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We need a spark plug. Something to ignite us when the body is willing, but the brain is not. Motivation has been discussed, debated, and pulled threadbare; but it hasn’t changed the fact that sometimes we have no control over it. Even the achievers of this world have admitted to frequent bouts of flagging motivation. But the valuable lesson from their lives is that they chip away at their mental blocks more consistently than others.
TED.com always has ideas worth spreading. Sometimes they have taught us about creativity, inspiration, and passion…sometimes about human behavior. Many articles and websites have covered TED videos around this theme, but it’s always worthwhile to go back to some of the best TED Talks. Because, as always these ten superlative TED Talks underscore one simple thing – there is no secret to motivation. It’s all in the mind. But these videos help.
Message: Carrots and sticks doesn’t work. Purpose does.
Most of our motivation gets stuck at the workplace. Dan Pink and the author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us” tries to look into the correlation of work, extrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and performance. He debunks the equation between higher rewards and better performance. The solution is in intrinsic motivation and purpose – to do things that matter. As he says, that’s why Microsoft’s Encarta didn’t succeed whereas another encyclopedia where people volunteered for free was a raging success. Guess the name before you click on Play.
Message: Purpose and progress give meaning to work.
Just to drill the message from the previous TED Talk into our brains, we need to watch this talk by Dan Ariely. The Israeli American professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University cites two of his experiments (with LEGO) and a few more day to day examples to explain the value of finding meaning and joy in our work. The drudgery of repetitive work saps motivation. He says that work satisfaction is a mix of different things like meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride etc.
Message: We fail to take action because we manufacture excuses.
Two blunt and forthright talks. First up is Larry Blunt, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. One of his “side jobs” is as a mentor for leadership, change, and career development. His bio says that advised the makers of BlackbBerry — Research in Motion (RIM), when they started out. The hilarious talk is all about the excuses we make in pursuit of our dreams…or in other words, in our lack of pursuit of our dreams.
Message: It is simple to get everything you want, but it is not easy.
Take it as grab-’em-by-the-collar advice. Mel Robins is known for her candid outlook to life problems. That should work to jolt our mental blocks. The well-known life coach is the producer and host of the syndicated radio show — The Mel Robbins Show. The talk she gave as part of an independent event organized by TED she gets to the point quickly on how to get unstuck. The secret which is no secret is that you have to force yourself to do things that aren’t part of the routine. But it’s worth it.
Message: Try anything new for just 30 days.
Some say that if you do something for 21 days or 30 days, it can be turned into a habit. Matt Cutts attests to the power of setting month-long challenges from his own personal experiences in this short 3 minute talk. Even if it does not morph into a life-changing habit, it could mean that you spent the month more meaningfully. As Matt says – what are you waiting for!
Message: Unlock ideas with a little sleep.
Sleep is a primary ingredient for productivity. Many achievers do attest to the power of sleep. Mental blocks have a lot to do with sleep deprivation. Lack of motivation has a lot to do with lack of ideas. Both could have a common cure in the right amount of sleep. It’s so obvious that a tired mind can’t help it fly. Arianna Huffington’s short talk should help you get the big picture. Watch it with a fresh mind. If not, you know where to head to.
Message: Give yourself 10 minutes of mindfulness.
The talk is just short of ten minutes. But the subject is on ten minutes out of our daily lives. Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe preaches the benefits of a quiet in-the-moment mind over the chaos and noise of everyday life. The advice is simple and self-evident and without the mumbo-jumbo. He brings forward a glaring truth – “In fact, we spend more time looking after our cars, our clothes and our hair than [our minds].”
Message: When we stop trying, we fail.
This is a refreshed take on the old maxim, it’s easier to reach the top but difficult to stay there. As Richard St. John says, we stagnate and ultimately fail ever after achieving success because we stop doing the things which gives us success in the first place. Success is a continuous journey, and it always needs to be sustained with deliberate effort. Richard St. Johns personal life lesson and a decade of research is distilled into 8 words and 3 minutes of wisdom.
Richard St. John: 8 secrets of success tells you something about those eight words.
Message: “What’s the worst that could happen?”
I don’t (or can’t) follow the productivity tenets of Tim Ferriss who gets a lot of press for his self-development experiments. But his message to face fear and go beyond it by asking a simple question — “What’s the worst that could happen?” is something that I can believe in. Fear is our most powerful metal block. And we should really keep asking this simple question when we see our war forward blocked by the demoralizing effects of the negative sensation.
Message: Don’t be afraid of being wrong.
Afraid of being wrong? Probably that’s a huge mental block ingrained into us. But look back into the past tense and realize how many times we all have been wrong and made mistakes, from silly ones to major life-changing errors of judgment. Kathryn’s talk teaches us about putting our error blindness aside and admitting to ourselves that we can be wrong. Our not-knowing everything can often lead to new discoveries about our own selves and the world around us.
It’s not only these TED Talks, but all other on the website are small nudges of motivation. The speakers themselves are achievers but not infallible humans themselves, sharing their life experiences and knowledge. Today, they are on that platform because they had the courage to shatter their own mental blocks and follow their life passions. If they can, we surely can.
What’s holding you back?
Image Credit: urban_data (via Flickr.com)