May 27, 2018
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Motivating ourselves constructively

By: Steven Campbell
April 27, 2018

For a number of years, I taught at a college in Santa Rosa from 8 a.m. in the morning until 2 p.m., teaching the contents of this column and watching many of my students change their thinking, both as students and individuals, in wonderful and healthy ways. 

As I also ran the evening school from 5 to 10 p.m., I was leaving the campus one night at 9:30 p.m. when one of my day students who was there doing some lab work asked how long I had been there. When I told him that I had arrived at 7:45 a.m. that morning, he then exclaimed, “Isn’t that hard?!” My response was automatic, without even thinking about it. “Not when you love what you are doing!” 

Now that is constructive motivation.

When we began looking at constructive motivation two weeks ago, it was observed that all of us must accept the consequences of our decisions.

Let’s look at that again for a minute.

The statement “You must accept the consequences of your decisions” has a very portentous ring to it. In fact, it can also be expressed as “You have to accept the consequences of your decisions…or else!” 

Oops! We are back to the “have-to’s” and restrictive motivation again that we talked about two weeks ago! And we have already learned that bringing any have-to’s into your thinking is like waving a very red flag in front of a bull. Your mind reacts immediately by sitting up on its haunches and exclaiming, “Oh yeah! Make me!” This is then followed by procrastination, creative avoidance, or slovenly work…not the best of partners for change.

So, let’s consider an alternate to “You must accept the consequences of your decisions.” One which works very effectively is, “You get to enjoy the benefits of your decisions.” We have made three changes here and each one converts the statement from a “have-to” to a “get-to” …from restrictive motivation to constructive motivation. Let’s briefly consider each one.

“You get to…” rather than “You must…”

We have already learned that beginning a sentence with “You must do so-and-so” or “You must not do so-and-so” makes your mind want to do so-and-so, or not do so-and-so. That’s the way we’re wired. It is the same as being told to not think of a red-faced monkey when your eyes are closed or being told by a server “Now don’t touch the plate because it’s hot!” and…you’ve GOT to touch that plate! This is the reason that sentences beginning with “You must” or “You have to…” or “You should…” are usually self-defeating.

So, we have replaced “You must…” with “You get to…” This motivates your mind to accept the changes you are making in your life. Rather than exclaiming, “Oh yeah? Make me!” it anticipates those changes. Why: because getting to do something is far more motivating than having to do it.

“Enjoy…” rather than “accept…”

The word “accept” can have a very ominous ring to it. It means “to agree or consent to;” and is often associated with things you do not want to accept. As we have discovered, your mind reacts against this through procrastination, etc. The word enjoy however has the opposite effect. Your mind becomes your motivator.

“The benefits” rather than “the consequences.” 

The word “consequences” has the same menacing feel to it as the words You must and accept. Nothing more need be said.

Applying Constructive Motivation to your Goals

So how can you apply constructive motivation to the changes we want in our lives?  Actually, it is deceptively simple. Simply look at each one and ask the question, “WHY…do I want this change in my life?” If the answer involves a “have-to,” or a “should,” or a “must,” you know you are using restrictive motivation, not constructive. Your mind will in turn not be much of a mentor. So, you simply change the motivation in your goals:

Example One: I enjoy imprinting my affirmations daily because it is so easy and fun.

This certainly has the correct form and format. However, if your incentive behind this affirmation is if you don’t imprint these affirmations, then reading the contents of this column will be a waste of your valuable time. You are using restrictive motivation and your mind will not be of much of a motivator. A second step is then necessary, and that is to focus in on the positive changes you will be seeing in your life. 

Example Two: “I love weighing only 140 pounds because it makes me feel so great about myself.” This also has the correct format. However, if the incentive is that you have to or should lose (or gain) weight, the motivation is still restrictive, and your mind will not be there to motivate you. So, you take that second step by switching the focus from your having to lose weight to the benefits of weighing less (or more). These might include better feelings about yourself, lower blood pressure and having a positive relationship with your bathroom scale. 

Constructive motivation simply says, “I don’t have to do this. I want to!  I like what I am becoming, I love what I am doing, and it is MY idea!!!”



Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent” and conducts “The Winners Circle” every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. Contact Steven at 480-5007 or go his website at to ask about his one-day free monthly seminar.