According to audioenglish.org, the noun MOTIVATOR has only 1 sense: “a positive motivational influence” (emphasis added).
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past day or so because I surround myself with many types of people who are viewed as motivators. I consider my own self to be a motivator in certain areas as well.
A motivator’s intentions are to positively motivate others in specific areas. Let’s break it down with our handy dandy thesaurus (Thesaurus.com).
**A motivator’s intentions are to
- EXCITE others
- INSPIRE others
- PROPEL others
- SPARK (ignite a fire in) others
- LEAD others
- MOVE others
These Questions Will Make or Break You as a Successful Motivator
We all have the opportunity to motivate on some level. It’s vital that those of us who portray ourselves as motivators (spiritually, academically, physically, nutritionally, etc.) always ask ourselves 3 questions before submitting that next text, email, private message, status update, advertisement or verbal communication:
1. What is it that truly moves me to excel at the things I might typically struggle to do because the want to just isn’t fully there?
When asking yourself this question, be honest. Are you motivated long term by money, genuine compassion, someone yelling in your face about what you’re doing wrong, someone being condescending toward you [belittling you] to push you into becoming better, someone giving you praise at even your smallest achievements and attempts, someone telling you how much they believe in you, someone doing what you’re doing alongside of you . . . ? The list can go on for miles. Ultimately, you’ll land on what you find to be your strongest motivator that helps you become a better you, and when that motivator is no longer in the picture, you can still find yourself being successful.
When asking this question, it’s also important to understand you are not the one who determines what motivates others. Every person is different, and a good motivator knows how to make adjustments for different people and in different settings. What works for you might not work for the person you are trying to motivate. In the same regard, what works for that person you’re currently motivating, very well may not work for his or her friend who comes to you tomorrow in search of a push toward the same type of excellence.
2. Are my words meant to encourage or discourage?
This is a big one for so many of us. I remember when I began teaching, I had gone through all those years of school being taught, “You can never start out easy and move to being strict. It’s better to start off overly strict and ease up.” That’s how I began my teaching career, and that first year was just not fun for the students or me. I was not . . . ME. . . Yes, I have very high expectations of my students and those I coach in the fitness world, but I was taking on the persona of those who came before me as well as the one who mentored me, and I was downright mean and very well may have damaged some kids in the process.
I feel certain I did not motivate anyone that year to excel at Spanish or to become a teacher or, well, anything. I don’t feel I inspired a single student that year. Why? Because 1) I was trying to be someone I’m not and 2) it’s very difficult for someone to genuinely be moved by such harsh words and what I’m sure appeared to be a heart with little to no compassion.
In the 14+ years I’ve lead, taught, mentored, coached people, I’ve learned that absolutely no one is motivated long term by those types of things. In fact, that’s where many completely lose any bit of desire they had to excel in whatever area it is.
3. Do I know this person’s story?
That person you’re talking to – the one you’re trying to motivate – the person who is silently watching and trying to muster up the nerve to even approach you about bettering herself – do you know whether or not she has struggled with some serious issues in her past where your sarcastic or curt words could feel to her as verbal abuse or even bring back old memories or tendencies that she has worked so hard to overcome? If you don’t know the answer to this question, you might want to really consider your marketing plan before putting it out there.
The fact is, you don’t know the stories behind everyone who comes into your class, home, social networking world, or place of business. You don’t even know what kind of day people have had, and your words are meant to inspire not degrade.
We can’t walk on eggshells because we’re too afraid to hurt someone’s feelings, but at the same time we can be smart and sensitive to the fact that there are people with all different kinds of stories who cross our paths, and if we present ourselves as a “go-to” person for motivation, then we must also be considerate in our motivational techniques. Even things you wouldn’t take as being hurtful may very well be hurtful to someone else. We absolutely must think about these things first.
Quick personal example: I remember someone just a year or two ago who came up to me and went on and on about how teeny tiny I was and proceeded to tell me that I need to be counting calories and I should be using this special app to make sure I’m eating enough, and I need to start focusing on adding such and such to my diet this many times a day so I could gain weight.
That may sound like nothing to you. However, it was very difficult for me. In the first place, I never asked this person for her advice or thoughts. I actually had never even met this person but she was a friend of a friend, and we were at the same event. Second, I was already lifting heavy, taking supplements, and eating enough for a family of 5 during that time in order to try to gain muscle, and I can’t help that God created me as a small person. Lastly, she had no idea that I had struggled with eating and counting calories and weighing myself in the past or that I had already attempted twice to use that special app, but I saw those tendencies from my past coming back, and I knew it wasn’t smart for me to use it. She also didn’t know that I had for the first time in my life loved my body and the way I felt inside and outside but had recently started struggling with it again because of a few similar remarks from loved ones, so hearing someone I had never met go on for what seemed like days while I could feel my chest burning because I was working so hard to keep the tears from making an appearance came really close to sending me over the edge causing me to quit anything related to fitness altogether. Yes, I did consider that on several occasions after hearing what, to me, were incredibly negative comments about myself.
This instance wasn’t even something as serious as some things I’ve seen happening to others, but I think it gives you an idea of how the things we say can really negatively affect those who look up to us as motivators just as much as it can positively affect them.
Our goal is to motivate – to challenge and push as we influence, inspire, encourage, and move someone into a positive direction.