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Here’s some bad advice about motivation that we’ve all heard, or even said to ourselves:

“You should be more motivated!”
“Try harder! You’re not motivated; you’re lazy.”
“Just get motivated and you’ll do better.”

Well-meaning people author these phrases. But they don’t work. We don’t get more get up and go. Instead, we often get less drive and more frustration, failure, and self-doubt. Why do these statements backfire? Here’s what wrong with them and why they – not motivation and not us – don’t work.

Nothing Comes from Nothing

As much as people hope a poke motivates, it just doesn’t. All those statements imply that something is lacking: a personality trait, effort, will power, ambition, or work ethic. And our logical reaction is if we don’t have “it,” how can we use it? So, why try?

The quick fix: Work from your strengths. Fill your thoughts with what you do well—draw, relate to others, win games, etc. Your energy comes from your can do mindset.

Inaction Is Not the Real Problem

Not doing something is a problem. But it’s not the real one. When we don’t work on homework, chores, assignments, or tasks, there’s a deeper reason or reasons. And that’s the real problem. It could be there’s no interest or desire, but it could also be a fear of failure, lack of knowledge, or poor methods that just don’t lead to success.

The quick fix: Be a problem solver. Use these steps to get at and fix the root issues: identify the real cause(s), brainstorm solutions, choose one solution, and use it. Then, evaluate and change the solution if it doesn’t make things better. Work the process and it’ll work for you!

Motivation Is Not a Superpower

Ever watched a star athlete make winning moves look easy? Or a musician transport a melody? It’s easy to think these are gifted people. But the truth is flawless execution comes from hours of practice. And those hours are focused on finding and mastering the skills that “get it right.” The same goes for motivation. It’s a skill to develop, not a gift that only the successful have.

The quick fix: Change your point of view. Realize you can learn how to motivate yourself. It’ll take practice and good methods. So, don’t just do the same thing over and over and expect better results. If one method doesn’t motivate you or get progress going, look for another.

Negatives Halt Progress

Negative, “don’t” statements have their place, especially when it comes to body safety. “Don’t touch the hot stove” or “Stop! There’s a car coming” are really helpful. They point out what to avoid and stop dangerous actions. But, when it comes to motivation, they’re not as helpful. Identifying what we’re not doing can be very uncomfortable. While there’s no physical danger, there is the danger of disappointing someone, not being good enough, or naming our flaws. That triggers avoidance techniques like procrastination and focusing on distractions.

The quick fix: Get a positivity boost. That can come from yourself or others. Thinking of anything you do well or a time you overcame an obstacle can boost your motivation. Likewise, seeking out the people, friends, authors, tutors, coaches, or teachers who inspire you can also spark your motivation. Up thoughts get up reactions!

Desire Is Not Enough

Motivation does start with desire. But that’s not all of it. And it doesn’t always last. We’ve all had the desire to start something — like a new diet, exercise program, course, even a hobby we know we’d enjoy – only to have it fizzle out. Clearly, desire is not the one stop shop for motivation. As it turns out, motivation is a global term, like health. It covers a lot and there are multiple ways to get it.

The quick fix: Fan the desire flame with know-how!  Learn and use strategies that keep desire going, like planning, active thinking, progress monitoring, and ongoing rewards.

In the End…

Motivation and you – those aren’t the problems. When motivation doesn’t work, these quick flips can get you there.

  1. Work from your strengths.
  2. Be a problem solver.
  3. Change your point of view.
  4. Get a positivity boost.
  5. Fan the desire flame with know-how!

About the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA)

The USDLA, a 501(c) 3 non-profit association formed in 1987, reaches 20,000 people globally with sponsors and members operating in and influencing 46% of the $913 billion. U.S. education and training market. USDLA promotes the development and application of distance learning for education and training and serves the needs of the distance learning community by providing advocacy, information, networking, and opportunity. Distance learning and training constituencies served include pre-K-12 education, home schooling, higher education, and continuing education, as well as business, corporate, military, government, and telehealth markets.