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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 June 26, 2019

Why Your Perception Is Your Reality

Why Your Perception Is Your Reality

Take a minute to scan your surroundings. Are you in a familiar place or somewhere new? Stop reading this, and just look around you.

Pick out an object, maybe something you hadn’t noticed before, and focus your attention on it.

If you really focus, it’ll get brighter and more “real” than it was when it was just an unnoticed piece of the background noise of your life.

Now, try to view your surroundings from the point of the object. Some people can do this with no effort, and for others, it takes some concentration. Depending on how adept you are at focusing your concentration, you may notice a slight shift in your perception – a weird jump in realty, where you are suddenly viewing the world from a different perspective.

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Did it work?

Whether you noticed anything or not, your perception did change, albeit for an instant. It’s important to be conscious of your perception, because if you’re not, someone else will create it for you.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Marketers and magicians rely on this fact to make you see things – the way they want you to see them. Artists do too.

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You may have seen Julian Beever’s amazing pavement drawings. He utilizes the Trompe l’oeil technique,[1] which means “trick the eye” in French. He uses his drawing stills to create a perception.

Like an optical illusion, our mind attempts to fill in the details of something — it either thinks it already knows, or doesn’t quite understand. This works out fine, when that’s the intention – momentarily letting our world be shaped for fun.

But wandering through life, letting others create your perceptions, can make for a very unfulfilling life.

Change Your Story, Change Your Perception, Change Your Life

“Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” – Douglas Adams

We all get caught up in our stories. Most of us think we are our stories. It’s when those stories take on a life of their own, and that life isn’t the one we want, that things start to suck.

Think about the story you’re living right now. Who wrote it? Did you consciously decide to create the reality you’re living now, or was it mainly shaped by your parents, friends, spouse, school, or the media?

If you don’t like the story you’re living, then change the perception. Envision how you’d write the next chapter of your story. Better yet, actually sit down and write it.

Focus your perception on creating a new reality, one where you are in charge of the story. Take back the job as screenwriter and director, and stop just being an actor.

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Everything begins with a decision – decide now to be in charge of your own perception of reality. Because if you don’t, there are plenty of folks whose sole purpose in life is to craft that perception for you. Do you trust them to have your best interest in mind?

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Featured photo credit: Andreas Kind via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Artist Network: Fooling Around With Trompe l’Oeil

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