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Motivation Merely Mystifies

Motivation Merely Mystifies

Leon’s “welcome” posting makes me feel embarassed and gives me a frightening standard to live up to. Anyhow, thanks for the kind words…and here I go again.

Buzzwords block our ability to think and communicate clearly, so people are left confused and frustrated. The buzzword “motivation” is a prime example. Though it sounds precise, it has that typical characteristic of all buzzwords: a vague cluster of meanings lumped within a single word. My dictionary defines is as “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” You can’t get much vaguer than that.

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Most new managers — and many experienced ones too — feel concerned how best to “motivate’ their staff. It ought to be simple to get help. Nearly every consultant and business coach claims some expertise in the topic. Yet somehow people stay uncertain. I don’t think it’s just the difficulty of the subject — though any skill related to dealing with other people is never straightforward. I believe the problem is inherent in the obscurity of the buzzword “motivation” itself.

Suppose you need to motivate someone. What will you have to do? What skills will you need? Broadly — and vaguely — the answer seems simple: you need to affect “the desire or willingness of someone to do something.” You want that person to carry out some action at your request, and do it willingly and with full attention. But once you begin to ask how to achieve this, the obscurity of the term “motivate” blocks your progress.

Suppose you replace the buzzword “motivate” with a specific term? The task becomes clear at once:

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  • How do I influence…?
  • How do I persuade…?
  • How do I convince…?
  • How do I encourage…?
  • How do I ask…?
  • How do I explain…?

The list could go on and on, each word signaling both the action you’re considering and the skill you’ll need. The question: “How do I motivate…?” covers them all.

Buzzwords seem useful because they allow people to say something that sounds sensible, even when the speaker isn’t at all clear what he or she means. They sound fashionable and up-to-date, even trendy. And they cover such a range of possibilities they free us from the need to sort out our ideas before we start.

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That’s why politicians and advertisers are so fond of buzzwords. They allow for all shades of meaning — and none at all — in a single word or phrase. If any of the possible meanings leads to criticism, or sounds too close to a commitment or obligation, it’s easy to say your words were “taken out of context” and you never meant that at all.

Using words precisely isn’t pedantry. We think in words, so having a vague word in your mind ensures any thoughts created from it are obscure and imprecise. When you communicate using buzzwords, it’s an invitation to misunderstanding.

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That’s why lazy subordinates can claim, “my boss doesn’t motivate me” with about the same degree of truthfulness as the philandering husband who excuses his womanizing because, “my wife doesn’t understand me.”

Excuses need vague terms. Making things happens successfully depends on precision and clarity.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

Most of you made personal, one sentence resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “I vow to go back to school.” It is a tradition to start the New Year with things you want to achieve, but under the influence resolutions are often unrealistic.

If you’re wondering when will be a good time to write a mission statement, NOW is the time to take a personal inventory to make this year your most productive year ever. You may be asking yourself, “How am I going to do that?” You, my friends, are going to write personal mission statements.

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A large number of corporations use mission statements to define the purpose of the company’s existence. Sony wants to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” and 3M wants “to solve unsolved problems innovatively”. A personal mission statement is different than a corporate mission statement, but the fundamentals are the same.

So why do you need one? A personal statement will help you identify your core values and beliefs in one fluid tapestry of content that you can read anytime and anywhere to stay on task toward success.

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For example, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire came to the realization that he had lost track of what was important to him. After writing a personal mission statement, we saw him start his own business and he got the girl, Renee Zelleweger. Not bad, wouldn’t you say? A personal mission statement will make sure that, through all the texting, emailing and constant bombardment of on-the-go activity, you won’t lose sight of what is most important to you.

Mission statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal mission statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for 2008.

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To begin your internal cleansing, you will need to jot down the required information in the following five steps:

  1. What are your values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” mission statement for a reason.
  2. What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.
  3. What image do you hope to project to yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals.
  4. Write down action statements from each value describing how you will use those values to achieve your three goals. Start with “I will…”
  5. Rewrite your statement to include only your action statements. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office.

If you followed the steps above, congratulations! You have just written your first personal mission statement. Your personal statement will change over the years as your goals change. You can have more than one statement for the different compartments of your life such as your career, family, marriage, etc.

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Writing a personal mission statement is an effective method to ensure your productivity is at its peak. It is an ideal tradition to start so that when next year rolls around, the outdated practice of resolutions will be something you permanently left in the past.

Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

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