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Sticky Ideas Workshop (Part 5): Emotional

Sticky Ideas Workshop (Part 5): Emotional
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

    If you want to connect — I mean, really connect — with an audience, you have to hit ’em square in their emotions. Movie makers know this, and exploit it to the fullest, making us laugh, cry, punch the air in triumph, jump out of our seats in terror, and even swell with love for all humanity — almost on demand.

    A lot of times this is pretty cheap, and leaves us feeling manipulated and used. This is because the movie (or novel, or TV show, or commercial, or whatever) seems to play on our emotions for no other reason than because they can. The emotional response is triggered without satisfying any real need.

    But the emotions roused by the greatest works of art — whether in film, paint, words, or stone — do satisfy a need, and it is for that reason that we return films like Casablanca or paintings like Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring after decades and even centuries.

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    Enlightened Self-Interest

    Chip and Dan Heath refer to Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” to explain why some emotional appeals fall flat, and others not only succeed but can even change lives. Abraham Maslow, a mid-20th century psychologist, theorized that human behavior is driven by a number of innate needs. What’s more, these needs are hierarchical; that is, the most basic needs (food, water, sleep, sex, etc.) had to be met before higher needs (friendship, family, self-esteem, and ultimately “self-actualization”, where we turn our attentions to the needs of our society and its members). Maslow represented his idea with a pyramid (itself a pretty sticky idea) placing the basic needs at the bottom and the higher levels built on top of them. Although few psychologists today still hold to the hierarchical nature of needs — recognizing, for instance, that seeing to the common good is often necessary to assure that more “basic” needs are met — Maslow’s schema is still useful as a rubric to measure our ideas and their presentation against.

    For example, let’s say you are offering a recipe for a super-healthy cookie. Yes, a cookie meets a basic need — the need for food. Notice, though, that you rarely see commercials for cookies with the tagline “You can eat this” or “it’s a kind of food!” Instead, ads for cookies or articles on cooking try to appeal to the higher stretches of Maslow’s pyramid. They might appeal to mothers’ need to provide for their family (like the peanut butter commercial: “Choosy moms choose Jif!”) or to our need to protect our environment (“these cookies are made with 100% organic ingredients”) or to our need to feel independent and self-reliant (“don’t eat store-bought cookies — stick it to the Man by making your own!”).

    In these examples, we are looking for ways of engaging our audience’s self-interest — their need to fulfill their needs — in ways that allow them to be the kind of people they want to be: better parents, better eaters, and better citizens. Instead of offering something to eat, we offer self-fulfillment. Not bad for a cookie!

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    Who Am I, Anyway?

    In order to be effective, emotional appeals need to engage with individuals’ identities in a profound way (which is why the horror gross-out, while momentarily effective, is rarely remembered longer than a few sleepless nights). As the Heaths point out, people make decisions based on their identities, so emotional appeals have to confront them with their own selves. The best ask us to consider who we are — and more, what do people like us do in situations like this?

    Consider those late-night famine relief commercials, the ones with the swollen-bellied children staring into the camera with huge, liquid eyes and Sally Struthers begging us to help. These commercials are pretty effective — effective enough to have been run most of my life, anyway — because they force viewers to either act or face an uncomfortable disconnect between the kind of person they think they are and the kind of person they are acting like. If it’s important to you to be the kind of person that helps those in need, then it’s going to be hard not to do so when given the opportunity to contribute.

    What this means in practical terms is that you have to really know not just who your audience is but who your audience thinks it is. It also means that we have to be especially on guard against the Curse of Knowledge. We may be blinded by the brilliance of our own ideas — which always seem innately useful — so that we don’t consider the ways our ideas meet our audience’s actual needs. Or, for that matter, that our ideas may well meet needs that are far different from the needs they meet for us.

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    Caring is Sharing

    No idea gets picked up and passed around unless it meets somebody’s needs. They have to care, and it’s your job to make them care. When people care about an idea, they become its greatest advocates; in marketing terms, this is called “going viral” (which is, of course, deeply offensive to people who deal with actual viral transmission and its often horrific consequences).

    In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point (the book the Heaths credit with inspiring them to write Made to Stick), one of the phenomena the author returns to again and again is the sudden revival of Hush Puppies, the somewhat dorky shoes popular in the ’70s among white-bread middle-class American moms. In the ’90s, a handful of East Village hipsters started sporting Hush Puppies and, in the blink of an eye, sales suddenly boomed, bringing the brand back from the brink of obscurity.

    The company that makes Hush Puppies had little to do with this revival; they’d failed for years to make Hush Puppies relevant again. Instead, it was a handful of people who found something in these goofy shoes to care about — likely a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of their scene and show off their sense of irony and nostalgia. These trendsetters, in turn, managed to make others around them care as they did, setting off a ripple effect that eventually reached the malls of Middle America and put the Hush Puppies brand back on the map.

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    Ideas don’t have to spread like wildfire to be effective (though it doesn’t hurt!) but they do have to spread, and ideas don’t spread unless people care enough about them to a) integrate them into their own lives and b) sharing them with others. In one way, this makes our job easier — if we can figure out who the trendsetters are, we can focus our energies on crafting an appeal specifically to their sensitivities and let them do much of the legwork. At the same time, though, it means that ideas have to be over-loaded with emotional resonance — they have to meet a number of different needs to spread widely enough to take off on their own.

    It should be clear that “emotional” doesn’t mean that our goal should be to make our audience weep, necessarily, but rather to grab them where they live, wherever that is. This is probably the hardest part of making ideas stick. Let us know how you do it in the comments or kick off the conversation in the forum.

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How to Crush Your Lack of Motivation and Always Stay Motivated

    How to Crush Your Lack of Motivation and Always Stay Motivated

    How many times have you not achieved your goals and let yourself down due to your lack of motivation? When you’re not wallowing in sadness and self-pity, you are too busy procrastinating till you can’t anymore and before you know it, you are part of vicious cycle of anxiety and stress.

    Whether it’s losing weight or bringing your business to fruition – motivation is essential for growth and success in every sphere of our lives.

    That said, it is not easy staying motivated. In order to constantly stay motivated, you need to take ownership of your life and consciously make efforts in that direction.

    Well, it’s never too late to take matters in your hands and change the course of your life. Here are 11 effective ways to crush your lack of motivation and always stay motivated:

    1. Write Your Goals

    The power of writing goals down has always been underestimated. Why write when you can remember, right? Wrong.

    Our thoughts are all over the place and the first step to achieve your goals is to organize your thoughts. So, write your goals down, however big or small they might be. Make them as specific as possible and assign deadlines to each of them.

    As you write them down and revisit them regularly, they get further drilled in your head, taking you closer to your goals. Doing this small exercise helps you to remain focused, motivated and lets you track your progress with ease.

    Start today – take to your laptop or a diary and get down to writing what you wish to achieve in life.

    2. Beat Procrastination

    Your lack of motivation and procrastination go hand in hand. Every time you procrastinate, your motivation levels take a greater hit. The only way to bring an end to this loop is to stop procrastinating.

    Next time you find yourself putting off something for ‘later’, stop and assess the reasons behind it. Get to the root of the cause and eliminate it in order to overcome this poor habit of procrastinating which is sabotaging your life and mental health.

    Take a look at this guide and learn how to beat procrastination:

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    What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

    When you finally overcome procrastination, you will realize the positive impact it has on your mood and motivation levels.

    3. Celebrate Small Wins

    In the quest to achieve the bigger goals in life, we often forget to celebrate the smaller wins along the way. An achievement is an achievement – be it big or small, it deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.

    Finished a project on time? Reward yourself. Managed to run on the treadmill for a good one hour? Pat yourself on the back. Found time to meditate? Celebrate it.

    It is these small achievements that reinstate that we are on the right path and take us one step closer to the bigger goals.

    So, get into the habit of recognizing and appreciating small wins. You will be surprised to see how this practice helps you stay motivated.

    4. Practice Gratitude

    It’s easier to whine about what we don’t have rather than counting our blessings. Isn’t it?

    Making gratefulness a part of your life is a very important step to retain high motivational levels. It revitalizes our spirits and renews our enthusiasm for life.

    So, how do you practice gratitude? For starters, keep a gratitude journal to jot down what you are grateful for, express your gratitude to people you love and spread positivity wherever you go. If you need some inspiration to be thankful for, here it is:

    60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

    By doing so, you begin to focus more on what you have rather than what you don’t and that is a great start to stay motivated.

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    5. Be Optimistic

    Life is not always hunky dory. There will be bad days when things aren’t going in your favor, when you feel lost and all you want to do is give up.

    At such times, instead of letting negativity take over your life, adopt an optimistic approach to life. Quit overthinking, ask the right questions and focus on finding solutions.

    Yes, there will be hurdles along the way but if you hang on to positive affirmations and hopes, the journey will be a lot smoother. So, with every passing day, sow the seeds of positivity and you are sure to build a positive environment around you.

    6. Don’t Dwell on the Past

    A lot of times, our lack of motivation stems from the habit of dwelling on the past. This gives rise to fear and regrets, preventing us from making progress in the present day.

    Dwelling on the past is nothing but a waste of time. Understand that the past is long gone, and you cannot do anything to change that.

    What you can do is make your present day worthwhile. Instead of looking back and having regrets, learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and move on.

    So, the next time you find your mind wandering off to the past, be determined to change the way you think and consciously concentrate on living in the present. This guide can help you:

    10 Simple Steps To Let Go Of The Past

    7. Face your Fears

    You can never find motivation where there is fear. Identify the fear that is pulling you back and tackle it.

    If you don’t face your fear head on, you cannot expect to conquer it and renew your motivation.

    Ask yourself: What is stopping you? What are you scared of?

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    Once you accept your fear, you can work on an action plan and think of solutions to overcome it. This article will give you some effective tips on conquering your fears:

    How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

    Seek external help if required but don’t choose to turn a blind eye over your fears – it will only aggravate matters.

    8. Visualize your Success

    You must have heard the famous quote, ‘see it to believe it’. That is exactly what visualization is about.

    One of the most effective self-motivation techniques, visualizing the process to your desired outcome helps you move in a positive direction and achieve your goal.

    Close your eyes and focus all your energies on the minutest of details that will take you where you want to reach. Doing this exercise everyday inspires you to keep going and not lose hope. The vision of attaining success will drive you to do better while instilling belief and confidence.

    9. Find Inspiration

    Can’t seem to find inspiration inwards? Don’t panic. There are plenty of external sources to gain inspiration from.

    From motivational books and quotes to speeches, films and apps – it is a good idea to take help from motivational material to rekindle your spirits and regain your motivation.

    Everyone is wired differently. For instance, a self-help book might work for your friend, but it might do nothing to move you. So, find what inspires you and turn to it when you are in desperate need for motivation.

    Finding inspiration externally fills you with hope and sometimes that is all you need.

    10. Enjoy Downtime

    You are clearly exhausted with all the running you’re doing in life. So much, that you don’t even have time to stop and think what’s causing you so much unhappiness. All you know is that you are lacking motivation and everyday seems to have become a struggle.

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    Now, that’s certainly not how you should live the rest of your life.

    You need to schedule downtime for yourself, relax and give your mind and body some rest. Take a vacation, indulge in hobbies, meet some friends, put your hair down and stop with all the overthinking. It is important to do things that make you happy in order to think clearly and stay motivated.

    11. Meditate Regularly

    Meditation lets you take control of your mind. It improves focus and concentration while helping you relax.

    Whenever you have had a tough day or find your thoughts going places, the best way to calm yourself down is by closing your eyes and meditating. It helps you to remove all the unnecessary frills in life and keeps you on the right track.

    Include meditation in your daily schedule and you are sure to see an improvement in your productivity and motivation.

    The Bottom Line

    Practicing these simple exercises isn’t the tough part, what’s tough is religiously doing them every day.

    However, don’t expect to get rid of your lack of motivation overnight. There will still be days when you will be low on energy but by making these conscious efforts to stay motivated, you are sure to see a vast change in your perspective and your response to bad days.

    So, start today and be committed to making a positive change in your life.

    More Tips About Staying Motivated

    Featured photo credit: Sonnie Hiles via unsplash.com

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