The psychology of self-motivation
Now, when I think of boundaries, I think of rules, regulations, and restrictions.
And I think of the parents, and the teachers, and the supervisors, who hold us accountable with regard to those boundaries.
That’s not a bad thing.
Yeah, I know, if you’re like me, I need supervisors, I need someone holding me accountable to do the right thing.
But beyond boundaries is something different.
I think of those leaders, those teachers, those supervisors, those parents who inspire us to go beyond the call of duty, to do more than we have to, to do it not because they tell us, but because we want to.
I would like to share with you what the research says about how to make that happen.
And not just for other people, but for yourself.
Here is the deal, how could we inspire people and ourselves to be self-motivated?
There is another word. It’s called “empowerment”.
You’ve heard that word, right?
Now, the management definition of empowerment is, “Get it done. Just get it done.
With fewer resources and less time, I empower you, make it happen.”
I’m talking about feeling empowered.
Feeling empowered is when you’re self-motivated.
Now, if you want to know if you feel empowered, or if your child, your student, your worker feels empowered, ask them three questions.
If they say yes to these three questions, they will feel empowered.
And by the way, this is not based on common sense, this is based on research.
But you’ve all been there, so it’ll feel like common sense.
Question number one: can you do it? Albert Bandura calls it self-efficacy.
Do you believe you can do it?
Do you have the time, the knowledge, and the training to do what we are asking you to do?
If you answer yes, good.
Second question: will it work?
Do you believe that what we’re asking you to do, the process, will work?
Albert Bandura calls that response-efficacy: believing that the behavior would lead to the ultimate outcome.
By the way, that takes education.
We have to show them the data, we might show them some theory, we show them, teach them why this might work.
I just used the word ‘education’. Earlier, I used the word ‘training’.
Is there a difference?
In elementary school, we call it education.
Middle school: education. High school: education.
College: higher education.
Then you go to industry, what do you call it?
You have your training department. There must be a difference.
Well, you know the difference.
Do you want your kids to have sex education or sex training?
And your kids might answer the question differently.
Because you know that training means you do the behavior and you get feedback.
That’s powerful. Powerful.
Have you ever heard this word ‘online training’?
It’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?
I mean training is to watch the behavior, but online training is like plastic silverware, jumbo shrimp, legal brief, country music.
I mean, it doesn’t work.
OK, so if you answer yes, till it will work, third question: is it worth it?
So we’ve had a training question, we’ve had an educational question;
this is the motivational question.
Do you believe the consequences– This is about the consequences.
B.F. Skinner taught us this: “selection by consequences”.
Dale Carnegie quoted B.F. Skinner and said that from the day you were born, everything you did was because you wanted something for doing it.
Consequences. Is it worth it?
So you have to convince people that it’s worth it.
Now, by the way, if you answer yes to those three questions, you feel competent, am I right?
You feel competent at doing worthwhile work.
You’ve all been there.
When you feel competent at doing worthwhile work, you’re more likely to be self-motivated.
You’ve been there. No one has to look over you.
Here is the challenge leaders, teachers.
How do you inspire people to feel competent?
Well, you give them feedback. You give them recognition.
You show them they are competent.
OK. I got one more another C word: choice.
Your common sense will tell you.
When you believe you have a sense of autonomy, a sense of choice in what you’re doing, you feel more self-motivated.
B.F. Skinner taught us that, too, in his book “Beyond Freedom and Dignity”, way back in 1971.
Reading that book changed my life, because I realized that I am controlled by consequences.
But sometimes I don’t feel controlled.
When I’m working for a pleasant consequence, it feels good, it feels like I’m working to get something.
When I’m working to avoid an aversive consequence, I feel controlled.
That is called negative reinforcement.
So here is a challenge, leaders: how do we get people to become success seekers, rather than failure avoiders?
First day of Introductory Psychology class I teach two classes of 600 students, maybe some of you’ve been in that class and remember the first day I say, “How many are here to avoid failure?”
And 80% raise your hand.
I say, “Well, thanks for coming, I know you’re motivated, but you are not happy campers.
You probably told your friends, ‘I’ve got to go to class. It’s a requirement.’
Not ‘I get to go to class. It’s an opportunity.’
You probably woke up to an alarm clock not an opportunity clock.”
It’s all in how you see it. Really, it’s all in how you see it.
It’s your paradigm.
It’s how you communicate to others and how you communicate to yourself.
So, Ellen Langer said in her book “Mindfulness”, and psychologists know –
“When you perceive choice, you perceive motivation.”
You’re more motivated.
So the deal is, for yourself sit back and reflect, be mindful of the choices you have.
And talk about being a success seeker, rather than a failure “avoider”.
It’s all how you talk, how you communicate to yourself and to others.
I got a fourth C word: community.
Psychologists know that social support is critical.
People who perceive a sense of relatedness, a sense of connection with other people, feel motivated, and they are happier.
I want to recite a poem.
It’s called “The cookie thief” by Valerie Cox.
And as I recite this poem, there is only two characters, a men and a lady put yourself in the situation.
Be mindful, think about the situation and what you would do.
OK? Here we go.
A woman was waiting at an airport one night
With several [long] hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see
That the man beside her as bold as could be
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene
She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock
As this gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d blacken his eye.”
With each cookie she took, he took one too
When only one was left she wondered what he’d do
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh
He took the last cookie and he broke it in half
He offered her a half as he ate the other
She snatched it from him and thought, “Oh, brother.
This guy has some nerve, and he’s also rude.
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude.”
She had never known when she had been so galled
And sighed with relief when her flight was called
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate
Refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate
She boarded the plane and sank in her seat
Then she sought her book which was almost complete
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise
There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes
“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair
“Then the others were his, and he tried to share.”
“Too late to apologize,” she realized with grief
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.
So, where were you, when I was–
Where were you? Who’s side were you on?
Were you thinking independent? Or interdependent?
I don’t blame you if you think independent.
That’s how we are raised.
Nice guys finish last. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Gotta blow your own horn.
We come in this life of ours dependent of others,
and then we can’t wait to become teenagers.
We are too old to do what kids do. Too young to do what adults do.
So that we will do that nobody else would do to assert our independence.
And some of us gets stuck there. We are stuck.
I’ll do it myself. I don’t need you.
We need each other. We have to have each other’s back.
We need a sense of community.
This independence culture that we got, we have to move to interdependent.
OK, four “C” words that can fuel self-motivation,
and I think can fuel actively caring for people.
Let me tell you a story to put it all together.
It happened over 60 years ago. I remember it like yesterday.
My parents asked me, “Hey, Scott.
How would you like to get drum lessons? How would you like to play the drums?”
Oh man! Would I ever?
I’m thinking of Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.
Most of you guys don’t know those names, but they were the drummers.
In those days, the drum was in front of the band.
They had White Pearl drum sets, and I saw it myself. That was my vision.
I had a vision: consequences. That was my vision.
And I said, “Yeah, I want to take drum lessons.”
So the teacher would bring his drum set next to mine.
I didn’t have a nice drum like this.
My parents bought me a beatable drum at an auction.
And they said to me, “If you get better, if your teacher tells us you get they are holding me accountable – teacher says you are getting better, we will get you a better snare drum, and then a bass drum, and then some cymbals.”
And that was my vision, and that kept me going:
So the teacher would come in, and he would show me stuff:
this is how–, left hand;
this is how Buddy Rich plays with his left hand and his right hand.
and then he’d do things like a flam.
Can you hear that at the back? You OK? And this is a rimshot.
He would show me stuff. I was just 10 years old, remember?
And when he showed me stuff, I felt, “Wow!”
He showed me this little simple drumbeat, “Watch me, Scott, watch this.”
And I practiced it. And I did it. I am feeling competent.
He showed me a paradiddle, “Listen. (Playing drums) Paradiddle, paradiddle.”
“You go home and practice; next week, I want to see your paradiddling.
I said, “Watch this.”
And I said, “Watch this.”
He said, “That’s a double paradiddle. We didn’t get there yet.”
I am really ahead. (Laughter) Because I’m self-motivated.
I feel competent.
I’m walking through Newberg High School, Allentown, Pennsylvania.
I see the music teacher, and he says,
“I’ve heard you’re learning to play the drums.”
I said, “Yeah! I’m getting good.”
He said, “You can march in the band. You can be the snare drummer.”
Wow! That felt good. Another vision.
Then the teacher comes into my–
– these are private lessons, by the way, two dollars, that was a long time ago –
He said, “Scott! Ready to do a drum roll.”
I said, “Of course, I’m ready for a drum roll.”
And he says, “Watch this, Scott! Here you go. Watch this.”
“Hmm… could you do that again?”
“Scott. This is easy. Watch me.”
“Now, you practice that, and next week, I want to see your drum roll.”
He comes back the next week and says, “How is your drum?”
“Hmm… I can do a paradiddle.”
“That’s regression. Ha-ha. I want to see a drum roll.”
Week after week, now we’re talking about distress.
Now we’re talking about apathy.
Now we are talking about learned helplessness.
That’s what psychologists call it.
I remember walking through that elementary school and seeing the music teacher who said, “So, Scott, how are you doing? How are the drums?” “Huh, not so good. I can’t do a drum roll.”
You know, like adults always say, ” Never say can’t.
You can be anything you want to be, Scott.”
“No. I can’t do a drum roll.
I’ve tried and I tried, and I’ve kind of given up.”
And he says, “Scott, when you ever get overwhelmed, break it down.”
Break it down. Can you do a paradiddle?”
“OK, what’s the second beat?” “Two beats.”
“Yeah. Well, that’s a drum roll, Geller. It’s two beats.”
You go home and practice, and you say, “Dad and mama,”
– remember I was just 10 –
“You go ‘dad and mama, dad and mama’.”
It’s a drum roll.
That teacher came back the next week,
“OK, Scott. I guess you can’t do a drum roll.”
I said, “Watch this.”
He said, “Wow! How did you learn to do that?”
And I showed my teacher.
I taught my teacher. 10 years old.
He said, “I’ve forgotten. I got into the habit of just doing this
and I forgot that it is two beats.
You taught me how to teach the drum roll, Scott.
There is a lesson there: we can always learn from each other.
We need to have the humility to accept feedback,
and the courage to speak up.
And we need to help each other feel self-motivated.
Give them the perception of competence. Teach them about ‘consequences drive us’.
Let them perceive choice, and let them know it’s community.
We’re all in this together. And we need each other.