleasure. So an ‘away from’ person will be looking to eliminate something they don’t like, something they don’t want. They will be focussed on the problems in an attempt to move away from them.
The second set is ‘motivated’ by moving ‘towards’ a solution. They will be looking for solutions to create something different in their lives, something they like, something they want, exploring possibilities and focussing on the pleasure that will bring and moving ‘towards’ that.
Let’s explore a few scenarios.
Statement: I want to stop smoking.
An ‘away from’ person will be focussing on the downfalls of smoking. Their motivation will be tied up in that pain, in the feeling of out of control. They will be asking themselves questions like – Why am I addicted to smoking? Why do I smoke? Why am I out of control around smoking? The tricky thing with our mind is that we will always come up with answers to those questions. I am addicted because I am inherently weak; I smoke because don’t have any self control, or its my choice and I will do what I want!; I am out of control because I am addicted and there is nothing I can do about it …etc.
A ‘towards’ motivated person in the same position will be seeing the solution and asking themselves different kinds of questions: How can I overcome this addiction? What would provide me with the greatest motivation to stop? What would I feel like if I didn’t have to be conscious of the smell of smoke? Answers: I seek some help; I could work with someone to support me; I am looking forward to the freedom I will feel from not smoking; …etc.
Statement: I want to be debt free.
Away from Questions: Why have I found myself in this position? Why am I so bad with money? Why are my finances out of control?
Away from answers: I have found myself in this position because I am useless with money; I am so useless with money because I don’t have any self control; my finances are out of control because my parents never taught me how to save; my boss doesn’t think I deserve a raise…etc.
Towards Questions: How long will it take to be debt free if I do this scenario? What would happen if I refinanced and looked at other options? What if I altered my life style to spend less?
Towards Answers: I would be debt free in x months; I could bundle my debt and create a plan to eradicate it; I could sell off some things; I could spend less on eating out…etc.
Statement: I want to be 10 kg lighter
Away from Questions: Why am I so fat? Why can’t I lose weight? Why am I so out of control around food?
Away from Answers: Because I’m useless; Because I’m useless; Because I’m useless and besides which its all Macdonald’s fault that they are on every corner and I can’t resist the marketing, and I can’t operate without sugar, and there’s a party on today so tomorrow will be better…etc.
Towards Questions: How can I be 10kg lighter? I wonder what difference it would make if I went for a walk each day? What if I said no to that chocolate? What if I just started today?
Answers: You could say no to that chocolate; It would make me feel better today; It would make me feel better today; It would make me feel better today…etc.
That is the theory behind motivation according to NLP. Quality questions bring positive solutions. ‘Why’ questions coming from a negative perspective will always find an ‘away from’ answer.
We all know about the power of positive thinking, but how many of us are really listening to the quality of the conversations we are having in our minds? If we could listen a bit closer we might be able to catch ourselves asking the why questions which brings a blame and shame answer and try reframing the questions to how/what if questions which will start changing direction to a ‘ towards’ approach.
The trick here is to become the listener of your thoughts rather than the speaker of your thoughts. Which voice are you paying attention to?