This One Form of Motivation Might be Sabotaging Your Goals

Want to hear the oldest joke in Hollywood? Of course you do:

On the first day of shooting, a young American actor is unable to get into character. Frantically turning the pages of the script, he moans to the director, “It’s no use! I just don’t know how to approach this scene, it’s just too problematic! In this scene, my character leaves and goes to the bathroom. But what’s my character’s thought process for going to the bathroom at that moment?

The Director, baffled, responds: To use it, I should think.

Actor: Yes, but what’s my motivation as an actor?

Director: Your paycheck.

The joke’s punchline—on the multiple levels of “motivation”—ran through my mind the other day. But does money really motivate us? What is the single most powerful way to get motivated? Let’s find out.

Recently, I was reading a fascinating article on “The Secret of Effective Motivation”, which tracked the success of various West Point military graduates to see how their reasons for joining influenced their success.

As the joke above shows, there are two kinds of motivation. External motivation (sometimes called extrinsic) is any outside force that drives you to do something. Think fame, recognition or, as our British director put it, the paycheck.

Then there’s internal motivation (sometimes called intrinsic), which compels us to work at something because the inner value of the activity is personally fulfilling and meaningful. We might exercise to be more able to be there for our kids or paint because it brings us a sense of meaning, for example.

The West Point researchers found that people who had internal motives performed best of all, which is expected. They signed up to better themselves, to become leaders, etc. But here’s the unexpected result: the graduates who had both intrinsic and extrinsic motives—the soldiers who went to West Point to serve their country and were externally motivated (for instance, by a paycheck) —did worse in every measure over their careers. In other words, having two kinds of motivation actually makes you less successful than just having one.

So ask yourself why you perform certain tasks. Is the motivation intrinsic or extrinsic? Are you doing it for the meaning and impact of your work, or the financial rewards? From there, find ways to fuel your intrinsic motivation.

Here’s one Fader-tested solution: write the reason for wanting to achieve your goal (in five words or less) on a small paper and tape it to the back of your phone. Better yet, make it your actual wallpaper on your home screen. That way, whenever you check your texts or your Twitter—for me, every three minutes or so—you’ll be reminded why you’re doing what you’re doing, which will continually rekindle your intrinsic drive to excel.

And as the oldest joke in Hollywood reminds us, that’s something a paycheck just can’t do.

The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing

When I facilitate a Motivational Interviewing Training, I find that many (if not most) people are really interested in learning the OARS, the techniques of Motivational Interviewing. However, Bill Miller and Steve Rollnick, the founders of Motivational Interviewing, would tell us all that it’s really also important to learn about the spirit of Motivational Interviewing. It’s not what you say, right? It’s how you say it.

So in my training’s and in the work I do, I focus on helping people to get in touch with that compassion. Most of the research says that when you’re trying to help someone change, or are trying to help someone at all, it’s really important to also listen to them and to be with them. It’s kind of like coming to a full stop. You put down everything you have in your hands, all those screens we like to look at and you really sit with the person and whatever their experience is.

Only then, do the OARS work. Only then do the techniques of Motivational Interviewing work. So in my training’s and the work I do, I really focus on experiential exercises to help people get in touch with that underlying feeling of what it is to really be with someone and to help them to change.

In-House Motivational Interviewing Training (Registration Open)


The introductory Motivational Interviewing training is appropriate for professionals/professionals-in-training who have had no prior or some exposure to Motivational Interviewing techniques. People whose work involves helping clients achieve behavior change, (i.e., Psychologists, Social Workers, Psychiatrists, Physicians, Nurses, Case Workers, Outreach Workers, Dietitians, Therapists, Clergy, Personal Trainers, Probation/Parole Officers etc.) will benefit most from this intensive MI training.


During the introductory MI training we will review all you need to know about the theory and principles of MI. Through the use of presentations, videos, and demonstrations, the trainer will guide participants in learning the technique, style and spirit of MI.

All participants in the Motivational Interviewing seminar will have ample opportunity to practice their motivational interviewing skills with the support of the trainer, using “role-play”, “real play” and the help of a standardized patient (an actor trained to play a client who will give participants feedback on their MI technique during the practice interviews). Participants will learn how to use the Motivational Interviewing OARS skills.


The training will begin at 9:30am and conclude at 4:30pm on 2/1/19 (Friday) and 2/2/19 (Saturday).

There will be an hour lunch break each day with a catered lunch included. In addition, we will take several 10 minute breaks throughout the training.

How and Where?

The workshops will be held in at 138 W 25th St, 10th floor, New York, NY, 10001. The cost of the two-day training is $575. There is a special rate of $450 for students for the two-day Intensive. You may pay by check or with a credit card.

Dr. Fader can also customize a workshop for your group or organization. If you are interested in registering for or learning more about MI training please contact Dr. Fader.




What is Motivational Interviewing?

As a longstanding member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT), Dr. Fader works closely with a talented team to provide a customized training experience for organizations of any size. Over the past 17 years, he has trained thousands of professionals in motivational interviewing in the US and abroad on its applications to diverse areas such as healthcare, mental health, corrections/law enforcement, organ donation, social services, sports and coaching. Dr.Fader trains in both English and Spanish.

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