The Motivation Equation

This article defines the Motivation Equation. It discusses the important factors and how those factors contribute to the product of Motivation.

The Motivation Equation is an important concept in the process of change. It provides a way of approaching oneself, or others, and achieving any goal or objective. My first experience with the equation was in college. When I pledged a Greek organization the Big Brothers had a phrase based on the Motivation Equation. They would say “We don’t mind and your *ss don’t matter.” In other words, they were saying they were willing to do what they felt necessary to move us towards the goals they set. Boy, did this phrase work!!

Looking back, this phrase was a perfect example of the motivation equation. That equation can be symbolized as “M = P + G, ” where “P” = pain, “G” = goal or expectation for change, and “M” = motivation. There is a positive correlation between the factors, where an increase in either factor will result in an increase in the product. So how does this equation work?

Pain as an Incentive

The first factor is pain. Pain can be an excellent incentive. When we feel uncomfortable in our present circumstances we will usually seek a way to change them. The greater the pain, the greater the urgency for change. Pain can be physical or psychological. The greatest incentive occurs when it is both. When we can emphatically say, “I am tired and can go no more” we are ready to search for alternatives.

Everyone has their pain threshold where they can tolerate no more. Those in addiction treatment call it “hitting the bottom.” When one hits their bottom, they are open for redirection and efforts that they previously rejected. They will stop excusing their circumstances and behavior. They come to the realization that they are out of control and they need help. This is when change becomes most promising. Therefore, the sooner one reaches this point, the sooner a change will begin.

Consider this; Betty has been used to reacting to frustration with destructive angry outbursts. Eventually, she loses job after job. Her friends become weary and they abandon her. She loses friends after friends and eventually becomes isolated. Betty refuses to address her issues. Soon she begins losing loved ones or family members. Now Betty is unemployed and totally alone. She has sustained a pattern of continuous loss. One day Betty says to herself there must be a better way! There has to be a better life! She is at her bottom and whatever it takes she will find that better life!

Change agents recognize this reality and develop or create the possibility that the person will exceed their thresholds. No they do not set the person up for pain. To the contrary, they will advocate the termination of enabling behaviors from others. They will speak with those who enable and will remove the protective elements the person has previously relied upon. Sometimes, it will mean allowing the person to fail. The feelings of loss or failure (pain) have a curative effect. Pain is a very important factor in the drive for change.

Drive is how we describe motivation!

The Goal for Change

The next factor is the goal for change. The person has to complete an honest assessment. They need to realize where previous behaviors have led them. The person needs to understand their present circumstances and determine if this is what they want for their lives. If not satisfied, there is a need for some forward thinking. The operative consideration must be what do you want for your life? When answered honestly, the person has a target, a goal. With a target identified the person can begin some valuable work.

For instance, Betty wants a satisfying and productive life. She wants to feel her life had purpose and she made a difference. In addition, Betty wants a supportive and enriching social life. Finally, she craves a loving and cohesive family. Failing to reach these goals leaves Betty feeling completely worthless and depressed. Betty realizes she has work to do.

Everyone needs to form a vision of what their lives should be. These visions should be attainable and vital to the persons self identity. The more important the vision, the harder the person will work to achieve the vision. This is where the intended change becomes important.

The person has to see how, or at least believe, the intended change will facilitate the vision. They greater they see, or believe, the benefits of the change, the greater their commitments to the change. The greater the commitment, the harder one will work towards change.

This commitment is what we call motivation.

The Motivation Equation

The motivation equation is a simple formula towards understanding some complex emotional and cognitive forces. These forces must be understood and managed properly lest the person receive serious damage. Perhaps the greatest concerns are disappointment and frustration. Either of these can disrupt the person’s change process.

The person on a change course should seek the companionship of an empathetic and trained change agent. Navigating the troubled waters of change without such support can be a difficult journey.

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