Please don’t call me “motivational…”

Yes, I love sparking people to try harder, learn faster and do better, particularly when my audience is filled with children. And I love reinforcing the seven essential tenets of being MIC — Mighty In Character.

But I struggle with the word “motivate,” because it’s so externally imposed.

What’s wrong with that, you ask. Just this: When someone besides yourself is doing the motivating, it’s less likely to result in any permanent change. Back-sliding, in fact, is almost inevitable. And being human, we’re all more likely to give up doing what’s hard and fall backward into what’s easy.

Here’s an example. Say you’ve resolved to be kinder and more courteous in public to others. Sounds simple, right? Well, picture yourself heading for a checkout line. Suddenly somebody else speeds up and darts right in front of you. Your first impulse is to “accidentally” push your cart against his heels to make certain he knows he’s just behaved badly.

Only later do you think it would have been fine if you’d merely said without a trace of sarcasm, “You must really be in a hurry. It’s okay to go ahead of me.”

What’s the difference? Easy. You get to choose. You. Not some “motivational” speaker you heard at your child’s school last month or stumbled across while trolling the Internet. Therefore, it feels kinder, gentler and more magnanimous to become a momentary mini-hero.

So what do I prefer to be called? I very much like the word “keynote.” That implies that I’m a guest, happy to share my own insights for you to accept, but only if you wish. If not, then perhaps you’ll feel more like it tomorrow or next week.

Life is comprised of choices — dozens of them every single day. If you happen to be stirred by something I’ve said, that’s great. But if it results in a significant behavioral improvement, I’m going to give 100% of the credit right back to you…because I’m not the real motivator. You are.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store