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Motivation – The Conflict

Dan, my conversation with Karen was very brief, but from the depth of our questions and inquires, it was useful in that it pointed to the one of the most important elements in all humankind; how do you get yourself and others to move towards desired outcomes?

This subject raises hundreds of questions, maybe thousands. All you really need to do is go into almost any bookstore and ask where the self-help section is located; if it’s not the largest section, it is close. That’s not to say that the philosophy, fiction, health, science, literature and even the romance section are not pregnant with similar musings and discussions. Motivation seems primary to understanding ourselves and others.

So I still come back to the question we asked about Karen, “Why this time,” First of all, if I had known my brief conversation with Karen would be the catalyst for our exploration, I would have spent more time with her. There is a risk to concluding why Karen was successful after such a short conversation and I want to preface the remainder of our conversation with the idea: We really don’t know why she was successful or what motivated her.

That being said, your comments about motivation styles as outlined in our communication model are spot on and give us a good chance to move our understanding of motivation to a new level. To review once again, in our coaching practice, we have identified five motivation styles, four of which you described thoughtfully.

We can be motivated to obtain what we do not yet have. We can be motivated to sustain what we value and might lose. We are motivated to avoid what we dislike, and we are motivated to end or extinguish conditions and experiences we find uncomfortable.

Three of these styles are readily applicable to understanding Karen’s motivation; obtaining, avoiding and extinguishing. She was certainly motivated to extinguishing discomfort, obtaining a new body and life, and avoiding the certainty of increasing her weight related illnesses.

However, what about sustaining what we value and might lose? This aspect of motivation is often subtle, even hidden. What about being grossly overweight is valuable? Why would someone want to remain at risk, in pain and uncomfortable?

Let me be clear, that in my brief conversation with Karen she gave me no clue that I was able to discern in this regard. But, it has been my experience that this domain holds some of the juiciest structures of understanding.

What have you noticed about yourself and your clients? Is there something we love about our misery, our confusion, our pain? It is so easy to imagine a better future, to envision a better day and life for our self. But that gets me thinking: Why can it be so difficult to obtain as well as to sustain?