Motivation is something I think about a lot. My first & favorite motivation tool that works for me as an individual is fear. My Dr. told me I was pre-diabetic, I believed him & it scared me. Next Month it will be 8 years I’ve exercised almost every day.

Watching elderly people in their late 70’s & 80’s motivates me to continue to exercise every day because it’s clear there is a difference in aging for those who take their health more seriously & make an effort. Fear can work wonders if you are tuned into reality. Denial is the most powerful force in the universe so way too many people turn their backs on reality (& if you do then fear will not work to motivate you).

Passion is the second tool for motivation. When you deeply care about something it helps you leap through the difficulties of obstacles. Beginnings are always full of obstacles. I hate learning how to make technology work & this was a definite part of learning to podcast. I loved the idea of reaching an audience larger than two at a time in my office. So my passion helped me to stay the course & learn how to record & improve the sound.

Empathy can be a third tool of motivation. Do I care enough about how I impact others to change & evolve into being a better person? This also involves some degree of self-awareness. It’s a lot easier to only pursue self-interest or to pursue a better job or being materialistic than to dig down into your dark side. When you experience that wince of painful recognition that you’ve mistreated someone & you need to make amends & going forward act better, it can be a tough decision because it’s easier to pretend.

The infrastructure you need to build underneath these tools of motivation; is to be willing to change your attitude, to decide something matters, something new is now a priority that wasn’t before. This is hard in a world that is constantly demanding your attention in a hundred different directions. Attitude shapes your life. You must decide this really matters to me & I’m going to make it happen.

You also have to become more honest with yourself about all the excuses you make. You must recognize how flimsy they are & you are avoiding a hard truth. You are creating “fake news” for yourself in order to avoid & deflect. How willing are you to face difficult realities? I think of all the couples I’ve seen who arrive in crisis because one partner wants to leave, they’d been invited many times to therapy over the years & refused to come until it’s almost too late. I think of those who have died because they didn’t change their diet & exercise. I think of those who were told over & over their anger was unbearable and they did nothing about it until it was too late. We have a tough time committing to the work of change.

Change is VERY difficult. People resist change, I hate it when the grocery store moves stuff around so I have to find it again. We are lulled into wanting things to be easy & change is always hard work. I still remember at 32 how hard it seemed to begin flossing; there were soooo many teeth & my fingers couldn’t fit in my mouth could they??? The fear of potentially losing 2 teeth was my motivation & I’m proud to say over 30 years later I still have both those teeth.

So you have to want to change & you have to be willing to do the work of change, and that can be a very tall order. This is why I’m so impressed by those who find the courage to pick up the phone & make an appointment.

Below is a TEDxCambridge talk on motivation that I did not watch until I had written my own original thoughts. Tali Short really offers a different perspective based on brain science:

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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