Chapter 10

The power station of satisfying work: Motivation

No motivation without a goal!

Bright goals are the best motivation. Set yourself goals! And paint your way to your goals! Be very concrete and full of enthu­siasm. Great goals are reached in stages. Careful prepa­ration of the individual stages increases the proba­bility of arriving, makes the achie­vement of the goal a certainty.

If you want to achieve something in your life, you can learn a lot from athletes about motivation. In compe­tition sports in parti­cular, we know that victories require not just the right aptitude and syste­ma­ti­cally building on it, but even more, one hundred percent motivation. Whether in skiing or tennis, soccer or car racing, no athlete wins without being motivated to produce the needed efforts.

We envision goals that excite us. The room of a high school senior: maps of the Amazon basin, posters with trees and plants of the rain forest, with animals of the jungle, posters depicting indigenous people, objects like blowguns and braided fruit presses. The way the room is decorated makes it clear that its owner plans to go to these people, do research as an anthro­po­logist, physician or biologist, and live there.

Discover your talents!

In many cases, goals develop from people’s predilec­tions  and talents. Their parents or siblings, friends or teachers point out that they are a good skier, that they have a gift for music, that they are talented organizers, that it’s fun to entertain an audience, that they are good at solving tricky puzzles. Everyone has at least one talent that they need to discover through self-discovery  and tips from their surroun­dings.

“I wanted to be free and rich,” entre­preneur Robert Wolff once announced. “I want in,” former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder is quoted to have said, shaking the bars of the grille surrounding the chancellor’s office in Bonn. The emotional situation from which we cultivate our desires and dreams may be temporary, but it can also hold us captive.

For those people who feel oppressed, dependent and controlled by external forces, goals always seem to promise liberation. This is one of the strongest motives. The subtitle of this book is “Ways to a self-deter­­mined life”!

Many people pursue very specific goals. And they fully gear their thoughts, words and deeds toward achieving a goal: winning a gold medal, being the best in a music compe­tition, becoming the world champion, being the chief executive of a company, sailing around the world, starting a circus, making it to top model, having an acting career or opening up life prospects for street­children in Rio.

You have to study the course to reach the finish

Just as important for your motivation as a goal that glows is the course you have to take to reach the goal. The way is not the goal. But the goal and the course determine each other. Goals are not achieved when the path to reaching them is uncertain.

A downhill racer will never win if she only has her eye on the prize and says, “I’ll get down there somehow.” It’s similar for equestrian compe­tition. Here too, it’s not enough just to know where the finish line is. Even more, you have to be familiar with the jumping course down to the last detail and prepare your horse accordingly.

Downhill racers, show jumpers and other athletes focus on the course before it is their turn to compete. They do a mental dry run, retracing the ideal course, point by point, that will lead them to the goal.

The task of achieving goals in other parts of life is met using the same attitudes and methods as those used in compe­tition sports. The fasci­nation of the goals includes the joys experi­enced on the paths to the goal. Difficult passages are accepted as welcome challenges, while mishaps and losses are consi­dered to be oppor­tu­nities to learn.

The important thing is not to jump in headfirst, but to explore the territory and choose the right way. Downhill racers use the term “ideal line” that they follow to ski to victory. Finding it offers them additional motivation.

If you aim to discover the as yet uncharted territory between your current location and the finish line, the best thing to do is to ask questions:

  • Is it possible to have a look at the “terrain” beforehand?
  • What routes did previous contes­tants – generally there are some – select?
  • Which route is the shortest one?
  • Which route is the easiest one?
  • Which route is the more difficult one?

You need to create a set of questions. Chapter 2 of this book describes how to put together a set of questions: “The conveyor belt to a self-deter­­mined future: Asking questions”.

To achieve big goals, break them down into smaller steps. In addition to getting to know the course, the structure of the route is important for your planning to reach a goal: Define milestones.

The secret of many champions: They divided up the route properly and during the race, they focused on the next inter­me­diate goal and not on the ultimate goal. Constantly looking up toward the summit is intimi­dating, but that rock outcrop over there – “that’s doable”.

Prepare yourself inten­sively and quickly!

Your prepa­ra­tions need to include training units to make you fit. You have to build up the needed fitness level. This has to include the behaviors required and you have to have the know-how you need at your disposal.

For instance, when I travel abroad, I should have read as much as possible about about the desti­nation and should have learned the language well enough to make myself understood. When I go to a compe­tition, I should be in top shape. When I go to a job interview at a company, I should know about the company and have prepared what I want to say.

Preparing for proce­dures includes pacing and stamina training. This means training sessions in which subtasks must be mastered flawlessly in the shortest possible time; in which subsec­tions are practiced several times in a row until exhaustion sets in.

Then comes the warm-up phase before the start. Athletes often take hours to adequately prepare for the compe­tition so that they have a chance at winning. Hours? In many areas, one’s entire lifestyle has to be geared toward the goal. You have to live for what motivates you.

For intel­lectual goals, too, you have to undertake in-depth syste­matic prepa­ration. Take the example of giving an important presen­tation for your career advan­cement. You have to prepare the content, then structure it and finally prepare a draft. You have to hone your public speaking skills and tailor your demeanor to the situation at hand.

On the evening before the presen­tation, you should go through the manuscript one last time – the way a long-distance runner reviews the route. Step for step, thought for thought. Have another look at the markings that you have made for slow and deliberate speaking and for quicker, less deliberate speaking, among other things, and read the text out loud.

The next morning, before your presen­tation, do not waste any more thoughts on your presen­tation. Stay relaxed. You have done your prepa­ra­tions and that will take you to your goal.

Extremes are dangerous

It is a well-known fact that you can exaggerate anything. Total apathy is just as dangerous as being fanatical. For this reason, you need to be aware of what is motivating your actions and reflect on this. Why do I avoid a steady relati­onship? Why do I prefer a certain make of car to another? Why do I need a nicer apartment?

And another important question: Who influ­ences my actions?

After all, it is the seducers among our relatives, friends and acquain­tances who lead us to actions that we later regret, when it is often too late to turn back. “One time won’t hurt!”, “You don’t want to be a spoil sport, do you?”, “What’s the big deal?” Who got you to start smoking? Who got you to drink more than was good for you? Who managed to fuel hate in you?

Each one of us tends to see other people as a role model, from the time we are children, and each one of us has the need to be acknow­ledged. We want to be loved and feel good in the security of a group. In order to belong, we dress the way others think we should, talk like them and behave like them. In the years in which we  join our peers, latch on to idols and want to be seen as cool, we are parti­cu­larly suscep­tible to seducers.

There are young people who flee from the intru­si­veness of their parents’ concern and the teachers’ pressure to learn, let off steam, and want to oppose the adults’ world. Other young people perceive their life situation as rather imper­sonal and humanly hypothermic. They feel misun­derstood by their parents and reject the stress of learning goal-oriented school opera­tions. They are looking for the warmth of friendships.

And then it comes to pass: They try something risky. Drugs, alcohol, hatemongers, violence, addic­tions. When parents fail and there is no family support, when childcare and school fail to offset deficits and  improper motiva­tions or to at least mitigate them, motives for action spread that are detri­mental to an individual’s ability to cope with life and subse­quently to a life together with others.

The motivation for action of each individual and the viability of a society have a reciprocal impact on each other and are inter­woven. A univer­sally binding set of values is necessary if a people is to survive over time. The Ten Comman­dments were given to the Israe­lites in order to enable them to survive as a people. And they were promised “milk and honey.

To what extent are your motives
deter­mined by others?

This is a question that young adults in parti­cular should deal with. After all, I will only have a chance to have a self-deter­­mined life if I find a way to act that is motivated by my self. Only then will I be armed to face the countless influ­ences of my surroun­dings that can harm me and whose sole motivation is to put me under the yoke of others.

The starting points of the dangerous role models, the manipu­lators and seducers are first and foremost my feelings: fear, guilt, inferiority, loneliness, hate, rage, need for recognition. But also ignorance, lack of restraint, insecurity, arrogance, guile­l­essness. As well as egotism, greed, envy, distrust, despair, laziness. The list is endless!

We are seducible. By whom? For what? Take a good look at these two questions! Over and over. Motives are blurred. For this reason, ask the question “What are the real, the genuine motives behind their action?” In what way do my fellow human beings try to influence me and pull me over to their side? As a buyer, a voter or as a friend.

Loving the truth is the best way to ward off seduction. To use this, however, means that you have to know the truth and be prepared to accept it. Be honest! Especially to yourself! If you deceive yourself, you make yourself suscep­tible to manipu­lators and seducers. “But it tastes so good!”, “What a fantastic man”, “It’s the deal of a my lifetime!”

Find out the truth! – before your feelings have suppressed your sense of reason. It has never been so easy to collect infor­mation as in the internet era of today. Combining the infor­mation with your own experi­ences and the advice of people with life experience can bring us closer to the truth. You just have to make the effort.

It is so fantastic to be able to trust other people! But to be able to do that, you have to be trust­worthy  and reliable yourself. Oppor­tu­nists who jump on every bandwagon that comes along are not trust­worthy. You can sense it, and your sense of reason will tell you that this is someone that you really shouldn’t follow.

If you conti­nually improve your gift of obser­vation and your ability to listen, you will recognize contra­dic­tions and incon­sis­tencies earlier and earlier, and you will realize if ulterior motives are involved. If something is pitched in a way that is just too appealing, it should make you skeptical. When parts of the truth are concealed, you should notice it.

In everything that is presented to you, you should discover and check the background, obtain clarity, and then ask yourself: Do I want this or don’t I? Justify to yourself why you want something. And do this against the backdrop of impera­tives for peaceful human coexis­tence. Your freedom is tied to respon­si­bility.

There is an excellent practice field for liberating your action from outward control: dealing with all kinds of adver­tising for a while. What’s happening there? Which people are addressed using what adver­tising? What adver­tising speaks to you? And why? Via which media does adver­tising reach me?

Speci­fi­cally, review the infor­mation content, facts that are mentioned, the way feelings are addressed, the design elements of text, images and color, as well as the type of state­ments that are made. To this end, develop your own “analy­tical system” so that after a while, you can compare who adver­tises in what way, for instance, on television.

Don’t be afraid to risk doing something in vain!

Investing effort in vain is a notion that petrifies some people. They should watch a soccer game once in a while: the players run around for ninety minutes; they keep trying to build up attacks with the aim of kicking the ball into the opponent’s goal.

If you have goals, and if you want to achieve your goal, you have to take risks. The players have to risk losing the ball to the opponent, making a bad pass or kicking the ball next to or over the top of the goal net.

Don’t allow yourself to be prevented from taking risks. Try something  new, even if it is not something you can use right away or even leads to a dead end. There is no such thing as “in vain”! After all, in everything you do, you learn and you gain new experiences.

If in Germany a business start-up goes bankrupt, they are black­listed. Hardly anyone is given the oppor­tunity for a second attempt. They are no longer credit­worthy. In other countries, the attitude is different.

If someone goes bankrupt, they get a new loan if the business idea is promising and they have presented a plausible business plan. The banks say, “They have probably learned from their bankruptcy and will do it right this time.”

There are people – relatives, friends and colleagues –, who do not believe that you will achieve your goals and perhaps aren’t even interested in your achieving your goals and would even like to prevent you from getting to where you would like to go. Brace yourself for this and don’t let anyone keep you from trying to reach your goals.

Don’t listen to people who tell you, “You’ll never manage that!”, “Why do you want to do that in the first place?”, “Forget it! You have already tried that a hundred times!”, “Don’t even bother starting with that!”, “Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t subject myself to that!”, “Did you really think about what you are doing?”

Sometimes it’s better to keep your goals to yourself so people don’t throw cold water on your ideas. This kind of pessimism provokes some people who have announced their goals as though they have already achieved them. It’s better to keep a low profile and let your achie­ve­ments speak for themselves. Otherwise you’ll be like the chicken that clucks before it has laid an egg.

Motivated people enjoy life

Nothing ventured, nothing gained! You need feedback at every stage of your life, from others and from yourself. What is not working according to schedule? What needs to be corrected? No plan is so precise and foresighted that you will reach your goal as if programmed. For this reason, once you have started, you have to run on situation control, not on autopilot.

Motivation – ultimately this is the desire for life. The desire to achieve something in life. The joy of shaping your life yourself. The certainty of being able to cope with life to some extent in this world, despite all the impon­de­ra­bi­lities, depen­dencies and strokes of fate. The ability to motivate yourself will give you the courage and strength and joy to live.

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A systematic approach is the key to success

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Are you living a healthy life?

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