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Stubborn Mules: Motivational Interviewing for the Completely Unmotivated

Stubborn Mules: Motivational Interviewing for the Completely Unmotivated

An unmotivated loved one can drive us all to the brink. When someone we care about continues to make “stupid” decisions, or simply won’t get off their butt and do what needs to be done for their own benefit, we often despair. So what is motivation? And why is it so hard to force someone to change?

Motivation is essentially a combination of two emotional states: courage and desire (sometimes referred to as “confidence” and “importance”). If both of these emotional states are strong, then motivation will be high. If even one of them is low, motivation is adversely affected.

In most of the cases I’ve dealt with people were naturally tuned towards being anti-authoritarian. This is why trying to force motivation into someone doesn’t work. It’s also why giving advice to an unmotivated person only makes them less likely to take action. By trying to force your idea of what is “right” on to them, you are triggering their defense system, and they will feel a strong impulse to do the opposite of what you advise.

When you try to force someone to act, you reduce their desire; to them it feels like a chore. Or, you end up reducing their courage by making them feel like it’s too hard. Either way, you both lose.

So if you’re ready for a different approach, try my six-step Motivational Interviewing pattern, as follows:

Step 1: Listen

The philosophy behind Motivational Interviewing is that you are not the one telling the unmotivated person what to do. Ultimately, you want to encourage them to tell themselves what to do. This is how you develop powerful, intrinsic motivation.

It begins with listening. Somewhere in their mind there’s a reason why they won’t change. That reason is likely to be strongly linked to desire (they don’t want to) or courage (they don’t believe they can), or both.

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Ask them why they don’t want to change, but ask in a non-judgmental way. Be open to the idea that their reasons are valid and worthwhile, rather than just thinking they are being pathetic or stupid. If you feel superior to them, they will sense it, and there goes your window of opportunity. You must take your ego out of the situation.

Enter into the conversation with the attitude of, “I may think I know what this person needs, but they know better than me, so let’s see if I can help them find their own answers.”

Step 2: Reflect

Before someone will take your advice they need to feel they can trust you. More importantly, they need to trust your intentions, especially if they are resistant. If they think you have an agenda – i.e. you want them to change for your benefit – they will dig their heels in.

When you’ve listened to what they have said, reflect it back to them so they know you’ve heard. Try to allow them to hear themselves. This doesn’t mean parroting back their exact words. You could try summing up, identifying the underlying emotion, or even getting quite provocative. I like to exaggerate what my coaching clients say, to help them take a stand and define what they really mean.

If they’re disagreeing with how you’ve heard them, at least you two are having a real conversation. Ask them to correct you; ask what it is you are not hearing. You want to get to the point where you both agree on what they are saying.

Step 3: Create “cognitive dissonance”

Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling caused by two opposing beliefs conflicting. Creating this feeling inside someone else is my favorite and most powerful motivation technique.

To do this, once they are done telling you why not, change tack and start asking questions that get them to reveal what they want out of life, and from themselves. What you are looking for is a conflict between what they want versus this change they refuse to make.

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You’re looking for what I call the “keystone.” It’s the thing they desire in their life that they cannot have unless they make the change. This is where we get to tap into their intrinsic motivation. We have located the internal reward and no longer need external rewards to drive them.

Side note: this is also a great way to get people to truly appreciate external rewards (e.g. money), by making the link between the external reward and intrinsic desires. It’s not just about more money, find out how they want to spend that money to better their lives, and remind them of that.

Let’s look at an example: someone who refuses to stop abusing alcohol. If you can get them to make the link between wanting the best for their children and the negative effect their drinking has on that desire, without telling them, you can create cognitive dissonance. Basically, you want to lead them to tell you that they have to choose between the two: drinking or a good relationship with their children. Help them see that they can’t have both.

Again, it’s crucial you remain non-judgmental. When someone is unmotivated they become hypersensitive to unwanted influence, always looking for an excuse to avoid doing whatever it is they know they need to do. The easiest excuse is to think whoever is trying to help them is actually just an annoying know-it-all.

Keep reflecting back to them so they understand they are saying these things, not you. You’re just asking the questions, don’t give the answers (yet)!

Step 4: Weigh up costs versus benefits

Now that you’ve identified your keystone, it’s time to turn the screws a bit; time to put some positive pressure on. Start asking them questions about the costs and benefits of the two different choices they are now facing. If they “do it” (change), what are the likely outcomes compared to if they “don’t do it?”

If you dig and reflect more deeply on two specific factors – the costs of not changing and the benefits of changingthey will start to convince themselves of what they need to do. You’ve now put them in a position where they can clearly see the consequences of their behavior and choices.

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This is the key driver of Motivational Interviewing in effect: they have now told themselves what they should be doing.

Step 5: Elicit a commitment

Now you finally get to be more direct. Talking about change is all well and good, but ultimately all that matters is taking action. Without that, you’re just chatting.

So ask them: “What do you need to do?”

At this point, if they have bought into this process, they may turn to you for assistance. Lack of motivation is also a huge killer of creativity, so they might need a hand. You can offer your advice now. Just preface it with something like: “I have some ideas, would you like to hear them?”

Don’t rush into this though, give them time and space to work it out for themselves, or just gently lead them to an answer/action. They will maintain motivation longer if they problem solve the situation themselves, and you don’t want to create dependency.

Teach them to fish rather than just feeding them!

They need at least one tangible, measurable action to take. Just one is enough to break them out of the rut or harmful pattern they are in. Then, you can both build on that later, adding more actions as time goes on and motivation increases.

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Most of all, if you are truly dedicated to helping them, prepare to be patient. This whole process will not happen in just one discussion, particularly for the highly unmotivated. It could take days or weeks. It’s up to you, but just know that every conversation helps, even if you give up later on.

Step 6: Follow up

If they now trust you to help them, you need to hold them to account. Follow up with them after the action they were supposed to take happens. Make sure to praise any action, even if it ended in “failure.” Don’t let them off the hook though, ask them, “What next?”

If they didn’t do what they committed to do, ask them what happened. Use the same non-judgmental questioning pattern above to elicit what stopped them and how they can overcome that barrier in the future.

Just remember:

  1. Don’t tell them, get them to tell you
  2. Don’t dictate but do lead
  3. No judgements
  4. Assume deep down they know what is best for themselves, help them to find it
  5. Be patient

One last note

I have worked with some of the most entrenched and dangerous offenders in New Zealand. Some of them were full-blown psychopathic murderers. Others were highly manipulative sociopaths, severe Borderline Personalities, and predatory sex offenders. While I believed they could still be changed one day, some of them were beyond the psychological knowledge of today – too broken to be fixed.

If you have been trying for months to change someone, and they keep making promises without taking action, then it is time to walk away. Either you are not the person to help them, or they simply will not submit to help. While I do believe it is possible to motivate any human who is at least capable of basic brain function, this cannot happen if they really do not want to change.

Don’t burn yourself out on someone who refuses to live a good life. Save your energy for someone more deserving.

Featured photo credit: Brian Smith via flikr

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

Let me begin by being 100% frank with you – everyone is capable of happiness.

Happiness is first a choice but it also takes persistence to maintain. Happiness is our birth right and my mission is to help as many people as I can live their happiest life.

My mission is to spread the message that everyone deserves happiness.

To live a happy life; however, you must do the work, gain the necessary knowledge, and increase your awareness.

You must fully embody this state and begin to think and feel happiness on every level of your being.

Often times, excuses present themselves and our mind gives us the reasons why we can’t be happy:

“I am too busy right now to focus on happiness”

“I will be happy when I finish school, when I have the money, when I am in the right relationship, when I have kids, when my children are older….”

“I would have had a happy life if this traumatic event had never happened”

“I don’t deserve happiness”

EVERYONE deserves happiness. The reason that you are here right now is because you have a purpose and you are on the earth to enjoy your journey.

Think BIGGER than your excuses. Push FARTHER than your complaints.

Don’t be pulled away from greatness. Get uncomfortable. At least these are what happy and successful people do on a daily basis.

This article highlights the top 13 tips and tricks of how happy people think and feel.

If you would like to begin embodying this life-changing state, then… Here are the 13 ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently:

1. Happy People Put Happiness First

Happy people have made the decision that their end goal is happiness.

Every situation, event, bad day ultimately ends with happiness.

To them, happiness is equivalent to sleep and water – it is a necessity to their life. To live an unhappy life is to have never lived at all.

The happy person asks,

“What would be the point of living if every day and moment were filled with negativity?”

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“Why would I deplete my energy on negativity when I expend less to be positive?”

They make happy-based decisions which means in EVERY MOMENT they choose happiness.

If their circumstances can’t change then they instead change their perspective, they look for the silver lining in the negative.

Happy people don’t let negativity steal their moments away – a positive mindset always prevails.

If you ask a happy person how their day was, they will always answer your question with a highlight or a lesson learned.

2. Happy People Embrace Pain

I know what you are thinking –

“No one is ALWAYS happy”

or …

“Even happy people get in bad moods”

and …

These statements are absolutely accurate.

Happy people aren’t always happy and they DO get into bad moods. They get overwhelmed, they feel defeated, and their feelings get hurt.

Happy people aren’t invincible and they feel pain just like everyone else. The only difference between happy people and people who let negativity run their lives is that…

Happy people quickly acknowledge their pain and they make a decision to find a way to transform their pain into something greater. They also use these 13 simple ways to shake off the sadness.

Happy people admit the negativity they feel and they do what it takes to get back into their natural state: happiness.

When your end goal is happiness, then you will find a way to achieve it no matter how much strength you have to muster.

3. Happy People Have a Happy Self-Image

We all have an image in our minds that we subconsciously live up to.

The reason that change is so hard is because our subconscious mind is programmed to live by how we define ourselves.

How are you currently defining yourself?

For happy people, they see themselves with a smile, positive outlook, and/or a bounce in their step. When an event or situation arises that brings in a negative emotion, they quickly change their state to resemble their natural self-image.

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When happy people are in a bad mood, it feels unusual to them because feeling negative isn’t aligned with how they see themselves.

When they feel upset, they acknowledge the negativity and look for a solution to bring their emotions to the level of how they perceive themselves.

Look at how you define yourself today – your mind and body are always trying to live up to the definition it is taught to believe.

Your body’s job is to keep you in a “normal” state because this is where it feels most comfortable.

If your self-image is happy, then your mind and body will naturally be brought back to where it feels at home. Your actions will be a clue to how you define yourself.

4. Happy People Have a Strong Support System

The happiest people know that it takes a village and they lean on others for support.

Happy people feel comfortable reaching out for help when they feel that their resistances are overpowering them. They quickly sense their negativity and they tell somebody.

Happy people ask for assistance when they can’t figure out a problem. Seeking help takes strength and it never gets in the way of their self-worth. Happy people appreciate the wisdom that their support system provides.

They have strong connections with the people who are close to them. They never trudge through tough times alone because jeopardizing their happiness for too long would be detrimental to their well-being.

5. Happy People Safeguard Their Minds from Negative Triggers

Warding off negativity is almost impossible when we live in a society that lives by what went wrong and feeds off of what could go wrong. News travels instantaneously so it would be unrealistic to shut this out of your life completely.

However, one strategy that happy people use to safeguard their minds is regulating their environment.

We have a lot of control on how we allow our environments to affect us. We can control our social media feed, the television shows and movies we watch, the books that we read, the people that we spend our time with, and the places that we hang out.

If happiness is your end goal, then take a good look at what is bringing you down. What triggers your unhappiness? See if there is anything in your environment that can be changed……

What we listen to, read, and who we hang out with influence our mind, what we think about, what we worry about, our reactions, and behaviors.

Happy people know what triggers a feeling of negativity and it feels out of alignment for them so they do what it takes to avoid it.

They might regulate their social media news feed to reflect the information that brings them positive energy. They might regulate the people that they spend their time with. It is important to hang out with like-minded people.

What are you triggers? How can you avoid the negativity in your environment?

These are ways that happy people regulate their environment and safeguard their minds.

6. Happy People Know When to Say “No”

Happy people know when to sit one out and say “no.” They do this to protect their happiness and well-being.

Life gets overwhelming – a lot of people need our attention and the to do list can seem never ending.

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Happy people give themselves permission to take the day off and they feel comfortable with saying “no” when their stress levels begin to climb. They understand that those around them aren’t benefiting from someone who is frazzled, overwhelmed, and tired.

A happy person identifies their negative emotion and then they quickly treat it to bring themselves back to their “normal” state, so that they can be at their best for not only themselves but for those around them, too.

A simple “no” can ultimately mean many more “yes’s” in the future because happiness has a long battery life. You can take a look at Leo Babauta’s article The Gentle Art of Saying No and learn to say no.

7. Happy People Are Good Evaluators

Happy people can quickly sense when something is off with themselves or others. They are very intuitive to happiness levels. When someone isn’t quite right, they are the first ones to notice.

Being able to evaluate happiness means that you can identify when negativity is lingering around for too long.

We all have bad days; however, the happy person evaluates often and quickly intervenes.

In other words, happy people frequently evaluate their state and immediately change when their pessimism is overshadowing their joy.

8. Happy People Bring Other People Up

What goes on inside of us is mirrored into our physical world.

What we think about literally consumes our life and is displayed in our work, relationships, and attitude.

Happy people naturally feel good inside and about themselves so they treat others the way that they treat themselves. It never feels forced to give a compliment or to help out a stranger.

When we are truly happy with ourselves, everyone around us has a better experience. Happy people are kind to themselves and because of this, it feels natural to them to want to make others’ happy, too.

9. Happy People Go After Their Dreams

Happy people are always following the joyful path. They make happy-based decisions and because of this, they always end up where they want to be.

It’s absolutely impossible to be happy by following an undesirable path, which is quite opposite for unhappy people.

Most people journey through life on a path they think they are “supposed” to be own. Warning signs (negativity) are often ignored because they truly believe that these feelings are a normal part of life.

Negativity is NOT normal.

The happiest people investigate the negativity in their life and quickly analyze the results. This process allows them to get back on the joyful path which ends in a desirable outcome.

Follow your happiness and your dreams will come true (If that isn’t motivation then I don’t know what is!)

In addition to happiness, here are 14 amazing things that happen when you live your passion.

10. Happy People Never Sweat the Small Stuff

The only expectation that the happy person has is that they remain in a joyful state.

They rarely have expectations for the events and people in their lives because they know that this is a sure way to get let down.

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The happiest people take life as it comes – you could say that they roll with the punches. When you don’t have expectations, thenyoue can just sit back and watch how beautifully life unfolds.

Happy people understand that bad things are inevitable, they are a part of life – The car will break, the kids will make mistakes, people will be late, and dinner will burn.

If it’s not anything seriously affecting their lives, then they don’t give their energy to it.

11. Happy People Rarely Have to Prove That They Are Right

Happy people remember that it’s more important to live up to what they believe. When you live your life aligned with your belief system, then there is no need to explain or prove yourself to others.

Differences in opinions are inevitable, but the happiest of people know it’s wasted energy to defend their position.

It is more effective to simply show people, through actions, how you think, feel, and what you believe.

Energy is saved, arguments are diminished, and credibility/respect are gained when we live by what we believe.

12. Happy People Smile (Even When They Don’t Want To)

Smiling is one of the healthiest things we can do; and happy people use this simple trick quite often.

It has been proven that smiling has the ability to boost your immune system, decrease stress levels, and can even make you look younger. The benefits of smiling have even been backed up by science.[1]

Better yet, smiling is contagious. When you engage in a quick smile, you are likely to brighten someone else’s day along with your own. It is no wonder why happy people smile often!

13. Happy People Live Life in the Present Moment.

When we are genuinely happy, we are living for the moment.

Happy people let go of the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future. They take the moments for what they are worth – they only invest their energy in what feels right to them.

Everyone is capable of living a happy-centered life. You deserve a life that you desire – your dream life. All you have to start doing is make happy-based decisions TODAY.

In every moment, decide on what makes you happy – decide on what gets you excited. Stop doing what you don’t love, don’t listen to the people that you dislike.

If you are engaging in something that isn’t bringing you joy, then quit doing it. Listen to your heart, stop ignoring the warning signs (negativity) because they are there for a reason.

I have observed, studied, and interviewed some of the happiest and most successful people along with some of the most miserable and self-loathing.

It starts with one decision – happiness.

The happiest, most successful people choose happiness with EACH and EVERY decision. And you can start doing this today.

Featured photo credit: Autumn Goodman via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Science Behind the Smile

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