Seeds of Greatness: Roots & Wings
Course 1 – What To/Can Do – Positive Self-Motivation
Please listen to the audio file first in each section as it contains greater detail than the written text. Then follow the instructions, if any, at then end of each lesson.
Lesson 1: The Inner Drive
Positive Self-Motivation is the inner drive that keeps you moving forward in pursuit of your goals. Winners in every field in the game of life are driven by desire. There never has been a consistent winner in any profession who didn’t have that burning desire to win internalized. Although the Scriptures have preached it as a basic axiom in life for centuries, this concept was first presented to the general public in an audio program by Earl Nightingale in his platinum recording of “The Strangest Secret.” The strangest secret is that we become what we think about most of the time. In other words, we and our children are motivated every day and moved by our current dominant thoughts. We are moved in the direction of what we dwell on. Everyone in life is self-motivated—a little or a lot—positively or negatively. Even a decision to do nothing is a decision based on motivation.
In the field of psychology we make a basic distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Having intrinsic motivation means doing something for its own sake, like playing a sport just for the joy of playing. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation pulls you by the power of some external benefit or tangible reward you’ll attain by taking action, as in the case of a professional athlete who plays primarily for money rather than for the fun or challenge of the sport. It also influences people in their business careers, especially among those who are driven fundamentally by the income they receive rather than by the love of the service they provide.
Of course, extrinsic motivation can be very powerful. Many people go to a job they neither enjoy nor care about just to receive a paycheck. You can bet these people would not go to their jobs every day if they knew no one was going to pay them for their work. Some of these people actually hate their jobs, but the extrinsic motivation is strong enough to keep them going faithfully every day.
But how powerful is extrinsic motivation in a larger sense? How does the power of extrinsic compare to intrinsic motivation when the topic is doing one’s best, gaining peak performance or achieving human greatness? For example, you may recall from history that the exquisitely beautiful armless statue of Venus de Milo was carved by an unknown sculptor. When a farmer dug up the soon-to-be-world-famous work of art while plowing his field, a renowned museum official sadly reflected what a great pity it was that the sculptor would never be recognized by thousands of admirers, nor would he ever know how valuable the statue became hundreds of years later.
The farmer retorted that it must have been a labor of love for someone to be able to have envisioned such perfection and bring it forth with just a chisel and shapeless piece of stone. Just creating something of such quality,” said the farmer, “would have been payment in full for me.” You can’t commission a masterpiece. It comes from an inner drive not a price-tag.
In 1644, a child was born. He lived to be ninety-three at a time in history when the average life span was about thirty-five to forty. He taught himself his trade and began his career. He often worked alone with primitive tools, but his focus every day was to put the best he had into his work. The man made violins. He labored over each and every process and step to ensure that he had autographed each with excellence and the best that was in him. He created his own personal standard of quality for his craft, and he actually signed his name on each instrument that passed the test.
Today several hundred years later, the name of this craftsman who was committed to internal excellence is the benchmark for the best in musical instruments throughout the world. His name? Antonio Stradivari! His Stradivarius violins sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even have fetched a million dollars for one instrument, because they are the best. When Stradivari labored, he did not know of the legacy he was creating. He was doing his best, day in and day out, to reach his own standard of excellence. He didn’t spend the extra time and care to get the accolades from his parents, peers or upper management. He did it because excellence was a dominant force in his inner motivation. Our primary motivation as parents should be to autograph our own lives with excellence and guide our children to be motivated from their values and passions within.
The educational system in the United States today is undergoing tremendous upheaval because we seem to have stifled the students’ curiosity and the inner desire to learn in favor of immediate, external gratification. Educational psychologists have examined in depth the question of whether extrinsic motivations—like the desire for good grades—reinforces the students’ intrinsic motivation to learn for the satisfaction of mastering new knowledge; or conversely, whether extrinsic rewards might possibly weaken the inner motivation to learn.
In several studies, students who were given strong extrinsic incentives, such as cash rewards for high marks, did extremely well. They did better than their counterparts who were given no special external incentives to learn. But for how long? As soon as the incentives were withdrawn, the extrinsically motivated students’ performance started to decline, and they soon fell behind the students who had never been given any special incentives to exert extra effort. When students had found their primary motivation to be in the external rewards offered, they had trouble seeing the task as worthy in and of itself.
A theme you will hear throughout this program is that if we could live our lives again, we would give our children roots and wings, instead of loot and things. We would first and always offer them unconditional love. We would help them build even stronger internal standards by setting an example with a family code of honor, integrity, and ethics. We would teach them to explore more and to be curious about everything they were doing at the time, rather than harping so much about the payoffs and rewards later in life. We would stimulate their imaginations with great books, more museums, more do-it-yourself projects and more problem-solving opportunities. And we would help them realize that happiness is a decision and a way of traveling, not wrapped up in future results and put on layaway. These are the things that stimulate intrinsic motivation in children.
Lesson 2: Fear and Desire Motivation
Motivation is a very emotional state and the great physical and mental motivators in life such as survival, hunger and thirst, as well as love and revenge, are all charged with emotion. And the two key emotions which dominate all human motivation, with opposite, but nearly equally effective results, are fear and desire. Fear, of course, is the most powerful, negative motivator of all. Fear is the great compeller, that forces us to do things that we feel we have to do because of the consequences. Fear is the great inhibitor that restricts, tightens, and panics and is the red light that tells us that we can’t do things because of the obstacles and risks.
Desire, conversely, is like a strong, positive magnet. It attracts, reaches, opens, directs, and encourages us toward our goals. Fear and desire are poles apart and they lead to alternate destinies in life. Fear usually looks to the past, at missed opportunities and problems, while desire looks toward the future. Fear vividly replays haunting experiences of failure, pain, disappointment, or unpleasantness and is a dogged reminder that the same experiences are likely to repeat themselves.
But desire, on the other hand, triggers memories of pleasure and success. It excites the need to replay these positive memories and create new, winning experiences. The consuming, prison words of the fearful person are likely to be “ I have to.” And, “I can’t.” “I see risk.” And, “I wish.”
Desire says, “I want to. I can.” “I see opportunity.” And, “I will.” Desire is that emotional state between where you are and where you want to be. So, desire is a magnetic tension like a bow pulled taut to fire the arrow to the bull’s eye. Is tension good or bad? Yes, it is good or bad depending on whether it is initiated by fear or desire.
Negative tension induced by fear creates distress, anxiety, and hostility. Carried to extremes it can cause psychosis and serious illness. But positive tension, produced by desire is like an Olympic athlete coming out of the starting blocks or like that bow pulled taut to propel the arrow to the bulls’ eye. Fear causes compulsion distress. Desire causes propulsion power. Fear causes inhibition distress. Desire causes ignition power. In a totally tension-free state you’re either in a deep, relaxed state of meditation, asleep or dead.
What a person really needs in life is not a tension-free state but the striving and struggling for a goal, that is worthy of him or her. Winners have learned how to concentrate on the desired results, rather than possible problems. And winners dwell on the rewards of success, instead of the penalties of failure.
There’s an old illustration that we have been using for twenty-five years that graphically demonstrates what we are talking about. Let’s see if you remember it. Suppose we were to put a plank two feet wide and twenty feet long on the floor, and put a ten dollar bill on one end, and offer the ten bucks as a reward to someone willing to walk the length of the plank, one foot after the other, without stepping off the plank, and pick up the ten dollar bill. No sweat. Easy function. Low risk, sufficient reward. Simple to walk one foot after the other for twenty feet. But now we put one end of the plank on the roof of a twenty story building and the other end on the roof of an adjacent twenty story building.
We put a small stone on the ten dollar bill so the wind at that height won’t blow it off. And now we ask another person to walk the plank, just as before, to pick up an easy ten dollars. Would they do it? Not on their life! For a thousand they might shinny across. Suddenly, a new element has entered the picture. Twenty stories of “or else” or fear. As you begin to walk the plank at that height, a relatively easy task, the reward of success is no longer the incentive. The penalty of failure, or the street below, looms like a neon sign beckoning. Your legs tighten up. You step with excruciating care. Unsteady, in need of a balancing pole, the fear of the penalty of failure takes hold and makes the most basic task of walking straight on a two-foot wide plank, almost impossible to perform. And so it is with all of life’s activities. Dwell on the reward, you move toward it. Dwell on the penalty, you move toward it.
In one of our parenting seminars, we tested the audience on its motivation. We added a new element to the walking the plank across the twenty-story buildings. Instead of money, we asked the audience what it would do if one of their children was dangling by one hand on the roof of the other building. Of course, we knew that where love is concerned, there is no room for fear or hesitation to cloud the situation. A woman in the audience raised her hand and offered: “It depends upon which of my kids you’re talking about. For my girl I’d do it. Today, I’m not sure if I’d do it for my boy. Her answer ruined the validity of that teachable moment. But it didn’t change the meaning of the overall message. When you’re a high-wire walker with no net below, you focus your thoughts on putting one foot after the other on the wire, and look toward you destination, which is the safety of the roof across the alley, never looking down or considering that there are twenty stories of “penalty of failure” on the street below.
Every day we, and our children, are motivated and moved by what we are thinking about most. What our minds are dwelling on determines the direction we take and the choices we make. Everything we do in life is self-motivated, either a little or a lot, and either positively or negatively.
The word “motivation” is derived from the word “motive.” If you look up the definition of “motive,” you’ll find it’s defined as that within the individual, rather than outside, which excites him or her to action. Everything we do is done for a specific motive. When we eat, our motive is to relieve hunger. When we sleep, our motive is to rest the body. When we go to a movie, our motive is to be entertained. Even when we stop at a red light, complete an assignment at work or walk along the beach collect- ing shells, there is some motive behind what we do.
Motivation is a strong tendency toward or away from an object or situation. The good news is, motivation can be learned and developed. It isn’t inborn. A force that compels behavior is most powerful and lasting when it comes from within. You know where you’re going because you have a compelling image inside, not because of a full-page magazine ad, television commercial, or pep talk from your boss.
The performance of many externally motivated people begins declining as soon as they reach some level of material achievement. If you’re really committed to peak performance and leadership, you must motivate yourself and those who look to you for guidance from within. Studies of achievers show that inner drives for excellence and independence are far more powerful than desire for wealth, status, or recognition. Behavioral scientists have found that independent desire for excellence is the most telling predictor of significant achievement.
In other words, the success of our efforts depends less on the efforts themselves than on our motives. The most successful companies, like the most successful men and women in almost all fields, have achieved their greatness out of a desire to express what they felt had to be expressed. Often it was a desire to use their creative abilities to their utmost in order to solve a problem or fill a need. Of course, many of them have also earned a great deal of money and notoriety for their efforts.
Women like Coco Chanel, Estee Lauder, Daniel Steel, and Oprah Winfrey all became wealthy. But far more than thoughts of profit, the real key to their success was inspiration and inner drive by creating or providing excellence in a product or a service. All were self-motivated by the desire to produce the very best, to express the very best that was in them. Desire from within is the difference between getting a job to earn a paycheck and being engaged in an exciting career. A job is a necessary interruption between weekends. But a career is something you do because you want to do it, you love doing it, you’re excited when you do it, and you’d do it even if you were paid only enough for basic sustenance. You’d do it because it’s your life. Finding this passion, this inner fire of desire, will make you oblivious to watching the clock and worrying about the length of your workday. You’ll awaken without needing an alarm clock to jar you out of bed, and you’ll face the day with the passion of pursuit, but not necessarily the pursuit of money. Those whose primary motive is a concern for excellence always put the most value and effort in to their work and as a result , their name and work outlive them and always command the highest salaries and pay.
Loving your career is especially important for younger people. If you compromise yourself at an early age by taking a job solely for the pay, you may be working primarily for money all your life. If you lose the passion for what you are doing early, you may never grow to anywhere near your potential for self-actualization.
Lesson 3: The Three Great Fears
As we said earlier in this course module, like the inner fire of desire, fear is also a powerful motivator. Just as you are propelled by desire, you can be compelled by fear. We all know of individuals, both in professional and personal life, who resort to threats, power plays, and punishment in the mistaken idea that it’s the fastest way to the top of the mountain. In the short run, fear forces you to comply or else. In the long run, its effect is to stagnate or paralyze the will to achieve. Fear is ever-present in all of our lives. By understanding what causes our fears, we can learn how to deal with them. When you’re afraid, you’re always looking backward over your shoulder, worried about what’s sneaking up on you from behind. The fear of physical danger is an automatic instinct.
This fear causes us to react to what we perceive as life-threatening, with the fight or flight response. Unfortunately, most of us tend to have this knee-jerk reaction to every daily confrontation, defensive in situations that call for calmness and reason. Since many women have a more spontaneous ability to express emotions such as passion, they are motivated from within more readily than most men, who seem to thrive more on competition and going for an external prize. Conversely, women also may express more instinctive reactions to that which they perceive as personally threatening. The best way to overcome this built-in fear of danger is knowledge. Get the facts of the situation and act accordingly. Fear dissipates and often disappears with knowledge and action.
A second fear is the fear of success, which isn’t recognized by most people. It is disguised as guilt when we experience some- thing we consider “too good to be true” for our own self-concept. Working on self-acceptance and self-confidence by gaining knowledge, skills, and experience also overcomes this fear
Finally, the greatest fear we have to face in life is the fear of failure, which is really a fear of rejection. We all have a natural aversion to being embarrassed or made a fool of in the presence of others. More than any other motivating factor, this fear of what might happen holds us back and causes us to procrastinate. We permit ourselves to be motivated by inhibition or the fear of failure—rather than moved forward by the ignition of the fire of our inner desires. That’s why being able to work through disappointments and handle failures is so vitally important to the self-motivation of high achievers. It is human nature to seek security, one of our fundamental needs. Any change or threat to the “known” in our lives can be frightening.
The best way to conquer the fear of failure is to redefine the term and your understanding of it. View mistakes as corrective feedback to get you back on track. High achievers are willing to accept a certain amount of failure in their lives. They aren’t afraid of it and it doesn’t destroy their self-motivation when they experience it. Failure and mistakes are the dues we pay to understand the value of our successes. Failure truly can be the fertilizer for our future success. So instead of viewing mistakes as failures, we need to treat them as lessons and learning experiences. Growth is a process of gaining knowledge, of trial and error, and of courageous experimentation. The failed attempts can be as much a part of the success process as the attempt that finally succeeds.
Lesson 4: Don’t Give Negative Instructions
We know of hundreds of individuals who come out of the ghetto to greatness and come out of bankruptcy back to success, but the emotional injuries seem to be the most difficult to heal. To succeed, you’ve got to look at failures as temporary inconveniences and fertilizer to grow on.
Desire stimulates the positive motivation, overrides the fear, and urges you forward. Desire makes you concentrate on the results of success rather than on the possible problems. When you desire your dream with burning intensity, you dwell on the rewards of success and not the penalties of failure. Whether you’re an executive, educator, doctor, nurse, athlete, or homemaker, desire makes you respond positively to the pressures in your life.
Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, said, “People create their own questions because they’re afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don’t sit looking at it…walk.” That’s good advice, but it’s not always feasible. If you think about the reward at the end of the road, it’s easy to move toward what you want. If you concentrate on the penalty, however, you tend to move toward the penalty and away from the reward. A penalty of failure is a very real goal. Unfortunately, it’s like a car going in reverse toward the bumper of the car following behind.
Another aspect of motivation and desire is that the mind responds to what it hears. If you tell your kids, “Your room is a pigsty—it’s never going to be clean!” you can be sure that the room will remain in danger of being condemned by the Board of Health. You’ve set up a negative image, and you’re going to get a negative response. It’s like motivating an office staff by say- ing, “Firings will continue until morale improves.” It’ll never work.
Sounds straightforward enough, so why is it so hard? One lesson to learn about motivation is to focus all your attention on the desired result and dismiss the background noise and potential penalties of failure. “Just concentrate and you’ll sink that free throw. So what if the score is tied, the clock has run out, the crowd is going insane, and you missed your last two? Just concentrate!”
“Type this letter for me, and try not to make any mistakes. I need it in five minutes for the board meeting. Just
“Concentrate, Webster. These sales are critical. The survival of our division depends upon your output.’”
The wrong way to motivate your teenager:
“Your grades are terrible. Blow this final and no car for a month!”
Another lesson to learn about motivation is the mind can’t concentrate on the reverse of an idea. “Don’t tell yourself what not to do.” The brain is a fascinating machine. Program it with a negative idea and it’s extremely difficult to focus on the positive. For example: “Remember, don’t pitch to this guy low and inside, he loves it.” So, you try to throw it up and away and…good- bye ball game. “Now remember, don’t call Barbara by her nickname. She hates Barbie.” So, you are introduced and, “I’ve really looked forward to meeting you, Barbie….”
Part of this lesson we’ve learned is: Don’t give negative instructions to others, especially your children. In other words, don’t tell them what you don’t want them to do.
Lesson 5: Fear Can Prevent Dangerous Consequences
Fear motivation is normal for all of us in life. We live in a dangerous world requiring us to be diligent and on guard, especially when it comes to the safety of our children. Certainly we need to respect the consequences of our choices and actions, and recognize those that are harmful. Fear motivation should be reserved for imminent physical dangers. We teach our children not to ever get into an automobile or go unchaperoned with a stranger. We teach children to respect and even fear the consequences of electrical appliances, hot pans on the stove, toxic substances, unguarded swimming pools, and hundreds of other threats to safety and well-being. Fear is a wartime mentality, that says: “Keep your head down, or you’ll get shot!”, “Don’t run in the street or you’ll get hit.” Fear stops unwanted behavior, because of the consequences. It should not be used to motivate yourself or your children to higher achievement.
Modified fear motivation can also work successfully when you’ve tried every other incentive to spark desire motivation with- out getting positive forward movement. For example, you’ve used every way you know to get your teenager to do chores. Your last resort is to sit down and say, “I’m giving you one week to improve, which I know you can do. You are perfectly capable of helping out. At the end of the week, unless you meet the targets we’ve set, you’ll not be allowed to go out with your friends on the weekends. If that isn’t enough, we will begin taking away other privileges.”
You’ve given boundaries, a specific set of expectations, and added the fear motivation of being stuck in the house instead of doing what the child wants. A word of caution: Don’t withhold meals or activities that, deprived of, would seriously damage their self-worth, such as not being able to appear in a school play, athletic event, or musical. Remove privileges, not self-confidence-building activities.
Remember: Fear can stop bad behavior, but fear doesn’t motivate people when you’re trying to encourage positive behavior. It’s like putting a gun to someone’s head and saying, “Relax. Keep on doing your best and nobody will get hurt.”
Achievers know that what they think controls what they do. And remember what we said earlier, “You can’t tell your sub-conscious not to do something and expect it to obey. For example, try this: “Don’t think about flying pink elephants!” Now, describe the first image that came to your mind. We would not be surprised if you saw a slew of winged pachyderms in pink. Your subconscious mind has to be fed the positive information it needs to activate your progress toward your goal.
That’s why you can’t lose weight if you keep thinking about how fat you are. That’s why you can’t stop smoking if you keep telling yourself to put out the cigarette. And that’s why you can’t get rich if you think and act poor. What we feed into our subconscious is what life will feed back to us.
Research conducted by Carl Pribram, former head of neuropsychology at Stanford University, confirmed that the subconscious-which houses our long-term memory, habits and reactions—deals only with present-tense information. Since it has the responsibility of keeping our heart beating and our body functions working in the present moment, it doesn’t deal with past or present information as history. It deals with all thoughts and actions as if they were happening right now, in the present tense.
The late pioneer of positive thinking—Norman Vincent Peale—liked to quote a road sign in upstate New York which read: “Choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for the next 10 miles.” If you choose to think dreary, discouraging thoughts, your wheels will be traveling deep in that rut, and it’ll be harder and harder to climb out and get back in the fast lane. Your choice determines the next several miles, and possibly years, of your future.
Achievers see risk as opportunity. They can see the rewards of success before they reach them, and they don’t fear the penal- ties of failure. This is fortunate because when you’re dominated by fear, you can’t act with choice or positive intent. You go through life reactive, defensive and incapacitated—instead of proactive, assertive, and strong. Proactive people don’t wait for a situation to happen—they make the first move. They don’t object to someone else’s idea— they put their idea on the table first. They are eager and enthusiastic. They have dreams and goals and desires. Each new day brings fresh challenges and new rewards. It’s been proven that inactivity breeds despondency. It brings forth dark imaginings and distorts situations all out of proportion to reality. Without physical and mental activity, fear begins to beg for attention.
After decades of interviewing, researching and studying the habits of high achievers, we know they have a correspondingly high degree of self-motivation. This enduring power comes from inside and moves us to action. It’s the source of our self-confidence, which allows us to de- sire our dreams so fervently that we know we’ll achieve them. Success in life isn’t reserved for the talented, it’s not dependent on a high IQ, and it’s not always the result of superior skills or having the best equipment. Success is almost totally dependent on your inner drive—the extra energy required to make another effort, to try another approach, to gain more knowledge. It’s a secret of winning. Motivation is best maintained with regular progress reports and a stair-step approach to goals, gaining reinforcement for small successes that turn into major accomplishments.
Lesson 6: Motivation Action Steps
- In your daily speech, make a conscious effort to replace “I can’t” with “I can” and I’ll try” with “I will!” You’ll find that “I can” applies to about 95 percent of the challenges you encounter every day. These simple semantic changes will establish your new positive attitude, dwelling on things you can do and will do.
- Remember: “We become what we think about.” Focus all your attention and energy on the achievement of the objectives you are involved in right now.
- Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change of direction to set you straight for your next success. The person interested in success has to learn to view failure as a healthy, inevitable part of the process of getting to the top. So make a pact with yourself. We suggest you write an agreement with yourself. Promise that you won’t allow a failure to be more than a learning experience that allows you to move more quickly to the place you want to be.
- To stay self-motivated, keep your self-talk affirmative. Whether you’re at work, at home or on the tennis court, your subconscious is recording every word. Instead of “should have” say “will do.” Instead of “if only” say “next time.” Instead of “Yes, but” say “Why not?” Instead of “problem” say “opportunity.” Instead of “difficult” say “challeng- ing.” Instead of “I’ll try” say “I will.” Instead of “could have” say “My goal.” Instead of “Someday” say “Today.”
- Forget perfection. Only the saints are perfect—and “Sainthood is acceptable only in saints.” Accept the flaws and the failures in yourself, and consider them challenges and learning experiences. They are seeds of growth.
- Declare a moratorium on negatives—negative thoughts, negative people, negative forms of entertainment. Keep your desire to succeed strong by erasing thoughts of the downside.
- Make a list of five of your most important wants or desires. Then right next to each, write down the benefit or payoff when you achieve it. For instance, say you want to exercise more. Write that down, and next to it you might write: “Improve lean body mass and cardiovascular fitness.” Reread this List before you go to bed each night and each morning when you get up. It will be even more powerful if you read it aloud or write it over and over again. What- ever you do, never allow your goals and their benefits to you to get lost in the back of your subconscious. Bring them out in the sunlight and shine them every day—and there’s no way you can fail.
Seeds of Greatness: Roots (5 Courses)
Seeds of Greatness: Wings (5 Courses)