Why Motivation Doesn’t Work

Dr Demartini shares the differences between extrinsic motivation and being inspired from within, and why knowing your highest values is key to mastering your life.

Dr. John Demartini is a world-renowned specialist on human behavior, a researcher, author and global educator. He has studied over 30,000 books across most all the defined academic disciplines and has synthesized the wisdom of the ages, which he shares on stage in over 100 countries around the world.

Today, Dr. Demartini shares the differences between extrinsic motivation and being inspired from within, and why knowing your highest values is key to mastering your life. If you prefer to watch the video, click below.

Can you explain why motivation doesn’t work?

Every human being, regardless of their gender, age, or culture lives moment by moment by a unique set of priorities or values. Whatever is highest on an individual’s value list is the noun or verb that is most important and what they are spontaneously inspired to act on. It is here that they do not require any extrinsic motivation – they simply spontaneously act without hesitation, are disciplined, reliable and focused.  As they move further down their list of values, they become more extrinsically driven and require an extrinsic reward in order to do it and extrinsic punishment if they don’t.

Think of a young boy who loves video games – nobody has to motivate him to play video games, but his parents may have to extrinsically motivate him to do his homework, finish his chores or clean his room. So, if something is low on his list of values, like cleaning his room, it might require the promise of a reward or fear of punishment to get him to do it. But not when it comes to him playing his video games – that he will be spontaneously inspired from within to do.

It’s the same in the workplace. Some people might need extrinsic motivation like the reward of a paycheck to get them to go to work every day. There may be many other things they’d prefer to be doing with their time and therefore need the promise of a reward (paycheck) or the fear of punishment (losing their job) to get them to show up to work each day. As a result, they might not be highly engaged or inspired because they require that extrinsic motivation to get the job done.

Should their employer take the time to find out what they love doing and reallocate them accordingly, there may no longer be a need to micromanage and motivate them to get the job done because they will spontaneously do it.

So, it’s not that motivation doesn’t work – there’s a definite place for it for people who are disengaged or uninspired – it’s just not the most effective or efficient way to run your life.

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How do you identify what your values are?

Your values are what your life is already demonstrating is important to you, but many people find it hard to separate their true highest values from their surrounding social ideals or from values that have been injected by outside authorities such as parents, preachers, teachers and peers. I developed this series of value determinants to indicate what an individual’s life is already demonstrating, as opposed to what they think it should be, or hope it might be.

If you haven’t yet defined your own set or list of values, you can go to the complimentary Demartini Value Determination Process on my website, which will help you see what your life already demonstrates as being truly important to you. The process includes answering thirteen questions:

  1. What do you fill your personal, intimate, or virtual space with most; what do these items really represent or mean, or what are they actually used for?
  2. How do you spend your time most and what do these actions really represent or mean, or what are you actually doing this for?
  3. Next, look at how you spend your energy and what energizes you most. What are the three things that you always find energy for most? You will always have energy for things that are truly highest on your values list and that inspires you.
  4. How do you spend your money and your resources most? What are the three things that you spend your money on most? You will feel reluctant to spend money on things you perceive to be unimportant.
  5. Where are you ordered and organized most? Where do you have the highest degree of order and organization? What are the three things that you are most organized in? Where are you most organized?
  6. Where are you most reliable, disciplined and focused? What are the three things you are most reliable on? Whatever is highest on your value, you will be disciplined to do?
  7. What do you inwardly think about most? What are your innermost dominant thoughts?
    What are the three things that you dominate your thoughts on?
  8. What do you visualize most about how you would love your life to be, that is showing evidence of becoming true?
  9. What do you most often talk to yourself about, about how you would love your life to be, that is showing evidence of coming true?
  10. What do you most often talk to others about, or what do you keep wanting to bring the conversations to?
  11. What inspires you most and what is common to the people that inspire you most?
  12. What are your most consistent long-term goals about how you would love your life to be that is showing evidence of coming true?
  13. What topics of study inspire you the most? When you enter a bookstore, which section do you make a beeline for? Which topic of magazines do you subscribe to? Which section of the newspapers do you turn to first? Are there nonfiction TV shows or film documentaries that you seek out?
How does having a mentor fit in with this? In other words, how do we make sure that we don’t subordinate or inject that mentor’s values into our own lives?

I have no issue with learning from a mentor but trying to be that mentor is a different story.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide. Envy assumes the other person has something you don’t. I’ve proven to thousands of people who’ve done the Demartini Method that whatever you perceive in other people, you have; but it may not be in the exact form. Find what you see in them inside you instead of putting them on a pedestal. Then you’ll realize that there’s nothing missing in you – you have what they have. You don’t need to minimize yourself and try to be them. Whenever you try to be somebody you’re not, it’s imitation. And imitation is suicide because you’re going to destroy yourself by trying to be somebody else. Why be second when you can be first being you?

It also doesn’t mean you can’t share some of the same ideas and principles and tools that people before you have learned – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Just don’t try to be exactly like them while you’re doing it. You’re here to learn from them, use the tools and move forward and apply them in your own unique way with your own unique manners and based on your own priorities and values.

So, I’m not against mentorship. I’m not against learning from people, but don’t duplicate them or try to be them – be yourself.

You’ve mentioned before that we tend to use imperative language when we inject other people’s values into our life. Can you explain this in more detail?

Whenever you hear yourself saying, “I should do this”, “I ought to be doing this, “I need to do this”, “I have to do this”, “I must do this,” – you know that it’s an injected and lower value that you feel you have to do. You’re living by what you perceive you “ought to” do instead of what you feel inspired to do. There’s an external force pushing you and motivating you to do it, and you may not want to do it. That type of energy can sap vitality in your life or in your business.

I’m interested in helping people do what they choose to do, what they love to do, and what they’re inspired to do. Not what they need external or extrinsic motivation to do.

If we beat ourselves up, does that mean we’re not congruent with our values?

I tell people who are BEATING themselves up to quit BUILDING themselves up. As long as you’re addicted to building yourself up, you’re going to beat yourself up because you can’t have pride without shame. They come as a pair. When one is conscious, the other is unconscious. You have a built-in thermostat to make sure that you’re authentic. If you puff yourself up, you’re going to beat yourself up to get yourself back in balance. The true you is not built up and inflated or beat down and deflated – it is authentically integrated, balanced and centred.

The reason why you’re puffing yourself up is generally because you’re in what is called an “injected value” from some authority, and you’re trying to abide by it. When you think you’re doing so, you feel proud. When you think you’re not doing it, you feel shamed.

The number one reason why people beat themselves up is because they subordinate to the ideologies and idealism of other people that they think have a better life than them, but they don’t. Everybody has pain and pleasure. The individual that can incorporate and embrace both of them equally has the most balance and objectivity along with eustress (beneficial stress) and tends to be more resilient and adaptable. The individual that keeps looking for a one-sided world with all pleasure and no pain tends to have the most distress.

What about those of us who are working parents with kids – how do we stop continually trying to motivate them and instead get them to feel inspired from within?

Each child has his or her own unique set of values and highest values. If you don’t know what they are, and therefore not honour them, nor communicate your requests in terms of them, then you might end up becoming quite autocratic and telling them what to do, which can lead to their defiance. But if you go and find out what the child’s highest values are, communicate what you want done in terms of those values, and try to make a link in their mind about how doing what you would love them to do can help them fulfil their own highest values, then you’re more likely to have a far more fruitful outcome.

I often use the art of selling as an example. The people who are more effective at sales articulate their product, service or idea in terms of their customer’s specific needs. When they do that, people tend to buy. So, think of your children as customers. If you understand what’s important to them and talk in terms of what’s important to them, they tend to listen more and engage with you further. However, if you don’t help them get what they want, you’re not likely to get what you want.

Learn to communicate what you would love in terms of what their highest values are – you’ll see a big difference in outcome.

If I want to be a master of my life and the captain of my ship, what practical steps do I need to do now to ensure that I set sail in the right direction?

Each time that you set a goal that is aligned with your highest values and you persevere and achieve it, you raise your self-worth. You raise your energy levels. You raise your confidence because you’ll tend to do it. You walk your talk. You’re more inspired. You’re more creative. You’re more disciplined. You’re more spontaneous. You have a more expanded view. You’re more resilient and adaptable. Every day you don’t, you’re going to have symptoms or feedback to try to get you to be more congruent and authentic. Everything that is going on in life is trying to give you feedback to get you to be authentic. And that’s why everything is on the way and not in the way. That’s why you can be grateful for your life instead of feeling disempowered and frustrated and feel like the world’s on top of you and controlling you.

I’m certain that if you fill your day with high priority actions that truly serve people who give you fair compensation in return, you are going to build momentum. If not, you could end up living in mediocrity and desperation instead of inspiration, and that’s purely a choice. We have control of our perceptions, decisions and actions.

I would rather fill my day with the highest priority things that are according to my highest values and live an inspired destiny.

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Dr. John Demartini, Founder of the Demartini Institute, International bestselling author, educator, and consultant

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