Randy W. Green, Ph.D.

                    Optimism is a kind of heart stimulant-- the digitalis of failure
                                                     Elbert Hubbard

The importance of positive motivation has been widely recognized by a variety of employers, performance consultants and doctors. "Just think positive and get going", a loved-one or other well-meaning person might tell you. At times this advice is enough to motivate someone to take positive action. More often than not, its not.

In order to create motivation most people need to rehearse a systematic sequence of steps tailored to their unique personal histories. Although this process is highly individualized during professional treatment, an illustration of some principles may be sufficient for you to make some useful changes at home. Essentially, what needs to be accomplished is the creation of a more positive sequence of internal events referred to in this instance as a motivation strategy. A "strategy" has structural meaning in that it provides the framework-- a sequence of internal pictures, sounds and feelings-- that contains important content.

Think of a telephone number. It's structural meaning is the organization of numbers into groups of three and four and the order in which they occur. That sequence is what gives those numbers meaning. In a similar way, the strategy one uses-- motivation, decision, learning, creativity-- is the structure of a particular class of experiences. In essence, the motivation strategy one uses is the way that individual chooses to get going in all situations.

"So why do I need to bother with all this positive motivation strategy stuff? Under the circumstances, there's so much else to consider-- re-employment, relocation, the family. Who has the time or motivation to think about how I get motivated?"

That's the point! Motivation drives actions. During difficult times, including the loss of employment and threat of re- location, after the initial shock it becomes prudent to take some action. Your ability to respond is a function of the internal positive motivation you create. If you believe you are unmotivated-- trapped by devastating circumstances-- begin to consider the pieces of your motivation strategy. What is the first thing you remember being aware of when you need to take some action? Then what happens? What follows that?

A typical example, suppose you are someone who begins with bad pictures. In order to get motivated to do something, you first picture the situation as one large, looming, undifferentiated mass. Next, you tell yourself it's too overwhelming, there's nothing you can do, and finally feel anxious. This process then recycles over and over until your anxiety becomes so debilitating that you defer taking useful action indefinitely. Try cutting this monster down to size:
• 1) Move that giant ominous picture further away until it gets smaller and dimmer. In its place, imagine a large, bright and richly colorful picture showing the task already having been completed.
• 2) Tune into an enthusiastic inner voice and comment how beneficial and relieving it is to have accomplished it.
• 3) Finally, allow a pleasant, calm feeling to emerge. Repeat this sequence several times until one step seems to trigger the next.

Sometimes the first thing that occurs in a motivation sequence is not a picture but a harsh, punitive voice. Many of us begin with, "You should do X, you really should. My God! What will happen if you don't?" This may be followed by a large ominous picture that illustrates disaster, leading to a bad feeling. Should this be you:
• 1) Back up to the beginning and tune out that internal voice by gradually turning down the volume until it is inaudible.
• 2) Next, softly introduce a song inside that brings back fond memories and gradually increase its volume. At the same time tune in a calm, assuring voice that tells you how good it will seem to have completed the task.
• 3) Then construct a large, bright, colorful inner picture of the completed task.
• 4) Follow the remaining procedure with respect to a pleasant feeling in the previous example.

Although the salient feature in each of the above sequences is experiencing completion, the task was considered as a whole. Many times a situation is too complex and overwhelming to be considered in this format. It needs to be broken down into "bite-sized" pieces. Return to the first step and create a series of segments (for example, successive pictures of completed portions) that lead to accomplishing the entire task. Then go through the remaining steps for a given segment before going on to the next.

Some people have powerfully efficient motivation strategies. Remember Jimmy Connors? Find someone who has been successful at doing something and determine how he or she gets motivated. Let the ends motivate the means. Be well.