Motivation is the Key to Change

“Motivation” comes from the Latin word for “to move”. It is a goal-oriented behavior. In essence, we take action because it feels good to do so. It feels right to take a break when we are on overload, then it feels right to go back to work. The real challenge is to make it feel right to take action that does not have an immediate reward. For teenagers and young adults, it is natural to want to see immediate results from any action. Their brains are still developing the ability to reason from cause to effect. In order to feel motivated, we have to tap into the part of ourselves that has a longer view, which also feels right.

Take the Long View

All of us make countless decisions every hour. What should I eat for lunch? Which book should I read first? Should I do homework? Which person should I ask? In part, we make those decisions unconsciously based on our patterns and habits – the things we learned from our families. We also make decisions based on our personal priorities. So, if we want to redirect our decision to take the longer view, we need to both shape unconscious habits and examine priorities to make sure they match. Therefore, completing the assignments between sessions is far more likely to lead to permanent change than the time spent in sessions.

Creating the Correct Environment can Motivate Others

In addition to motivating ourselves, it is important to learn how to create an environment where others can become motivated. There are many ways to do so. The most obvious is “extrinsic” motivation. For example, “If you carry my books, I will give you part of my lunch,” is a simple example of extrinsic motivation. It is a bribe or an offer made in exchange for a service. Regardless of how it is viewed, both parties benefit in some way.

George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF, CEAP
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management Providers
Anderson & Anderson®, The Trusted Name in Anger Management


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