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Top 9 Ways to Motivate People to Do Their Best

Whether or not you consider yourself to be a leader, you still need to know how to motivate and inspire other people. We often find ourselves in situations, where we have to motivate others, be it talking a friend into joining a gym with us, convincing our future employer that we are the best person for the job or encouraging our co-workers to work on a project.
The real question many of us  ask ourselves is how do you motivate people? How do you encourage them to be the best that they can possibly be?
It is not an easy question. And as in most cases there is no straight answer or secret NLP trick that will work for everyone. There are, however, a few things that I have found helpful when it comes to inspiring people and motivating them into taking action:

1. Be inspired

It may seem strange that the first and the most important step to motivate others is to motivate yourself. Just like fire, enthusiasm is catching. A candle that is not burning cannot light another candle. Similar, if you are not motivated or do not believe in the idea you are sharing with others, they will never be inspired by your words. If you want to inspire others, you have to be their inspiration.

2. Make it look like fun

Do you remember “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain”? The main hero, Tom, as a punishment has to whitewash a fence around his aunt’s house. His friends are making fun of him for having to work on a hot sunny day. “What do you call work?”, Tom asks one of the boys“ I don't see why I oughtn't to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?” 5 minutes later the boys end up paying Tom for letting them whitewash the fence, while promising to do a great job.
It is all about perspective! If you think about it, there are a few really boring tasks that no motivational speaker on Earth can make sound more appealing. In 99% of cases there is not that much of a difference between hard work or a challenging, yet fun activity, and it is up to you to choose how to present it.

3. Trust people to do a good job

In psychology there is a concept called self-fulfilling prophesies. It has been demonstrated time and again that people’s behavior greatly depends on expectations we place on them.
It was enough to tell teachers in an elementary school that their students had a lower IQ than average and 6 months later the kids’ IQ noticeably went down.  If you do not expect much from a person you are trying to motivate, YOU will be the one to sabotage their success and ability to do a good job. On the other hand, if you learn to see the true potential in every person, people will go to great lengths to live up to your expectations!

4. Push the right buttons

Find what excites people, what drives them, what they enjoy doing… then lead them towards those things! There is no need to bribe people into doing their best. All it takes is to help them discover their inner motivation and true potential.

5. Treat people as if they are already living their potential

I believe it was Goethe who said, “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.” My dad learned how to swim when his friend pushed him out of a boat. This may be drastic measures, but in many cases we need to be pushed out of our comfort zone in order to understand what we are truly capable of. Therefore, do not be afraid to give people tasks that are challenging, yet do-able. At the end they might surprise themselves.

6. Give recognition

When it comes to recognizing other’s efforts many people feel that praise and acknowledgements are unnecessary. We might feel that someone has to work for us after hours, because we pay them for it. Or that our friends should always be there for us, because this is what friends are for. But the truth is that we all like to be appreciated and valued.
Make it a habit not to take for granted anything people do for you. Acknowledge their achievements. Thank them for helping you out. Offer support in minutes of doubt. And they will go to great lengths for you!

7. Choose collaboration over competition

Competition might be a great way to motivate people in the short run, but in the long-run making people compete against each other ruins the spirit of team work and creates tension. People tend to do a much better job and enjoy themselves a lot more when they are focused on contributing towards one bigger goal rather than just beating their competition.

8. Be careful with bribery

It may seem that the easiest way to make your children behave is to bribe them with a new toy. Similar, many managers believe that employees work harder when they mention bonuses and possible promotion. Numerous studies confirm that bribery is the fastest way to destroy intrinsic motivation that a person might initially have had. Take time to learn what really drives people, not what bribes them!

9. Give a reason

As unbelievable as it may sound 36% of people will not be motivated into doing anything, unless you give them a good reason to do it. They are not necessarily slackers or unmotivated individuals. They just do a better job if they know they are working for a cause, rather than just following orders.  Before going on with motivating another person, think about “What is in it for them?”
  • Why should they follow your advice?
  • What will they get in return for their efforts?
  • How will they benefit from doing what you feel they should do?
If you cannot come up with a good enough reason, be careful! Because there is a fine line between motivating and manipulating and you do not want to cross it.
  • Marlon Acosta
    January 17, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    • Arina
      January 17, 2011 at 11:47 am

      Thank you Marlon. I am really happy that you like it. Hope that you will apply it as well.

  • Brenda
    January 18, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Enjoyed reading this article very much, especially liked number 6 – give recognition.

    I have found by doing this, people always give that little bit extra. We all like to be recognized and appreciated, and I am always grateful for the people I have in my life, and enjoy telling them that.

  • Alexis
    January 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Great article. very inspirational.
    I think there’s a leader inside each of us, just sometimes we don’t know how to bring it out.

  • Samjae Lee
    January 24, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Thank you for this great article

  • Jessica
    October 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I am a high school teacher and motivating apathetic students is extremely challenging. However, from personal experience, the tips you suggested really do help. In terms of giving recognition, I want to note that the recognition and praise needs to be very specific and not overly general.
    I’d appreciate any thoughts you may have on how to help young people become more actively involved and engaged in their own schooling. How can I help them become more intrinsically motivated and committed to their academic success? I’m passionate and “inspirational” but that doesn’t necessarily rub off on them. So many of my students have a “whatever” indifference that is difficult to combat. I have to work really hard at not becoming disheartened or unmotivated myself as a result of their lack of motivation. Solid answers are not easily attained, and I realize every child is unique. Differentiation is essential. No matter how challenging and exhausting motivating young people may be, I will never lower my expectations or give up on my kids. I will continue to seek new ways of helping them realize their potential. Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated.

    • Arina
      July 3, 2012 at 3:56 am

      Hi Jessica,

      Thank you for your insights about being very specific when acknowledging other people’s achievement. Coming from someone, who practices it every day, this advice becomes even more valuable.
      As to motivating students to academic success… I believe that there are two factors that can help children to study better: 1. The teacher should be passionate about her subject, 2. The teacher should love her children. I believe that you already have both. 
      Don’t lower your expectations and maybe sooner or later you will get through apathy and indifference. 

      As to actual teaching method, psychologists suggest that there are 4 types of learning styles: Why? What? How? and What if?
      Some people are motivated into action when you give them a solid reason “Why” they should do it. Some need clear objectives and facts (What? learning style. This is the educational style used at most schools). Some people learn better when they have clear step-by-step instructions ( How? learning style. This is how I learn). And some  – usually it is a small group of people with entrepreneurial mindset – have to know how they can apply the knowledge that they are learning.

      Psychologists suggest that when you are explaining something or teaching new material, we should cover all four learning styles. 

      It is also important to remember that you can not make someone care about the studies if he/she does not want to. My old teacher used to say, “I can not teach you anything, unless you are willing to listen.” I found this to be very true.

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