Monday, November 5, 2007

The Myth of Motivation

After a trip to the local library I came across this wonderful book “What To Say When You Talk To Yourself” by Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D. I was instantly inspired and became a fan. Helmstetter’s perspective on motivation and the definition of responsibility are quite enriching.

The term “The Motivation Myth” intrigued me and it answered my long nagging question “Why don’t motivational speeches and classes work for me?”

There are different kinds of motivation and different kinds of motivators. The most familiar type of motivation consists of an audience of anxious listeners, sitting entranced while a dynamic enthusiastic speaker weaves a web of pure magic, the spun gold of riches and success. For an hour or two (and in some cases days) the listeners are shown a new destiny, a grand new vision of their unlimited potential. All they have to do is believe. They leave the conference with new and uplifting, life-changing self-esteem. Tomorrow they will break all the barriers of defeat.

If you have ever attended a motivational meeting or conference, you have felt the contagious spirit a popular and experienced speaker can compel you to embrace. These speakers are like pied pipers and for the most part they do their job… They motivate, but it is temporary. It is external. External motivation works against us.

We may believe this external motivation for a time but the Motivator goes home and we face the next day alone, again. Our poorly fed internal motivator waits patiently for us to come down to earth and believe what we have fed it for years. “No! cannot (insert word).

How about being your own motivator? Take charge and put yourself back into control. You can do this by learning that the only kind of motivation you can depend on is internal motivation. Imagine being able to rely on yourself and never again need anyone else to prod or push you into activating your own best efforts.

Read about self-motivation. Then write about it.

One of Helmstetter’s self-talk mantras is “I accept the responsibility for living my life in a way which creates my strengths, my happiness, my positive, healthy beliefs, and for my past, my present and my future.”

If this is a little too lofty try “I like how I feel, and I like how I think and I like how I do things. I approve of me and I approve of who I am.”

Write it down,


  1. Yes, there is nothing better than reconnecting to the love we have within us. That energy is life changing. It's spirit motivation!
    Great post. Thanks!

  2. Yes, to improve our life, we must start from within.

    Hal, your blog is delightful, I have added you to my favorites.

    Thank you for your comment.

  3. Well, I certainly needed to visit your blog. Thanks to Yvonne and her chains, I landed her on a day when I most needed to motivate myself. Thanks for the kick in the pants.


  4. Thanks Carma. I needed a reminder that effective motivation comes from within.

  5. Hi Damaria,
    Thanks for the post. I have always heard each of us are the only ones who can motivate ourselves. However, it takes practice to replace our old inner programming.

  6. Hello Ginger,
    Glad my words could give you a jump start.

    Ditto thanks to Yvonne for instigating the chains.

  7. Carma, Motivational speeches are great for the speaker because he is active and doing something while you are sitting very passively. That's another thought as to why you feel let down afterward.

    I so agree that you must be your own motivator. Only you can turn you into the person you most want to be. And, that might be very different than what the motivational speaker pictures...

  8. Robin, a past experience with motivational speakers just came to mind and explains my feeling.

    I would listen to tapes for hours and hours and now I understand why I had to do that.

    I used to think there was something wrong with me because I didn't "get it".

    People all around me were excited for days and days but not me. I felt more distressed. But .It is clear to me now.

  9. I've been in the audience and listened to exactly that kind of motivational speaker. The one I remember the most was in Peebles. And that is something. I do remember a lot of his advice.

    The gist of it came to a metaphorical splash of cold water on the face before tacking the problem facing you because once you're out there in front of your board meeting or audience you're pretty much committed.

    It's getting started that's the problem for most people. And that's where quick fixes like the ones he described work (e.g. thumping a table with a rolled-up copy of the New York Times and saying out loud, "It's going to be great, great, great, great, great!" before barging into your meeting). Yes, they are temporary. They are only meant to be temporary, like the jolt of electricity to restart a heart.

    I'm a writer and a lot of us writers are depressives, with or without the capital D, and so looking within for motivation isn't always the best place. (Great for inspiration, bad for motivation). What we need is a kick up the backside to get us started and then - hopefully - the momentum of writing will keep us going. It's going to be different things for different people and if I had an easy answer I'd make my fortune with it.

    One of the big things, other than the right mindset, is the right environment. It might be Roald Dahl's hut in the garden or just your own corner of the bedroom. It doesn't matter how motivated I am I'm never going to do great work working on my laptop while the TV's blaring in the living-room.

  10. Hi Jim,
    I appreciate your comments.

    Your description of a jolt gave me a visual of someone being pushed out of an airplane to sky dive for the first time. Usually the first step is the hardest.

    Environment is key as well. I moved my make shift office from the garage to an empty room upstairs. How wonderful to have a door to close.

    Thank you for commenting. I hope to hear from you again.