You Already Have All the Motivation You Need

Michael V. Pantalon, Ph.D., is the author of Instant Influence; How to Get Anyone to Do Anything Fast. The book outlines six steps to persuade people to make changes in their work, their lives, or for themselves. You may want to master the steps as outlined by the author in detail, but what was interesting to me is why they work. Pantalon spends some time talking about the science of motivation, and his conclusions may surprise you.

One of his most important premises is that everyone already has all the motivation they need to change. If you’re like me, that statement makes you stop to think. Everyone already has all the motivation they need? Really? That puts us all out of the motivation business – bosses, speakers, parents, bloggers…  Pantalon’s point is that people already know the reasons they’d like to make a change, and they may have nothing to do with why you’d like them to make the change.

His influencing strategy allows people to tap into their own motivation through skillful questions. Let’s say you have a teenager at home who refuses to clean his room. He has refused despite threats, bribes, or cajoling. Here’s how you can find out what motivates him and tap into it.

“I understand that you don’t think it’s important to clean your room and keep it orderly. But, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that you did clean and organize it just once. How might that help you? Not me – you.” The technique calls for you to wait patiently and redirect your teen back to the question until he answers it himself. “Well, I guess I’d spend less time trying to find my equipment before baseball practice. I’m late at least twice a week and coach yells at me and makes me run extra laps when I get there. I hate that.” Your job is to reflect back his own motivation and probe for more. “Fewer laps and less yelling from the coach is good. What else might be better for you?”

“Well, last week I wanted to wear my blue shirt to take Ashley out, and when I finally found it in the bottom of my closet, it was dirty, and I had to wear something else.” Now, he’s admitting that his lack of organization is actually annoying him. You have an opening that will allow you to suggest a small change – the smallest change you can suggest, and ask him how ready he is to make the change. “What if I bought a bin that holds your sports equipment and put it in the mud room? How willing would you be to use it – to stow your equipment there and keep it organized every day? That way, you could just grab your bag and bat and head off to practice. If I put a basket there for dirty uniforms and put the clean ones right next to your equipment, you’d only have to stop for a second on your way in or out the door.”

You see where this is going. Pantalon says that the way to tap into motivation – even your own – is to forget talking about what you “should” do. What do you want to do? What might happen if you make that change? “If a lose ten pounds, I can fit into my favorite interview suit – the one that makes me feel incredibly confident.” “If I lose ten pounds, I’ll feel confident enough to go back to yoga class.” “If I get my contacts organized, I’ll be able to create a plan for who I should call next, instead of just staring at the pile of paper on my desk.”

You already know why you want to make a change. Focus on what you want, not what you think you should do.

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