Rejecting rejection

‘Rejecting rejection’ is hardly the most arresting title for a blog, but the whole process of dealing with the constant invalidation that threatens to undermine us on a daily basis is not terribly exciting either, so we will look at this huge topic in a down to earth, no frills way. For example, as you look at this video you could easily miss the hidden invalidating message. That is the way much invalidation works. In effect it is saying that we should not get too carried away with a sense of our own importance – that we are really, really tiny in the order of things and that size does matter. In effect it depreciates and devalues us to a very low level of worthlessness. Sorry, it is a clever production with mind boggling statistics but I cannot endorse its conclusion.

Surely creatures who are able to observe, measure and describe such staggering phenomena deserve to be granted a pedestal of prominence in the Universe. In the order of things we are really quite remarkable. Greatness should not be measured by size but by capacity. We could argue that we are merely an insignificant speck of cosmic dust or we could fairly reason that we are the pinnacle of the existence in all this vastness. We are the only confirmed example of highly intelligent life. Which raises the question as to why we are so quick to denigrate ourselves? The answer is to be found in our ability to make comparisons. Let me explain.

Think back over the years to infancy and childhood and you will identify the foundations of much of our deepest fears and insecurity and the origins of low self esteem. Few creatures are more vulnerable and dependent than the human infant who is totally reliant on others for everything. One of the paradoxes of development is that some of the most important bits happen when the mind is most plastic and open to a wide spectrum of impressions and influences which have the potential to remain for the rest of life. During these years most of us are repeatedly channeled messages of, amongst other things, our inadequacy. The roots of inferiority and rejection go back a long way. We are surrounded by others who are more powerful, more intelligent, more experienced, more capable, bigger, stronger, faster . . got the message – learn your place and don’t get too big for your boots. If we are fortunate we may find reassurance in messages of love and affirmation of caring parents, but generally speaking society will leave us with an clear impression of our inadequacies. One inescapable phenomenon endures – our thinking and beliefs are largely shaped by the psychological and sociological agenda of others. None is so perfect and mature as to be totally free of the vulnerability of inferiority and few free themselves completely of pockets of self-doubt. The hopes and aspirations, fears and prejudices, opinions and beliefs, preferences and persuasions of significant others become embedded and remain ‘us’ until such a time as we challenge them.

Think about it. We are given an identity the moment we are born. ‘It’ is no longer a neonate, but the first sentence each of us ever heard probably included the word ‘boy’ or ‘girl’. We give ‘it’ a name which usually sticks with us for the rest of our lives. We are taught, disciplined, moulded and shaped within a family and a community to behave, talk, think and believe in a given way. To change the status quo of how life has defined us is both challenging and unsettling, yet all of us in varying degrees are driven by the desire to discover our identity and uniqueness.

It is here that the process of comparison takes on significance. With maturity we start to separate and question much of what we have accumulated throughout the formative years. We begin to compare ourselves with others and challenge the reality of the inferiority/superiority messages we have grown up with. We also commence creating our own self-portrait – a blend of the person we perceive ourselves to be, the person we would think we would like to be, and the person we really are. Now that really takes some nutting out! The two constants in all of this are the fear of rejection and the need to be ourselves, to be different. Although individuality is king (especially in adolescence), we also understand the importance of being accepted by the mob but we also want to be substantially different in order to stand out from the mob while not being defined or controlled by the mob – quite a juggling act.

Way to go

There is no joy or benefit in living with rejection and an abiding sense of inferiority. If we can somehow turn the focus away from the negativity of rejection and focus on how to be accepted and affirmed by others as well as ourselves, we can effectively reject rejection. In other words, the more affirming messages we receive of acceptance and adequacy, the less we will feel rejected. Hopefully, the dark shadow of rejection will fade in the sunlight of acceptance. At the heart of the phenomenon of social media is the principle of ‘Likes’. For all the promises of having countless friends the artificial social context of hyperspace is incapable of effectively meeting our core belonging needs. All too often the desperate need to accumulate ‘Likes’ can back-fire resulting in increased anxiety associated with a fear of being rejected, ignored, ridiculed and disliked. Affirmation needs a face-to-face dimension to test the authenticity of the the ‘Likes’. We all need ‘Likes’, but they have to be genuine.

Here are three dimensions. They are not black and white and may merge at times, but they serve as a simple model to understand the mechanics of acceptance

_MG_8625Passive acceptance.

We learn to live with the messages of rejection and inferiority and content ourselves with a trade-off between being part of the group and being regarded as an okay person, even if we might score on the ‘average to inferior’ side of the equation. There is no stigma attached to being average and there is no rule that says we should be the brightest star in the crown. The group at least provides acceptance and allows us to belong somewhere. Inevitably water finds its own level as we engage with others similar to ourselves as we find our place in the companionship of this affinity. Don’t underestimate the power and efficacy of belonging to a group. It provides security in numbers and often shields us from the barbs of those invalidators who capitalise on our sense of inferiority. Social groups, clubs, sporting groups, workplaces, schools, churches, even Facebook, are essential havens for people seeking friendship and acceptance. While we may find that we lack the skills and the stamina to continually battle to hold the high ground on the top of the heap we discover that safety in numbers is a fair compromise. Not everyone needs or wants to be the life of the party or the stand-out celebrity.

The seriously sad situation is that of the person who is so damaged in an abusive relationship that they do not have the emotional and physical resources to extricate themselves from the black hole of rejection. There is only one path out of this hell and that is find the courage to ask for help.

Improve your approval rating.

This really works .. up to a point. Endless words of advice have been given on how to be a more attractive person. From beauty to athleticism, talent, humour, assertiveness, wit and intelligence, developing your potential, packing your own chute . . it is a long list based on the recurring principle that we can add value to ourselves and become a more attractive and likeable person. We intuitively admire and are attracted to people who scrub up well. The first of the great rewards of excellence and achievement is that we begin to feel good about ourselves. There is a justified pride in a job well done, in having purpose and making a difference. The second reward is equally important. Others are much more likely to value and appreciate us. So, why not spend time in personal growth and reap the benefits? There is no question that this journey can and does change us. We grow in confidence and approval as we think and act positively. The more skilled and proficient we become in dealing with life in its many forms, the more likely we are to realise our potential and be surrounded by many who affirm us. It is a great win-win.

But there are also a couple of snags that lurk beneath the surface for the unwary. The first is to confuse character with personality, and the second is to depend on personal growth as some form of a technique to get others to like you. The polish of personality may make a person attractive but it is not a true estimate of their value. To rely on personality and technique as a manipulative tool to persuade others to like us is to set the wheels in motion for eventual rejection. No-one likes to be conned and personality minus character eventually risks revealing itself as a inferior, transparent veneer. An while we are on it, conning yourself is not a good idea either. Gazing into a mirror and repeating a mantra about liking yourself ain’t going to work.

Value adding.

KindnessValue adding (character growth) requires thought, effort and time. It is a metamorphosis that doesn’t come quickly or easily and one never really ‘arrives’, but the inner transformation is real and the results are worth it. This theme will be developed as this blog unfolds.

At the core is the concept of coming to love yourself as you grow in character and integrity. It is impossible to truly love yourself and reject yourself at the same time. Furthermore, as you become ‘loveable’ others will accept and love you too. So the business of value adding not only resolves the problems associated with a sense of inadequacy, it also brings and abundance of love and affirmation.

The sticking point for many is that the idea of loving ourselves contradicts everything we have been taught in the past. We were brought up to consider the needs of others first and not be be selfish. In fact, the Seven Deadly Sins are all rooted in putting yourself at the head of the queue, something which we know intuitively is a formula for rejection. The self love being described here is not selfishness and it is certainly not narcissism. The starting point is simply an acknowledgement of our worth as a human being and the decision to enhance that value through growth of character. It is a commitment to ourselves to become the person we want to be and has little to do with becoming what other people want us to be. It is about being able to live with ourselves and and like ourselves . . genuinely. If you can be at peace with yourself, you will be at peace with the world.

Rather than elaborate at this stage I will suggest a kick-start. Try this short circuit and see how you go. Here it is – BE KIND. Be kind to everyone. Be kind to the cat and the dog. Be kind to yourself. Just be kind. It may take time, but if you hang there you will notice that things will change. Give it a go. You may be surprised at how difficult it is, but also be prepared to experience how transforming it is. There is much more to come.

Next: How much are you worth?

wall09B

110051GH

A gorilla enjoying the morning sun in the Jersey Zoo, Channel Isles, UK

Motivated by our greatest fear

Maslow in describing his hierarchy of needs mainly focused on our needs as motivating behaviour. However, he tended to downplay the power of fear to motivate us. Fear can make tigerpugus back off and run the opposite direction – fast. Conversely it can move us forward through seemingly impossible situations and make us more determined than ever to achieve our objectives. Every hero in war knows the experience of overcoming the fear of death and advancing regardless. Fear can assume many faces and often lurks in the background, not always apparent. It can be so unsettling that we may choose to ignore or deny it. Regardless of what shape it assumes it is a powerful motivator.

We all experience fear, and we all have something that we fear more than anything else. As I child my greatest fear was losing my parents. It was the stuff of many a nightmare. I also had a fear of tigers and pythons – not kidding. But it wasn’t entirely irrational as I grew up in Malaya (now Malaysia) where large cobras and pythons would crawl into our bathroom at night to cool themselves on the concrete floor, hence I learnt bladder control from an early age. I recall the family terminating an early morning walk in the Cameron Highlands when we happened upon fresh tiger pug marks in the mud on our path. With water still oozing into the imprint, our valour yielded to the retreat of discretion, not before my father took a photo of the evidence. Forget the impression of the pad in the mud, the impression on the mind of a seven year-old still endures over sixty year later in the recurring nightmare of being halfway up a coconut palm with a large python descending from above and a tiger waiting for me below. Eat your heart out Carl Yung. Of course, it wasn’t made any easier by the frequent screenings of Dad’s old 16mm movie, Jungle MarauderTigers and pythons were part of my childhood.

 

baby
      A Black Hmong Child, Sapa, Vietnam

In the natural order of things, life begins with connection. In the condensed version, boy meets girl, sperm fertilises egg, egg attaches to uterus and the most amazing bond endures for about nine months. Within moments of birth the new-born attaches to the breast and the foundation for connection is laid for a lifetime. This theme is the topic of a future post, but without doubt for all practical purposes the most powerful motivator of our everyday lives is the need to connect. Once our basic physiological requirements are ticking over most of what we do revolves around connection. It is at the core of who we are. Where it is denied or restricted we will inevitably see disturbances in behaviour. Plain and simple, we are made to connect.

  • Physically, we desire the touch and closeness of others.
  • Emotionally, we need to be affirmed, valued, recognised and appreciated.
  • Mentally, we are stimulated to know more and connect with new ideas, wisdom and insight.
  • Spiritually, we need to feel that we are not alone in the Cosmos. We seek meaning and purpose in our existence. A part of us seeks to connect with a something or someone  greater than ourselves.

If connection is so vital to our existence then it makes sense to suggest that its antithesis is equally important – the fear of rejection. Any hint of disconnection or rejection will quickly betray the presence of underlying fear. Fear is such a powerful force that very few have the ability to hide its indicators, meaning that whenever people experience rejection their behaviour will reveal the accompanying fear.

Most of us are incredibly sensitive to the signals of rejection, to the point that we will even interpret partial rejection as total rejection. If we are rejected by someone who is truly significant the devastation of the rejection is akin to grief. In ways it can be worse, because it is very difficult to bury the pain rejection when the one who rejected you is still alive.

Rejection cuts at the very core of our being. All of our many attempts to add value to ourselves, to build a positive self-image and define ourselves as adequate human beings are assaulted when we are rejected. When this is re-inforced with cutting and angry words or with physical violence or punishment, our sense of worth is at risk of being shattered.

Sadly, few of us are exempt. When the words and gestures of rejection are repeated often enough we will begin to believe their messages. The feedback of others is very powerful, regardless of what brave words or slogans we might invent to soothe ourselves.

It is an awful thing to feel that you are alone, unwanted, disregarded, unloved, and unnoticed. The child who feels this way is in serious trouble. It may be a perception that doesn’t reflect reality, but kids don’t have the maturity and insight to understand what is going on. Deep damage happens when sublimation and denial become the bargaining tools of acceptance and approval. All too quickly the child becomes an adult with the attendant baggage still firmly attached. Rejection is the catalyst for so much unhappiness.

To be continued. . Rejecting rejection

Fear_01Tiger at Mogo Zoo, NSW, Australia

 

 

How our needs motivate us

Anyone who has ever sat through lectures in Psychology 101 or motivational workshops will be familiar with Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’, so what follows will be familiar territory. Common sense and sound psychology go hand in hand. The understanding of the human mind and  behaviour is not the sole domain of the professionals. Many a grandmother is truly worthy of an honorary doctorate in this discipline. In a paper, “A Theory Maslowof Human Motivation”, published in 1943, Abraham Maslow observed what most understand at an intuitive level. However, he successfully put his idea in a neat package and gave it a name, and, although his methodology was a bit suspect and has its share of detractors, in principle it has endured as an easily understood and common sense tool in understanding what motivates behaviour.

Physiological and Safety Needs

In a nutshell it proposes that we are goaded into activity (or inactivity) by our needs, starting with the most basic needs required for survival and then rising through a hierarchy of more refined and abstract psychological and ‘spiritual’ needs. At the heart of the model is the idea that we are unable to rise successfully through the hierarchy until the lower (or previous) need is met. For example, we will consider the very self-evident physiological needs. We need air and water and food to survive. Everything else we do will be put on hold until those needs are fully met. This is, of course, the ultimate argument of environmentalists who argue for the preservation of the essentials elements for life on the planet lest we all die. We can add attending to various bodily functions to this list. Sex, while essential to the propagation of the species and a powerful physical drive, does have a social and sociological dimension to it is as well. For humans it is not as compelling a need as it is, say, for the kamikaze mating ritual of certain spiders and scorpions.

Beyond the elementary physiological needs is a broader spectrum of needs associated with shelter, safety, protection as well as maintaining a secure and healthy environment. We attend to these needs in a variety of ways depending on our circumstances and where we live. Their scope ranges from basic day-by-day survival to maximising our security and enhancement of our level of comfort and lifestyle. We are not very different to most of the creatures of the natural world who spend the bulk of their time in foraging for food, nest-building, looking for a mate and raising a repeat version in the next generation till the whole show is over. If we didn’t fulfil this level of need we would be insecure, miserable and restless. In meeting our security needs we are enabled to get on with living.

need1Floriade spring celebration, Canberra, Australia

Love/Belonging Needs

Maslow developed his ideas during the dark days of WW II at a time when the world was confronted with issues of survival. Some 60 million people would eventually be killed and millions more would end up displaced and homeless. One can understand the practicality of his model. His next level of ‘Love/Belonging’ reflected the enormous disruption to family ties and relationships that war brings and the need to restore security in order to return to normality.  Whether in times of war or peace our need to love and be loved remains as arguably the most powerful universal force. So much of what we do is directed towards meeting this need.

People don’t spend hours in congested commutes, tied to a job they don’t particularly enjoy in environments that threaten their health and well-being because it’s fun. They want the money to pay for car that gets them to work so they can pay off the mortgage on the house – their family haven and retreat where peace and love reign supreme.  Why do we do it, when so often we leave for work while the kids are still asleep and return in the evenings when they are bedded down for the night? Do we risk working too hard that we run out  of quality time to connect? So many put so much effort into meeting their safety and security needs that there is limited time to devote to their belonging needs. In many instances the reality is that they have confused their needs with their wants and risk never being fulfilled at all.

Esteem and Self Actualisation

Much of what Maslow has said up to this point makes sense, though it is noticeably culturally biased towards a Western value system. The final levels of his hierarchy are more open to debate. They are certainly more abstract and harder to tie down. No one would question the importance of esteem, whether in the form of being respected and affirmed by others or self-respect. But it begs the question as to whether it is actually a need. In the same way as happiness is a state and not a goal or an objective, it could be argued that  esteem is a consequence of the healthy psychological state of an integrated or balanced individual.  There is also a ‘chicken and egg’ predicament as to its ranking in the hierarchy. Is esteem an outgrowth of our belonging/loving needs being met, or is it the other way around where the ability to establish a nurturing relationship begins with the confidence and strength of healthy self-esteem?

The pinnacle of self-actualisation is the most subjective of our needs. Maslow described it as ,”What a man can be, he must be”. It is the drive to recognise and then realise our potential. We will never be truly content till this happens. He later questioned his own idea basically because in his personal quest he found himself reaching to another level again – transcendence. But the idea of achieving one’s full potential is flawed because, firstly we are finite and will inevitably run out of time, and secondly the permutations and combinations of our potential are so fluid that reaching it is akin to predicting the shape of a wave. Finite creatures with infinite potential? Think about it. As he approached the end of his life Maslow’s began to reflect on the role of spirituality and altruism in motivation. No, he didn’t find religion, but this next-step in his journey is consistent with that of a person who spent much of his life explaining our existence in terms of a continuum of rising to the next level.

Observations

  • Maslow’s ideas are no longer taken seriously by many in the world of academic psychology, but on the other hand nothing much has replaced it as an introductory tool for the average person to understand motivation. It is not a complete framework, but much of it still has merit.
  • What is undeniable is that need is a powerful motivator – which is the primary premise of this post.
  • For all of the attempts to establish psychology as a science, it does not lend itself well to formulas and academic methodology. The essential frustrating paradox of psychology always recurs – we are all remarkable similar yet remarkably different. In real life we tend to determine our own needs and sort out our own hierarchy accordingly. The nature and intensity of many of our needs varies from one person to the next. They also change over time and are often confused with our wants.
  • The common factor of needs and wants is desire. We can get by without our wants being met, but surviving without our needs being met is much more tenuous.
  • Surprisingly, there is infrequent reference to the other major motivator – fear. It might be seen as a negative, but is actually an incredibly powerful motivator (more on this in the next blog).
  • In practical terms some of the more powerful motivators don’t get much mention in this hierarchy. We have a strong desire to be in control, to organise and add structure to our lives. We go to great lengths to achieve a level of predictability and eliminate uncertainty. Control involves much more than safety and security and is one of the most constant motivators.
  • austinWithout doubt, the most powerful motivator which has the capacity to override every other need is the hardest to define and describe. I settle for the term ‘spiritual need’ for want of a better term. It has its roots in belief and conviction but also in the experience of transcendence which cannot be effectively described or measured. It goes beyond our all other needs as we engage in the search for meaning in the journey of discovery of who we are in the big picture. More on this down the track.

In 2011 I visit the city of Hue (pronounced “whey”) in Vietnam and was shown the scorched relic of an old blue Austin. In 1963 the Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, drove this car into the centre of Saigon where he self-immolated, all for the need to respond to the power of a belief so strong that all other needs were subjugated and he forsook life itself. The image became one of those unforgettable moments of history as an indelible reminder of how needy we are as creatures and how driven we are by our needs.

need2Glenorchy Lagoon, South Island, New Zealand
motivation2Lake Fagnano, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

What makes us do the things we do

Motivation vs manipulation

Bison

I have a hunch that in recent years the notion of motivation has been hijacked by motivational speakers, motivational workshops and pretty compilations of favourite motivational quotes.  To illustrate, consider these battling bisons which I photographed in Alaska. The motivational guru would offer a plethora of insights and strategies on how to win, how to be head of the herd and how to become the greatest, most successful and richest bison in bovine history. That is what the word motivation has come to mean. It is inextricably tied into the idea of inspiring others, soaring to greater heights, fulfillment, vision, goal setting, determination, excitement, challenge, visualisation, mastery, achievement, excellence and action. What parades as ‘motivation’  is more akin to ‘manipulation’ and a distorted idea of success. You will notice that it seems to be about one person motivating or inspiring another to do something. So you end up with the scenario of a person attending a seminar in order to move up a notch in their life and the implicit expectation that someone else will provide the impetus and the inspiration. It relies on the assumption that the motivator knows what’s best for you. This definition has taken hold and many associate motivation with the process of being empowered to do something. It is a secondary meaning of the word, however, and not the direction this discussion is heading.

The primary focus of motivation is to understand why we do the things we do, not how to do them, or, even more sinister, how to get other people to do the things we want them to do. Motivation asks why these bisons are banging their heads together. What drives this behaviour? Why are the cows so disinterested? What are the forces or the stimuli that cause bison to act in this way? The secondary definition would encourage us to devise ways of controlling the behaviour for our own purposes. Manipulation implies interference and introducing an external agenda to control action or responses in a particular way. It also spends considerable time convincing people that this is what they want and need. There is a world of difference between the two. To illustrate we can turn the tables and ask, What motivates motivational speakers to conduct motivational seminars and write motivational books? Why do corporations invest so much in contracting motivational speakers to motivate their staff? Is it because they value them so highly that they want  to see them become better people or is there an agenda to make them more productive employees? Is there a profit-productivity bottom line hovering somewhere in the background? And why do people attend such seminars so willingly? Are they bothered by a sense of inadequacy or do they see attendance as a stepping stone in a career path? Yeah, but we don’t ask the boss those sort of questions, do we?

Some years ago I was invited to attend a three-day motivational seminar being conducted by one of the world’s leading motivational speakers. Before the doors even opened the hype was already seeping into the 3,000 attendees who had paid big bucks to attend. I have never witnessed such mass manipulation of so many people so willing to be manipulated. Repeatedly I found myself asking “why can’t people see the the mind games and control? ” It smacked of well-known brain washing  techniques, and I found it quite unsettling. Eventually I could see no reason to endure the pressure and I walked out.

The importance of understanding motivation

controllersThe early Behaviourists observed the relationship between stimulus and response in initiating certain behaviours in animals. Who hasn’t heard of Pavlov and his slobbering dogs? At a very base level, motivation is essentially about push and pull, avoidance and engagement, need and satiation. Call them triggers or switches, we reach a point where their force or impetus is sufficient to make us do something. If I am starving to the point of death I will eat any food I can get my hands on. If I am peckish I will open the fridge door to see what is on offer. Now it becomes more subtle and complicated – cheese, chocolate, fruit or a nutritious can of beer? Not only do we build a hierarchy of our many needs over time, once satisfied we go on to create our own preferences and options associated with those needs. This is all grass roots motivational stuff. The one factor that is at the crux of motivation and behaviour is control. The formula is quite simple. The more I am able to control my environment – my world – the more satisfied and safer I will be. We say that love makes the world go round, but consistently across the natural world it is not love (apologies to all romantics) but control. Survival, safety and comfort are all dependent upon control.

 

Let’s take this to the next level. Central to survival in my world is this profound need to have a high degree of control over my environment. But look who is sharing that environment with me! You, and you . .  and you . . and you. And all of yous are all eyeing off the same resources that I have my eye on, and yous all want to control your world. Since I am part of your world, you probably want to control me too, which means that we all end up trying to control each other in what has now become a shared environment. While we may be social creatures by birth and we certainly need each other, we all face this dilemma of control. Every last one of us wants some level of control. The result is inevitable – power plays, conflict, manipulation, and dominance as we all engage in the business of discovering how much control we can exercise over each other. Personal control is essential to one’s sense of autonomy and freedom and intrinsic to establishing identity. Losing control is the basis of invalidation and a guaranteed formula for conflict. We can easily find ourselves in the predicament of wanting to be functional and happy but relying on control to establish that desirable estate. Considering that one of the main reasons why people are unhappy is that they are caught up in dysfunctional  and controlling relationships, we can start to see why the subject of motivation becomes so important.

Who wins? The answer to this question is self evident. The most powerful tend to rise to the top of the heap. The theme of power will be developed as this dialogue continues, but suffice to say that this process is the breeding ground of much unhappiness. We live in a highly manipulated and manipulative society. The external barrage of demands on our attention, assets and affections is relentless. And as the world’s population increases the power of the average individual diminishes.  For all the emphasis on the importance and value of the individual, the supremacy of our rights and the uniqueness of our identity, we have become a remarkably homogeneous lot clamouring for a voice and a presence – have you noticed how Facebook pages all look basically the same and are filled with the same circulating content? The puzzling dilemma is that we convince ourselves that we are highly independent and in control of our lives, when the reality for many is the opposite. We can easily be manipulated into thinking that we are in charge while others are actually dictating terms, even determining what we think, how we spend our money and what we eat. It is control by stealth.

Here are two things that need to happen in order to make sense of this dilemma.

Awareness – Develop the skill of being aware of the power plays taking place in every significant interaction. Once you are able to identify the ways power is used (by others as well as yourself) you place yourself in a position of advantage and are better placed to choose how to respond appropriately.

Understanding – Here comes the motivation bit. It not only helps to recognise what people are doing. It helps a great deal more when you have the insight as to why they are doing it. With this understanding comes power.

Develop these two skills, add a good measure of wisdom, maintain integrity in your choices and you will become a truly powerful person. But I hasten to add that we need to learn how to use power. Using power without controlling others will be the focus of a later blog post.

A simple definition of motivation

Much has been said and written about motivation over the years – some of it being very involved and technical – but for the purpose of this discussion I will reduce it to three basic questions.

Motivation is concerned with:

  • What begins or initiates behaviour? Behaviour doesn’t just happen. There is always a trigger that starts the ball rolling.
  • What keeps it going? Usually related to the impetus that initiates behaviour is the rationale for sticking with it.
  • What stops it? We often forget about this important one. Every activity is finite and there comes a time of completion. We need to know when that time arrives, how best to let go and when to intervene.
motivation_01A narrow boat exiting a tunnel on a canal near Birmingham, UK