Motivation for change is always a central theme in my work on a daily basis. We might wonder how on somedays motivation comes to us easy, while on other days, we just can’t get that energy to get things moving. On a more serious note, why do people continue to act dysfunctionally (e.g., alcoholism, abusive relationship) and refusing to change knowing full well that they are hurting themselves and even others?
- To be motivated, the target has to be important, we need to be confident and willing.
- Importance – how well your goal sits with your value system and priorities?
- Confidence – how well you perceive your self-efficacy?
- Willingness – the emotions, stories and beliefs you have around this goal?
- Assess all these factors and rate them. They need to hit the benchmark of 7.
Like many psychological experiences, motivation is elusive, and that is why many people seek coaching to get to the bottom of their story. This is my professional advice.
Pertaining to shifting motivation, I practice a few forms of coaching/therapy models: Solution-Focus and Motivational Interviewing. To fully explain these models will be a drag; hence, I will summarise the keys techniques into three main factors.
If you can honestly assess these factors for yourself, you can almost fully understand your motivation structure, and know how to tweak this structure to work for you.
1. Importance (Priority factor)
Importance is always a discussion of your values and priorities. Sustaining an act is not about time management, but priority and focus management. Your goal need to have importance for you when you place it on your value system, and against other priorities.
For instance, having the goal of being more patient when communicating is of value to your relationship quality. And it stands strong against other priorities, such as work, exercise and leisure. As the goal gains importance in this manner, it begins to take our attention and we begin to act.
Questions for yourself. “How does this goal aligns with who I am now and who I want to be in the future?”, “What does this goal means for me?”, “Where does my character stands in this goal?”
What if without? If your goal is low in importance but it is something you know is good for you, sit down and think about whether the value and function of that goal big enough for you. From my experience, probably that goal is not important for you, but important for others, or prescribed by others. Again sit down, and think of something that is internally valuable and important for you.
2. Confidence (Self-efficacy factor)
Confidence is about knowing whether you can do it. It can be important for you, but if you lack the skills, knowledge and experience, it is difficult to even start. That can be a downer right from the start of your change process.
Another dimension of this factor is that it is the way that you perceive your self-efficacy that matters, not your actual self-efficacy.
You can well have the actual self-efficacy but choose not to use them due to a poor self-perception, that is still a lack of confidence. While others who does not have the actual self-efficacy may choose the grandiose self-perception approach, and can at least get some parts the goal attempted, which may not be of quality but still, kudos for being confident.
Questions for yourself: “Do I have the minimal skills, knowledge and experience to start on this project?”, “How do I perceive my actual skillset?”, “How is my confidence affect my emotions now?”
What if without? If you are faring low in confidence, there are concrete ways you can take to raise that score. Approach your confidence systematically to build it up. Confidence relates to certainty, once you gather sufficient (not full) certainty about yourself that you CAN do it, the ball starts rolling very quickly. Talk to people, upskill yourself, learn more knowledge in this area, and ensure your emotions are aligned with your confidence levels.
3. Willingness (Contextual factor)
Willingness is the hardest question to answer. It is a contextual element that comprises of important and confidence, and even more; which means once your importance and willingness are raised, your willingness will go up. However, that may not be enough.
Willingness is anything a person experience in the environment. It can be internal, such as feeling (“my gut feeling says no”), beliefs and assumptions (” I know they will judge me”), and external, such as limits and boundaries (“my kids need me”), timing (“the time is just not right”).
I spend the most time of my work here with my clients. And this is also where the gold of motivational coaching lies. Many of these contextual elements can be challenged and adjusted, but require skillful probing in a way to change the client’s schema. This is also where huge revelations begin to show up, and emotional epiphany arises, beyond which the ball will be bouldering down the hill of change.
I will briefly talk about assessing and improving willingness, but I will also dedicate a separate post to talk about this topic. Ask yourself these questions honestly. When people start lying to themselves, or not knowing that they are lying to themselves due to chronic avoidance, deep stagnation begins to form.
[Once written, the link will be attached here]
Questions for yourself: “What are my deepest fears around this goal?”, “What is the worst that can happen?”, “When my gut says no, what does my heart and head says?”, “If these feelings have a voice, what are they saying to me?”
What if without? If you are faring low in willingness, the only way is to be honest with yourself, because a conscious or subconscious part of you is blocking you. Find that unwilling part you, and have an honest conversation with yourself, or someone you can trust, or a professional who can draw that message out with you.
4. Last Step
I would like you to rate each of these factors on a scale from 0 (extremely low) to 10 (extremely high). For instance, “how willing am I to start acting on this goal in the near future?”, “how important is this goal for me?” “how confident am I to start working on this goal?”.
If you score at least 7 for each of these scales pertaining to your goal, it is highly likely you will not only act towards your goal, but also see through it. It may not guaranteed success, but at least you have taken the effort to try. If you score below 7 for any of these factors, use the tips to try to raise the scores if possible, if not, you might have to adjust your goals.
Original writings by The Realist, inspired by encounters in professional work in life coaching, physical therapy and PhD research.