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Emma Sue Prince



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Motivation Training


Here’s the thing that will change your life forever. Cut the word ‘impossible’ out of your life. Cut it out! Cut it out! Cut it out! Think bigger and dream even bigger. Positive thinking works in every area of life”. Oliver Burkeman quotes a minor-league life coach giving a speech in a dingy US hotel ballroom at a seminar called Get Motivated! in the intro to his groundbreaking new book, “The Antidote”. Such seminars are very common in America and increasingly also in the UK. And they’re run by trainers and coaches. 

Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to quench thirst or taking the initiative on a challenging task. Motivation, they say, is vital to being successful, however you define that for yourself.

Most self-help will tell you that the key to getting or maintaining motivation is to rid the mind of negative thoughts. Instead, you should be nurturing “positive, motivational” thoughts and neutralising the negative ones. This will, in turn, have an impact on your emotions and how you feel, following which, your behaviour and outcomes will change and you’ll be more motivated. In principle, some of this sounds reasonable enough, but in practice these methods are often ineffective. One reason may be that positive thinking uses affirmation and visualisation typically facilitated through relaxation techniques. None of these give any focus to dealing with the setbacks, sheer effort and hard work that go with striving towards any goal or behaviour change.

Yet changing behaviour is possible. Decades of research show that there is indeed a simple but highly effective way to transform how you think and feel through focusing first on how you are behaving. So by acting as if, or ‘faking it’ you take significant steps towards feeling the way you want to feel i.e. motivated. Behaviour first, then feelings rather than changing our thinking first. So much simpler! Motivation is not about how you feel but how you act. The more you take action towards goals, the more motivated you will be to achieve them. It doesn’t mean that it’s not hard work.

The humorist Robert Benchley said “Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work they’re supposed to be doing at the moment” – suggesting that motivation and procrastination are closely linked.

Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT) represents the most recent developments in motivational research. It suggests that the reasons why people make any decision can be represented by the following equation:


Motivation is the drive or preference for a course of action. Naturally, the higher the drive or motivation, the greater the preference. Expectancy refers to the odds or chance of an outcome occurring (you actually doing whatever is that you are motivated to do) while Value refers to how rewarding that outcome is. Naturally, we would like to choose pursuits that give us a good chance of having a pleasing outcome. On the bottom of the equation, there are two more variables. Impulsiveness refers to your sensitivity to delay. The more impulsive you are, the less you like to delay gratification. Finally, Delay indicates how long, on average, you must wait to receive the payout, that is the expected reward. Since delay is in the bottom of the equation, the longer the delay, the less motivated we feel about taking action.

This equation suggests to me that in order to be more motivated, we must take action. It suggests that we are all naturally prone to procrastination too!

So, bringing this back to training and coaching, there will always be self-help seminars (and the people running them are often quite wealthy – this is a big industry), and there’ll always be plenty of people paying good money to go to them. But they don’t help people really. Trainers and coaches with any integrity (and of course there are also plenty of those) can support their clients’ abilities to be more motivated through simple experiential learning activities that focus on task and behaviour first and feature action and accountability.

Interested to know what other trainers think.

Membership to Unimenta is free – – support portal for trainers who deliver soft skills

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Emma Sue Prince


Read more from Emma Sue Prince

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