How do we get people to stay on track with their goals and objectives? How do you even keep yourself motivated to keep going? What do you do when people mess? Do you also struggle with delivering feedback?
Okay, so this is going to be quite an interesting post about positive reinforcement and how you can use that to motivate yourself and other people. We’ll also dive into deadlines and the fear of failure, constructive criticism and why it’s difficult to give/receive any feedback.
Why is motivation so difficult to sustain?
Motivation can often seem like a mood. It changes all the time. One moment you have a burst of energy and after a few minutes you just feel like taking a nap.
What we don’t understand about motivation is that it’s more of a mindset. We need to constantly gear ourselves up and keep the momentum going. It requires discipline and effort, and tons of consistency. Motivation will get you started, but you’ll need to put in the hard work to keep it up.
Deadlines and fear of failure
How often have you procrastinated and left a task until the very last day? You probably had a few weeks to finish the essay but you kept telling yourself ‘later’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘I still have enough time’.
Why then, do we all of a sudden give up on that lazy mindset the day before the actual submission? It’s rooted down in fear. Fear can be an incredibly motivating force. We don’t want to feel humiliated, ashamed, or embarrassed. So we make sure we get enough done for a pass.
If you think about logically though, you’re far more likely to avoid failure and pass well if you submit well in advance. That makes sense and seems quite obvious, but goes against our instinctive ‘path of least resistance’. That’s why you need to find ways to keep yourself motivated on a regular basis. This can be done using methods like positive reinforcement.
So how does positive reinforcement work? It is essentially rewarding and giving people positive feedback on what they’re doing right. This is obviously not applicable when they’re never doing anything the correct way, but I’m sure there are certain things that can be further encouraged.
What you’re doing here is avoiding defensiveness popping up to block the feedback. I’m sure there are several times people have approached you to help you do something in a better way, but it came in one ear and straight out the other.
The ego plays a big role here. We think we’re fine. We don’t need to hear all this garbage about how we’re not good enough. That’s why telling people that they’re doing something right and making them feel good about it, will further motivate them to keep at that behaviour.
This is one of the most important aspects of working on a team. Learning to criticize someone else’s work so that everyone can benefit. There are 3 ways that this usually turns out:
- You don’t say anything at all and accept their imperfect work.
- You comment too harshly on what they’ve done and make them feel inferior.
- You approach them with just the right amount of advice and praise.
Constructive criticism is difficult because you have to surpass the defensiveness appropriately. Option 1 is ineffective. You and your team are settling for sub-standard work, in which no one benefits. Option 2 is demotivating. It makes the other person despise working with you and they’ won’t be too eager to hear what you have to say.
Option 3 is the sweet middle spot. You have to come in with the right amount of praise and advice for them to hear you out. It’s a combination of positive reinforcement and criticism. You’re able to make them feel good about what they’re doing right and encourage them to work on where they’re falling short.
Reward and punishment
The figure below shows the differences between positive and negative reinforcement, as well as punishment (this is more for the psych kids to remember). You want to stick to the top left quadrant as often as possible, as it’s the most effective method of encouraging positive behaviours. The other methods are definitely also valuable, so try and understand them well.
Reward yourself for achieving your targets. Celebrate milestones. Take the weekend off after an intense submission.
Don’t allow yourself to become complacent when you’re not getting things done. Figure out why motivation is low and what you can do about it. Keep a system in check to make sure you don’t constantly fall off track without any consequences. Use reinforcement and punishment appropriately.
This is often one of the best ways to stay on track of things, by having friends or family members who are there to support you. When you feel overwhelmed and just want to give up, having someone there to encourage can really help with the final push.
It also helps to have someone on a similar path or trying to achieve the same goal. This way when they’re able to move forward and make progress, it could help you stay motivated and keep going.
There’s obviously a lot more to the psychology of motivation. This is just a few thoughts that I had in mind, especially given how critical teamwork is and how we always need to stay on top of things.
You can use these concepts on yourself too. Remember, you don’t know yourself as well as you think. Take the time to actually get to know what works for you and what doesn’t.
As always, stay present. You will get through this. You are capable. If something is difficult, it means you’re going to grow and learn. Don’t stick to your comfort zone, it’s boring there.
“What’s meant for you will never miss you, what misses you was never meant for you.”