Have you ever tried to get someone to do something, especially something they didn’t want to do?
What kind of excuses do they typically give? “I’m tired”, “I don’t have the money, time, energy”
There are things we inherently look forward to achieving in anything we do. And those are the things that motivate us into either action or inaction.
It is very beneficial for us to know this about ourselves and about others in our lives, so that we know how to deal with ourselves, how to motivate ourselves, and how to deal with and motivate others too.
Here are three reasons people generally use as filters for deciding whether to engage in an activity or not.
This is the most common motivator for people’s actions. “Money makes the world go round”, they say.
I recall a story from the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, where a mother had her two sons out of the house and far away in College. The teenage boys never bothered to write her and keep in touch. Even though she always wrote them letters, they never replied. One day, their uncle visited her and she complained to him about it. He told her he bet he could get them to write back to him, and of course she doubted. After all, what made him think he could get the young teenage boys, who were enjoying their freedom away from family, to write back to some uncle when they wouldn’t write back to their own mother?
Well, he wrote them a letter and at the end of it, he added that he had enclosed a certain amount of money with it in the envelope (which he never did). It didn’t take too long for these boys to write back to their dear uncle, thanking him for reaching out to them while they were far away in school and, of course, bringing to his attention the troubling fact that they didn’t find the money, he had talked about, enclosed in the letter.
Money gets even recalcitrant teenage boys to do what you want them to do.
I have once written about my friends (here) and how we get together to study the Bible among other things, including hanging out and having fun.
Well, the truth is that it is much easier to get all of us together in one place for a celebration, a party, a movie night, a hangout, a barbecue; than it is to get us all together for bible study. Our numbers are always super-inflated when it’s time to have fun.
Pleasure-seeking is a deep-seated motivator in us humans. Many good and bad things have been done because of the perceived pleasure at the other end. People have over-eaten, had premature sex, drunk too much alcohol, and ended up in a lot of trouble because of the pleasure they were seeking at the other end of the activity.
If you want to get people to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do – especially if it’s a good thing – then just add some pleasure around it, and they’ll be all over it.
This is why learning is made fun for kids. You have your Barney & Friends and Sesame Street. This is why conferences for adults usually have food and fun activities added to their program of events. This is why they came up with the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
Jack is just a pleasure-seeking human like the rest of us.
This is another common motivator for people to do or not do some things. If it takes too much from you, then you probably don’t feel motivated to do it.
People avoid working-out because of all the energy that it demands. People also end up enjoying working-out – and might even get addicted – because of all the energy that it gives in the end.
Energy conservation is important to us. This is why some people drive to anywhere and everywhere no matter how short the distance, because of the energy they get to preserve.
If you think about it, laziness (an impolite word for energy conservation) is the real ‘mother’ of innovation. Many inventions and innovations are made in order to make life easier – to help people conserve their energy while still carrying out the most laborious tasks.
Many people wisely walk away from what could have become deadly disputes, because they “didn’t have the energy to argue”.
We like to operate within our comfort zones generally, and that zone is always one that isn’t too demanding, if at all.
If you look at these three motivators: money-making, pleasure-seeking and energy conservation you can combine them and see that together, they have influenced most of your important life decisions.
Most of us choose where to work based on the amount of money we’ll make, the benefits or perks we’ll get to enjoy, and how easy or easier the work to be done is, compared to other places.
If you think harder, there are also other areas of your life where you’ve made important decisions based on these three things combined together or separately.
It’s not necessarily these three that are the main motivators for everyone. Oddly enough, I can say my top three motivators are: money-saving, energy conservation, and future implications.
How much I get to save or not spend influences my activity choices greatly, as well as how physically-demanding the activity is, and what the future implications are for me – I’m almost constantly thinking long-term.
Just thinking about it now, these motivators are precisely the reason I took up swimming instead of regular work-out at the gym. I pay less than 50% of the cost of a regular gym membership for access to the pool; it’s not physically exhausting until you’re out of the pool and in your bed. The long term implications are great because it works-out the whole body at the same time, unlike most other forms of exercise, helping you live longer, healthier, and in well-rounded shape.
So, like me, these three common things that motivate people may not be your own top three motivators. You may have other (main) things that push you to do things you would otherwise not do. If that’s you, then please share some of your main motivators with us here so we can learn from each other!