There an inherent problem with anything that is claimed to be motivational and that is the cynical counterpoint. Dilbert has done a pretty good job of poking holes in many motivational mantras. The de-motivator meme has obviously run its course, but had some very good ideas early on.
Motivational messages are processed differently by different people, not unlike candy. Some people gorge on motivation books, videos, seminars and have nothing to show for it. They are useless without another fix of motivation. Others only need a bit of motivation to keep them going – a quick pick-me-up. Fortunately, I find myself in the latter camp. I generally only need a reminder every once in a while of why I do what I do. That’s not to say I don’t have slumps or have a cynical outlook on “business as usual.” I try to not let the external influences get me down.
But anyway, I did a quick Youtube search for motivational videos and watched the first one. Somehow this was supposed to inspire me. The video was about some football players that didn’t think they could beat their next game, so the coach tried to demonstrate “giving your all” using a couple players.
The coach made this guy carry another guy across the field. The subject didn’t initially think he’d be able to make it half-way. To prevent him from giving up when he met his mental finish-line, the coach blindfolded him. Then, as he started to falter or complain, the coach encouraged him as only a coach would: by screaming and yelling in his face. Finally the guy collapsed and the coach said proudly, “You made it to the end zone.”
So if you were to use this video as motivation for your employees, what exactly would you be saying? My primary take-away: we want you to work yourself to exhaustion. We don’t care if you are completely useless after that. There is no sense in saving reserve energy. If we feel you have any energy left in you, we will harass you until we wring it out.
From a psychological standpoint, I enjoyed the blindfold trick to keep the player from giving up. But from a practical standpoint, it maps out poorly. If you set a mental goal, that should be a realistic checkpoint to evaluate what you’ve accomplished and how much more you can do.
The bottom line is, motivation comes from within. It can’t be fed to you and it can’t be beaten out of you, although many would disagree on that. I think I’m going to have another read of Gung Ho!, a good example of how people motivate themselves.