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  Home  > Helping Professionals  > Motivating People - The Myth

Motivating People - The Myth

What people typically mean when they ask "how can I motivate people," is how can I change them to do what I think they should do.

Any self-sustaining change comes from a change of heart. It cannot be willed or imposed from without. In this sense we cannot change or motivate anyone in any meaningful, i.e., sustainable way even if we believe it best for them. The belief that we can change people - and even more basically, that we have the right to - is a myth of the dominance model. Other than being a violation of individual rights, such behaviors are a waste of time and energy and unlikely to accomplish anything more than a bad case of burnout.

Rather than spend time trying to change people who obviously are not interested, we can make a much greater overall impact by working with people who are open to and "ripe for" change, and needing support. This will impact not only those you are working with but also the supposedly unmotivated, by their observing the support you lend and the way in which you lend it, and by their observing others changing in ways they had perhaps not even considered before. Indeed, the whole world may be affected in ways you may never see.

We influence others not so much by what we say or do as how we live our lives. We must be models of what we teach, living our own lives with integrity and authenticity and remembering we are not teaching perfection, but self-responsibility with love and compassion. Even the teaching of any particular technique is secondary to this central concept. As we take responsibility for living our lives in this way, we inspire and encourage others to do likewise.

The images we carry of ourselves are powerful factors in determining how we live our lives. Any program involving motivation and behavior modification must address this issue. We best motivate ourselves by holding and nurturing within our heart our most cherished image of who we are. Likewise we best motivate others by supporting them in recognizing and nurturing what it is in them they most aspire to.

Offering an environment in which people can start to feel better about themselves is a basic ingredient of any change process. As people begin to feel better, they are motivated to feel more and more so.

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