Do you ever wonder why people who have all the knowledge in the world continue to make bad choices? Why others seem to be able to easily overcome any obstacle and any challenge with which they are faced? Why some people can easily ignore their sweet tooth, and others who truly want to ignore it succumb?   Yeah, me too! I wonder about that and I am curious about this word we call motivation.

Yesterday I had my perfect day. I had one goal: to relax. So I spent the day hiking, going to the spa and having dinner with three smart, funny, successful women who just happen to be my friends. All day we did exactly what we wanted to do at exactly the pace we wanted to do it.

It was while relaxing in the hot tub that one of my friends and  fellow coaches, Cindi, said something that stopped me in my tracks and really made me think. We were discussing the times we live in, and the struggle people are having with change. Just how surprising and interesting it is that given the knowledge, given all the information they need, people still are not motivated to make change, even when their life, their happiness, and their health are threatened.

The conversation started because Cindi, who is a doctor, shared that she had been a respiratory therapist before becoming a physician. Betty laughed and said, “You are the only respiratory therapist I know who does not smoke”. We all laughed and this lead to the conversation of just how many people we know who have all the knowledge, yet still make bad choices: cardiologists who are obese, health care workers who look anything but healthy, and pregnant women who leave prenatal classes for a smoke break.

Cindi at this point got downright passionate and said, “This proves that knowledge is not motivation”. Now, honestly, I think that I may have heard that before, but it was the way she said it, coupled with the conversation we were having that really drove it home for me.  She continued by saying that as a society, we just keep shoving information on people, and shoving more and more knowledge, despite the fact that time and time again, doing so does nothing.

So that begged the question: what does motivate someone? If the knowledge gained in medical school, and the knowledge  from dealing day-in and day-out with patients struggling with the effects of heart disease won’t motivate a cardiologist to eat right and exercise, then what will?

This lead to wonderful discussion, long  and rich in content.  While we believe there are a lot of things that motivate us, we boiled it down to our top four:

What motivates us?

1. Personal Control – Many people may prefer the term power, but honestly, through our discussion we determined that control is a better word. To honestly get motivated, to take action, we need to have some influence, some say and some personal control over what is happening. Others telling us that what we are doing is wrong or harmful won’t motivate us to change. Others making the changes for us, fixing our meals, or making our appointments won’t help either. You need to have a part or a say in the change, if you are ever going to take action to do things differently.

2. Shared purpose – To be motivated you have to share that goal with someone else. While you can only make change for yourself, your life and your happiness, you are more motivated to do that when you have a shared purpose and common set of goals  with other people.

3. Connection – Sharing the purpose with others is a great first step, but you need the connection, camaraderie and interaction of others to get and stay motivated. To be, work and interact consistently with others who share your purpose and are daily taking the same actions towards the same goal will get and  keep  you motivated.

4. Balance – Yes, you need balance; you need more that just this goal, more than just this purpose in your life.  You need outside interests, time to break away and not think about the changes you are motivated to make, and the self-care that laughter and love of good friends or family can bring.

It is an interesting discussion, and even more interesting are the times we are living in. We have more access to knowledge and information that we have ever had , yet we are the most addicted, obese and depressed we have ever been. Goes to prove: knowledge is not motivation. It can help in the process, but to truly motivate yourself to take action, you need to understand motivation.