Self Improvement and Motivation

Self Improvement and motivation are usually in a yin and yang relationship. They can at times be locked in a combat for supremacy, but other times self improvement and motivation are traveling buddies, arm-in-arm, each carrying the other.

Self improvement is the goal and motivation is the means to get there. Sometimes the horse gallops, other times he’s kicking and bucking you off his chaffed saddle. To say that one depends upon the other is an understatement, as it may be said we only ever do that which we’ve been motivated to at any given moment.

Even given a situation in which one finds him or herself under heavy duress, people can find themselves committing either acts of heroism or villainy, seemingly against the odds.

First, let’s consider the objects of this dynamic relationship. The obvious problem is that it is we who are the objects of such a discussion. It is our self improvement and motivation that is under question, and therein is our biggest problem. We are ever-changing and helplessly dependent beings. We begin life derived from our parents. Our existence and mood depends upon things mostly out of our control. We may pack an umbrella and predict the next storm but are powerless to stop or start the deluge. As our frustration at the daunting reality of being a frail human tempts us to lose focus of our goal (self improvement or otherwise), our mood becomes an ocean liner’s anchor on a kayak and drags us down.

What to do in this bleak situation? Are we doomed to failure at every turn? How do we succeed in motivating ourselves to improve ourselves?

Knowing our limits is really the first step to freedom from perpetual depression and frustration, actually. It has been my observation and personal experience that solving any problem begins with its identification. Problem: we are unable to change everything we would like to change. Why is that so important? Simple: it frees us from the tyranny of trying to move Granite Mountains by banging our heads harder into them. Our solutions to our obstacles in life then become more realistic. Instead of moving the granite monolith mocking our progress by pulverizing our skulls upon their immovable faces, we can simply climb. We can go around the long way. We can hitch a ride upon any number of vehicles designed to overcome such obstacles. We have options! This realization further frees us from the tyrant of frustration. We aren’t as helpless as we’d first thought.

We are only doomed to failure and misery if we attempt the same thing a thousand times, complaining all the way that our attempts are getting us nowhere. Naturally that would be the case, granite doesn’t mind if you pound your flesh upon its face. You will lose every time, and perhaps complain that it hurts. Whatever you do, once you’ve identified such a blockade to progress, find another path around or over the obstacle. Exploring options, even grim options we may not have bothered to consider heretofore, will go a long way towards motivating us to continue. The quest for self improvement at this juncture is stymied: delayed, but not lost. There is hope.

Continuing the journey of self improvement will require a dogged determination to reach the goal, even if it feels as if our engine of motivation has quit along the way. By the way, motivation isn’t merely “feeling like going on,” rather that is merely emotion or mood. Mood is a very important character in the play, but often a doppelganger for motivation. Motivation is that dogged and central drive within us that is connected somehow to adrenaline and other hormones in our body. We fight or flee when we’re most motivated to do so. Motivation is sometimes helped and other times hindered by mood. Running the marathon of self improvement means our motivation must not be confused with our mood. Only when our mood becomes the wind driving our motivational sails can we allow mood to play a key role. Other times, mood can become a champion fighter in the opposite corner of the ring. We must fight against it or ignore it when our motivation to continue is subdued by a negative mood or attitude.

Practically speaking, it’s rather elementary to discover ways to motivate ourselves. Just about every motivator we know was introduced to us in grade school or in our mother’s lap. We are motivated by love, motivated by the prize of time and quality of life…and we’re all motivated a little differently. To one, money is a huge motivator. To another, simply eating a square meal propels him forward. My advice to you is this: when you set out on this course of self improvement and motivation becomes an issue, think of where you’ve been and where you’re going. Set your face like flint against going back to who and what you’re “improving from,” the old you, and remind yourself why you thought self improvement and motivation were really all that important in the first place.

Motivation – The Driving Impulse Behind Our Attitudes And Behaviour

Motivation is an important aspect of our lives. In fact we could say that there is hardly anything that we think, say or do without a particular reason or goal, without a particular and subjective answer to the question “Why?” It makes no difference whether it is about our behavior at work or at home, the way we communicate with people around us or any other form of activity you might think of. Motivation is always in the background even when we are not consciously aware of it.

Motivation as a drive to act works on multiple levels and by definition having a single motive is only temporary condition. We are constantly and often automatically shifting the perspective as we switch between different activities. For instance, it is obvious that we wake up in the morning and go to the office with the implicit notion of earning a living. Then, in the evening we go out and have a beer with a friend motivated by the need for a nice talk. If we could imagine a complete interruption of our conscious and subconscious motives we would find ourselves into an inactive, static state of being. In reality, however, it almost never happens.

If we stick to above explanations, it is logical to expect that by default there would be perfect alignment between motive and act i.e. if the motive is there the act should also take place. Unfortunately, it is not always that simple. I am sure that everybody can think of a conscious goal or desired result (i.e. the motive is there) which however is not backed up by any form of act towards its achievement. We can speculate that maybe the relationship between act and motivation is one-directional, that each act has an underlying motive but each motive does not necessary instigate an act. A more logical explanation, however, would be that the only reason not to act out a motive is that there is another and stronger motive to the opposite effect. This goes back to the multiple levels of motivation already mentioned and the overlaying of different motives which depending on their intensity produces a “net effect” and determines whether to act or not. A conflict arises between the wish to reach a goal and the lack of will to act upon it. It might come disguised in any form, a typical one being to find all types of “good reasons” to delay it day after day. Although formally relieved by having an excuse, as long as the desired result remains with us we keep on having the inner conflict of knowing we are not getting any closer to it.

Above said, we come to a more practical question. How should we motivate ourselves enough to act upon a desired result? One possible approach would be to try to discover and cancel motives that are counter-productive to our goal and end up with a positive “net motivation” that would give us the necessary push. This approach, however, seems not so easy. First of all, as already mentioned, there are conscious and unconscious motives, the latter being not so easily uncovered. Secondly, the potential multitude of offsetting motives makes it uncertain how many of them we shall be able to uncover. With all these complexities, we might look for a different solution. Instead of focusing on multitudes of already existent counter-productive motives, we might direct our efforts towards developing or adopting a new motive which is intense enough to produce a positive net result, not by reducing the “minus” side but rather by increasing the “plus” side.

Now, maybe here is the right place to point out that in some cases we do not necessarily have to motivate ourselves to act. That is particularly true when the desired result is external. Thus instead of repairing the fence by yourself, you might have somebody do it for you. Even with respect to external results, however, it is not always possible to skip the personal effort. Finally, when it comes to any form of personal transformation, there is no way out. As far as the wanted result should happen within yourself, nobody and nothing can relieve you from the burden – you either act or you never get it. It is obvious that in the latter case, you are facing a problem of strengthening your motivation.

Even though motivational mechanism works on an inner level its trigger might come (and actually this is what happens most of the time) from the external world. A good example might be your choice to go to the gym instead of exercising your body at home. If you have ever tried both ways you would likely agree that one of the benefits of the gym is that its overall atmosphere and the people sweating around in physical effort subconsciously act as stimuli to your own practice. On the other hand, at home it is much more difficult to stay focused as you find good excuses in all kind of minor details to surrender to your laziness.

Getting Motivated: Towards or Away From Your Goals

Some people are motivated away from the things that they don’t like and some people are motivated towards the things they want. For example, some people will work on increasing their income because they don’t like where they live or they don’t like being in debt. That would be called an Away From strategy; moving away from something that is uncomfortable. A Towards person increases their income because they are thinking of the home that they prefer or they are thinking about wanting to increase their savings or their retirement fund. Most people have some combination of both such as 60/40 in either direction. Statistically, this is the most common combination with most people leaning in one direction or the other rather than equally balanced. There is a social bias that a Towards strategy is preferable but that is not necessarily true. If someone has an Away From strategy and it is working then it is a good strategy.

If you are primarily motivated away from things that you don’t like then it is important that you use that strategy successfully to stay motivated. If your house is messy, there is a point where it gets to be too much and it gets tidied. At what point does the tidying begin? Does it begin at a comfortable level or is your house a disaster before you reach your threshold to clean it? Someone with an Away From strategy for cleaning their house has to notice the house becoming uncomfortable to get motivated to clean it. If you put on blinders and ignore the mess then your Away From strategy isn’t working. You will have to take the blinders off and notice how uncomfortable your house is to change the threshold and have a house that is comfortable.

A Towards person is thinking about how nice the house looks when it is clean and is motivated to get it to look the way they like it. If the Towards person forgets what their house looks like with everything put away then there is no motivation that way either. For a Towards person it is important to remember what is good about a tidy house so that they stay motivated to keep it the way that they like it.

In both cases the amount of work and effort is the same but one is motivated away from messiness and the other is motivated towards tidiness.

If you think about it for a moment you can probably figure out which motivation strategy you are using. Think about something that you regularly get done. Are you motivated away from discomfort or towards a goal? You probably have a different strategy in different contexts. Most people have variations depending on whether they are motivated in their career, at home, in their relationship, etc. If you’re not sure which strategy you are using in these different contexts you can begin to observe yourself being motivated to find out which strategy you primarily use.

If your motivation strategy isn’t working there are things you can do to turn it on more strongly. If you are primarily Away From, build your Away From strategy. Build your discomfort level by really noticing how bad the thing you don’t like is. If you hate your job, career, home or finances, and you want to change it – really notice how much you hate it and build that until you start moving away from it. If you have goals and things that you really want, notice how much you want them and develop that strongly. Think about what it will be like when you have what you want. Make it strong and really compelling.

Towards people are focused on a goal. They are thinking about what they want to achieve. They are motivated by what they want to get, have, achieve, or attain. They are energized by their goals and tend to be good at managing their priorities.

Away From people notice what they are avoiding, getting rid of and not allowing to happen. Their motivation is often triggered by an increase in difficulty or discomfort such as a new problem or an existing problem getting bigger that becomes a threat. Away From people respond to deadlines, penalties and negative consequences. They are good at troubleshooting, problem-solving, identifying obstacles and picking up on the things that could go wrong. They are motivated by fixing problems, correcting mistakes and a lack of mistakes. This is their style of writing and studying. They look for errors and correct them, constantly upgrading their accuracy by making corrections. They are often distracted by goals and are more motivated by a response to something negative. They are sometimes disliked by Towards people by being seen as negative, cynical, jaded, managing crises, and drawn to problems. To accurately determine an Away From strategy get beyond the surface reason for doing something. Most of us have been trained that it is better to think positively so our first response is often going to be in a positive direction. Dig deeper for the real reason that you want what you want and look for an avoidance pattern or a moving away strategy. Identify what you want and then find the reason why you want it. Do you want it because of what it will give you or do you want it because of what you will avoid? Away From people set goals, but they do it to avoid failure. Their reason for setting goals is Away From and that is what triggers them to take action on their goals. Away From people sometimes get easily distracted by any little thing that goes wrong. For an Away From person’s strategy to work they need to have a balance of some Towards thinking to stay focused on what they need to fix and what they want to accomplish.

How to Recognize Motivational Speakers in Pulpits

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. — Galatians 1:8

Over the years I’ve watched, with indignation and concern, the proliferation of motivational speakers in pulpits. I’ve watched how many churches and preachers are replacing the gospel of Jesus Christ with motivational speaking. I’ve watched how some of these preachers have even built mega churches and empires with this brand of the “gospel.” But even worse, I’ve watched how droves of people have been misled into believing that they are getting fed the Bread of Life; i.e. the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ, not knowing that they are being served motivational speeches on a platter, spiced with scriptures.

But I’m not as concerned about these motivational speakers in pulpits, as I am concerned about the spiritual well being of the thousands of people attending their churches; and the several million worldwide television viewers whose lives are being impacted by their teachings.

It is this concern for the spiritually helpless that has led me to expose some of these preachers for who they really are; to warn you, the followers and would-be followers of these preachers. I write to alert the Body of Christ about this proliferation in the Church; the danger of motivational speaking packaged as the gospel; and to teach you how to recognize a motivational speaker in the pulpit when you come across one; which I say, sadly, that there are many out there.

So, let’s start by identifying the two leading motivational speakers in pulpits or what I call, “motivational preachers.” The two leading motivational preachers of our time are Pastor Joel Osteen of the New Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas and Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House, Dallas, Texas!

Surprised? Maybe! Maybe not! However, if you are surprised to learn that these two are motivational preachers, perhaps it’s because they are your favorite preachers. Perhaps, it’s because you’ve always thought them to be “O Great Ones.” Or maybe it’s because of their success, popularity, ministry size, followership, etc. or even because of the good they’ve done in society. For instance, Jakes’ Woman Thou Art Loosed book or prison outreach ministry. Or Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now.

As humans, we tend to attribute worldly success, good works, ministry size, popularity, followership, etc. with godly success. Therefore, the bigger a church, the more popular or successful a preacher, the more success we think a person or organization has. We even credit these successes to God’s blessings. But worldly success, good works, ministry size or even large followership is not necessarily the measure of godly success. A person can have all these, yet not be godly. For instance, Oprah Winfrey has all these attributes, but yet she’s not a preacher; neither can her success be considered godly; because of what she espouses.

So we cannot go by worldly success, good works, popularity, ministry size or even followership. In fact, T.D. Jakes in a CNN/TIME article was described as “Oprah-in-a-pulpit. But for Winfrey’s generic spirituality, Jakes substitutes God.” That is to say that, if Oprah were to be a preacher, she’d probably have one of the largest churches in the world! But thankfully, she has enough sense to stay in her lane (at least for now). So, all these attributes have nothing to do with godly success!

But just before we look at why Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes are motivational preachers, let’s first understand what motivational speaking is, the benefits of motivational speaking and the danger of packaging motivational speaking as the gospel.

What is Motivational Speaking?

Simply, motivational speaking is an encouraging, uplifting speech; intended to motivate the listeners to do better and be better in specific areas of their lives. In a sense, the motivational speaker is an encourager – i.e. the people’s cheer leader. He or she motivates people into action. Motivational speaking is based primarily on mental or human strength and not God’s strength. It is what a person can do in his or her own strength, rather than what God can do through the person in His strength.

Benefits of Motivational Speaking

Without a doubt, motivational speaking has its place in society. Don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits of motivational speaking. For instance, it uplifts people; makes them feel good about themselves. It motivates them to see that they can do better and don’t have to settle for less or live beneath their means. It makes people strive for excellence, forgetting the past – past hurts, bitterness, anger, malice, etc. It can make people reach or strive for their full potentials. It can even help some unforgiving people to forgive those that have hurt them.

So yes! There are many benefits of motivational speaking. There’s nothing wrong with motivational speaking; IF it’s outside the pulpit. And as long as the people listening to it know for a fact that that’s what they are listening to. It’s only a problem when it’s coming from the pulpit as the gospel, and it’s mistaken for the gospel. We don’t go to church to listen to motivational speaking. Neither do we go to church to be entertained. Rather, we go to church to be taught the uncompromised Word of God, rightly divided. If motivational speaking is what one wants, one can just go to a Les Brown or Willie Jolley speaking engagement, to be motivated.

Motivational Humorous Speakers Can Help Motivate Meeting Attendees!

Motivational humorous speakers can help to motivate meeting attendees at your next event. Motivation has been defined as the deployment of physical, mental and emotional energy toward a specific task or goal. In pure psychological terms motivation is often referred to initiation, intensity and persistence of a specific behavior and by employing a motivational humorous speaker you can tap into true motivation. Motivation can be a temporal and dynamic state that should not be confused with emotion or personality. A motivational humorous speaker can help point out that motivation is having the desire and willingness to do something. A motivated person can be reaching for a long-term goal such as becoming a professional athlete or a more short-term goal like learning how to speak conversational Spanish and often times a motivational humorous speaker helps.

Intrinsic Motivation

Motivational humorous speakers can help stress that there are two types of motivational influences or forces at work when trying to accomplish a specific task or goal. Motivational humorous speakers show that intrinsic motivation is present when people engage in an activity for its own sake, without some obvious external incentive present. Learning a new skill or hobby is a typical example, like our example above of learning conversational Spanish. Intrinsic motivation has been studied intensely by psychologists and humorous motivational speakers since the early 1970s, and numerous studies have found it to be associated with high goal achievement and enjoyment by participants. Motivational humorous speakers also help participants to enjoy the meeting experience and learn about motivation at the same time.

Extrinsic motivation

Traditionally, motivational humorous speakers articulate how extrinsic motivation has been used to motivate employees with tangible rewards such as pay raises, promotion and punishments. Intangible rewards such as praise or public commendation can work as well and a competent motivational humorous speaker will demonstrate this in his/her presentation. However with the United States economy transitioning from manufacturing to service industries, the importance of intrinsic motivation rises:

The further we move jobs move from pure manufacturing, the harder it becomes to measure individual productivity and this makes the case to employ a motivational humorous speaker. This effect is more evident for knowledge workers and truly apparent in teamwork. A lack of objective or universally accepted criteria for measuring individual productivity may make individual rewards arbitrary.
Since by definition intrinsic motivation does not rely on financial incentives, it is cheap in terms of dollars but expensive in the fact that the inherent rewards of the activity and the motivational humorous speaker can help you attendees internalized a motivational mantra.
However, intrinsic motivation is no cure-all for employee motivation and the motivational humorous speaker can point out problems such as:
For many business activities it may not be possible to find any or enough intrinsically motivated people, thus the need for a motivational humorous speaker.
Intrinsically motivated employees, even after the motivational humorous speaker finishes will need to focus on their goals for the future.
Intrinsic motivation is easily made a negative that can cause it to be extinguished or stomped out in the organization, e.g., additional extrinsic motivation is known to have a negative impact on intrinsic motivation in many cases, the perceived value that a motivational humorous speaker brings to the equation.
Motivational humorous speakers are your best bet when trying to motivate your employees and can be an integral part of a successful meeting or event.

Doug Dvorak is the CEO of DMG Inc., a worldwide organization that assists clients with productivity training, corporate humor and workshops, as well as other aspects of sales and marketing management. Mr. Dvorak’s clients are characterized as Fortune 1000 companies, small to medium businesses, civic organizations and service businesses. Mr. Dvorak has earned an international reputation for his powerful educational methods and motivational techniques, as well as his experience in all levels of business, corporate education and success training.