What is your motivation to change?

Updated: Sep 13, 2020


Well begun is half done, goes the adage. But how do you sow the seed of change that can potentially grow into a fruit bearing tree?

There are 4 ways by which change can be triggered. These, as you would see, operate at 4 different levels with varying impact -

1. Inspiration

“Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching. Because whatever you see can inspire you.”  Grace Coddington


Have you ever been 'moved' by something - could be a story about someone, or your own experience that moved you so much that you went deep down your thought process to come out as an altered person. Inspiration is not emulating what others are doing, but in fact, it can be your own interpretation and thereby instigating a change. It is not superficial, but rather deeply connected to your core. While inspiration usually comes from external stimuli, it tends to settle down within you as your own purpose and meaning. For most people, it happens by chance that they 'get inspired', while many spend a big part of their life 'seeking inspiration' or looking for stimulants. Most profound changes find their origin in inspiration. It's the holy grail of all seekers.

Moments of inspirations are very few and far apart, but they can bring about the biggest change in one's life.

Example – Mahatma Gandhi went through a particularly humiliating experience in South Africa, being physically thrown off a train and that inspired him to seek his rights with dignity. This in turn inspired many others to take on the approach of seeking what was rightfully theirs without necessarily resorting to violence. This path of inspiring others created a 'satyagrah' movement, that changed the course of history in the subcontinent.


Key enablers – Ability to connect ideas and a seeking mind

2. Motivation

“If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, but never the goal.”  Author Unknown


Motivation is the inner feeling which you incubate, that fuels your desire to make the change. While the prerequisite to motivation is an ambitious and aspiring goal, it usually kicks in via introspection, reflection, creating an aspiring goal or ambition. Surprisingly, in the management context, it is often used very loosely to imply a leadership quality of motivating others. It also gets commonly misunderstood as being dependent on external factors that contribute to the ability to make the change. Many a times it is used in the negative sense to indicate feeling of helplessness. Motivation, when understood as what others do to you, tends to make you feel like a victim. On the other hand, if you see it as an internal source of energy, entirely within our reach and discretion, it can make bigger changes possible and keep us in the driving seat. Bigger goals take longer time to come through and requires us to stay on course without getting disillusioned. Long term changes encompasses twists and turns along the way. having no ability to motivate oneself, there are very high chances that we will be frustrated and even give up. What is in fact needed in these situations is to push on, have faith in our ability, calling upon one's motivation. High motivation is usually manifested as high in confidence, high self-esteem, positive attitude, solution oriented, self-trusting, energized and agile person, one who sees obstacles as challenges and not as dead ends. By nature, motivation becomes a personality attribute and becomes a way of life for us. This is ensures long term goals being achieved and long lasting changes delivered.

Examples – Rocky Balboa stands tall as someone who finds motivation to keep going till he gets to his dream. Steve Jobs driven by is passion for design achieved so much in his lifetime. Most startups are built with powerful vision, which motivates the individual to achieve much more than what is possible through regular efforts.


Key enablers – Purpose and persistence

3. Incentive

By definition, incentive are tools that are meant to coax and cajole, to make the necessary change or achieve a seemingly stretch goal. It serves the purpose of overcoming our momentary lack of motivation and belief to make the change or do the requisite tasks. It serves to get over our self-doubts and negative emotions which might hold us back. It powers up our ability to take on risks and lifts the confidence and courage required for making the change. Mostly it is financial in nature, but the non-monetary ones like recognition and encouragements are sometimes more effective than the financial ones. A short-term change program can usually get more takers through the incentive programs rather than taking the route of finding the individuals with high levels of motivations, or better still, those that have found inspiration by themselves. This is an induced change behavior and, as such, cannot be sustained by overusing it.

In the organizational context, everyone can do more with incentive. Front line sales team gets incentive to drive short term results while the CEO may be incentivised with long term rewards to create long term value for the organization.

Incentive does not have to be externally provided; one can also self-incentivise. This ensures that person is taking accountability to take timely steps in the right proportion to make the change happen.

The opposite of incentive, pain avoidance is the flip side of the coin.

Example – Right behavior can be molded through encouragement. The reward of the coveted promotion can bring in the edge in the performance of the employee, making him more driven to achieve the results. On the other hand, greed or profiteering driven change can result in catastrophic outcomes.


Key enablers - Responsiveness and ethical thought process

4. Fear

"The obstacle is the path." - Zen Proverb


Last but certainly not to be ignored, is the impact that fear can have in driving change. Though undesirable in most situations, it can activate quick reactionary changes. Usually used from position of power and control, it is squarely in the hands of those in control to deployed as the situation demands. The issue with this driving any change is, that it comes with low conviction and therefore any amount of change is not sustainable. Also, it leads to lower morale and esteem if used incessantly. This approach requires monitoring to ensure compliance and consistency.

By nature, fear based thinking can at best serve situations like compliance but fails to deliver higher level of development or excellence that other approaches can deliver.

At times, love, which is the opposite of fear, can step in to lift our spirits and propel us forward.

Examples - Punishments and fines are the most used methods for bringing law and order in a community. Fear of failure can drive heightened efforts just before exams. Fear of poor health can get you to enroll in the gym.


Key enablers - Action bias and agility


"“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Lao Tzu


Conclusion -

As one can see, each of the four reasons for change are different in how they impact the individual and the context in which they are effective or ineffective. The trigger for change is different in how they are induced, their source, their effectiveness horizon and their extent and level of possible change achieved. Not using them with the correct understanding can lead to dysfunctional behavior and poor success in change implementation. All of us use the seamless continuum of these approaches in our roles as leaders with our teams, parents with our kids, partners with ourselves, so on and so forth.


"For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay


Would you have experiences to share from your life or anyone you know? Please leave your comments below -

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