Have you ever seen a motivational quote? You know the sorts of things I mean. "If you believe in yourself then anything is possible." or "If you can't love yourself then how can you expect others to love you?"
The object of the message is to make you think about what you do and see if you can turn yourself into a better version of you. Some messages will resonate with you while others will almost make you want to vomit. So why is that?
What makes an effective motivational quote or 'Mantra' to live by?
I believe the key is not necessarily in the words, but more in the emotion that it touches.
You see this all the time in the counselling room. A client comes to counselling because something in life is not right and they need help in making the change. After looking at what is going on they understand more and try to do whatever is necessary. They then, hopefully, begin to see their situation improve. But how can the client be sure they will not slip back to where they were? How can they motivate themselves to keep moving forwards and not backwards, without the help of therapy?
This is where the 'Mantra' can come in. They need to be able to remind themselves of how important it is to keep doing the right things, but for the message to be effective it has to generate an emotion that triggers their positive response.
American actress, comedian, writer and singer, Carol Burnett, is attributed as saying "Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me."
True. Excellent message to give, for sure. Also a handy reminder to people that they are in control of their life.
So, now imagine that you know somebody that feels like their life is out of control and wants somebody to do things for them. Do you just have to say the words and their life turns around? Of course not.
If a person has experienced what it's like to take control and see the positive effect it has, then this is an excellent message to remind them in the future. But if they've never done it, how can they be inspired by these words? Some people will believe that it's only applicable to other people and that their life is not that simple.
To repeat what I said before, in order for a message to work it has to generate an emotion that triggers the positive response.
Each person is different in respect to what actually drives or inspires them, but I believe that whatever it is will probably fall into one of two categories.
The joy of something great.
The fear of something bad.
This means that to inspire or motivate a particular individual you need to know whether they are more likely to crave the the joy or want to avoid the bad at all cost.
If you are trying to motivate yourself then think about what is most likely to work for you.
Would you imagine how your life would change if you put in that extra effort or made those changes? Can you see that you would be happier when a task is complete? Do you believe that you whole life would improve if you did certain things in your life? You're focusing on the joy.
Alternatively, would it motivate you more to think about how you would disappoint important people by not putting in the extra effort? Can you imagine how angry you would be with yourself if that task is not completed? Are you fearful that life would suffer adversely if you acted in a particularly negative way? You're now focusing on the fear.
Only you know which emotion is most likely to trigger your most positive response.
Take the first two quotes at the beginning of this post.
"If you believe in yourself then anything is possible." - Trust yourself to do the right thing and there is no telling what you can achieve. Do that and life will be great. Focus is on joy.
On the other hand...
"If you can't love yourself then how can you expect others to love you?" - If you can't see your own good qualities then don't be surprised if people don't treat you well. Change that or else things will get worse. Focus is on fear.
Two very simple and inspiring quotes that trigger very different emotions.
Taking this back to the counselling room and maybe a final session for a client after a period of effective counseling. They ask their therapist "how can I make sure I don't go back to how I was?".
If this is their final session then there is a reasonable expectation that they now have a greater level of self awareness. The client must ask themselves the question of what would motivate them more. Joy or fear? When that is answered they can devise their own mantra that will keep their life moving in the right direction.