The requirement for motivation appears to sit high on the agenda in today’s modern world. Whether it’s an advert for a branded porridge to give us the ‘best start’ in the morning (I find a strong coffee helps me best) or it’s one of those, never-seen-before inspirational quotes (no room for Nike’s ‘just do it’ then) – popping up in your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook news feed; motivation seems to be everywhere these days. It is also pretty important, as I’m sure you’ll agree, as without it the temptation to lie in bed all day reading those aforementioned motivational quotes on your social media channels would be too great.
Who says coffee can’t motivate
The detail and theory underlying motivation is interesting stuff. Those with big brains say it can be broken down into two strands. Extrinsic and intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is believed to be a stronger driver for behaviour than extrinsic motivation. Why? Well, intrinsic motivation relies on tapping into a person’s beliefs, values and emotions. For example having a hobby for fun of it. This doesn’t always make intrinsic motivation rational – far from it. Following your local football team who aren’t doing very well and suffering disappointment when they keep losing whilst at the same time costing you the equivalent of a second mortgage is a good example. On the face of it this doesn’t appear logical but the drivers here are loyalty, emotional attachment and identity to a locality (unless you support Man Utd).
Extrinsic motivation is when people are driven by external factors and events rather than the internal feelings of intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is closely related to what psychologists call operant conditioning based on the work of B.F Skinner from the 1930s. Skinner believed behaviour could best be explained by the interaction and involvement of positive, negative and neutral reinforcement. In other words rewarding or punishing actions to elicit behavioural change or maintenance behaviour. This relates closely towards the motivation to repeat behaviour or cease that behaviour. For example, work can be associated with the reward of earning money. Money can therefore reinforces the behaviour of turning up for work each day. Another example may be completing work due to the pressure exerted by your manager. The message here may be “if this work is not completed you will get into trouble”.
In my careers guidance work I regularly see clients where motivation to change themselves or their situation seems to underline many of the reasons why they booked an appointment to see me. For this reason I thought it would be useful to identify and describe some of the tools we have at our disposal to help understand and facilitate client motivation in a careers context.
Open questioning: Is a basic but powerful tool – possibly the most powerful – as it can do two things. 1) Understand their story. i.e elicit information and understanding of a client’s situation, feelings and what they want help with. 2) The process also draws out those feelings into the open potentially allowing clients to be the narrators of their own solutions. Open questioning works well on an intrinsic level. Clients are talking about themselves, their feelings and thoughts. It can open the door to reflection but also allows an adviser to interpret and challenge assumptions on self-efficacy. Open questioning allows us to understand external motivators such as the value a person places on money in their life and career. It can help get the internal debate out into the open and so is the foundation for then using other tools such as decisional balance and scaling.
Decisional balance (cost/benefit analysis): A decisional balance sheet can be a very effective tool for countering ambivalence in that to make it work both pros and cons of decisions need to be identified and valued. In this sense a decisional balance sheet could help a client process and move towards making a decision. This is especially true if there are more weighted benefits towards one scenario than another (or indeed less disadvantages). Ultimately this process is about making the unconscious, conscious.
Scaling (1-10) Scaling is a technique regularly employed in solution focused therapies and interviews and allows the professional to try and re-frame a response away from an all or nothing answer. The reality of the scale sits solely in the interview. It isn’t scientific, but it does represent the perception of a client to an issue. A scale can be used to represent two dichotomous views or states. A scaling question I could use with a client could be: “On a scale of 1-10, with one very not very useful and ten being extremely useful, how useful do you believe the careers service could be in helping your achieve your careers aims?” The answer can open further probing questions but it is also a lense that enables the adviser to think about possible thought processes the client is experiencing. For example if your client answered “two”(gulp!) a follow up question could be “why do you think the careers service would not be able to help you?”. The scale can also track progress. So for example if the same question was asked of client at the start of a session , I could ask the same scaling question at the end to see if there was perceived progress.
Scaling therefore does not aid the client in isolation as it still requires prompting, probing and interpretative skills from the adviser. It means scaling can be used as part of a narrative, person centred approach as a way of assigning some measurable value. So for instance these values could form part of a decisional balance analysis.
Looking forward: Solution focused therapy follows a key principle of identifying the problem and enabling steps to find solutions. The focus is on looking forward and finding a fix rather than looking back and spending time discussing the problem in the first place. Solution Focused Brief Therapy is a branch of psychotherapy and so is not something that is professionally or strictly practiced within a guidance context by careers practitioners. However, the simple premise of working towards a solution/s is something that can be employed with clients The rationale is as follows:
SFBT……originated in an interest in the inconsistencies to be found in problem behaviour. From this came the central notion of ‘exceptions’: however serious, fixed or chronic the problem there are always exceptions and these exceptions contain the seeds of the client’s own solution.
Source: Advances in Psychiatric Treatment Solution-focused brief therapy (2014)
An example of this in a careers context could be a client that only sees failure in their career decision making and current occupation choice. However, an exception in this case could be the learning experience contained in those perceived failures. In other words, maybe the role isn’t working out but it has enabled the client to refine what they are really looking for.
Looking forward sits well within guidance practice in that it accepts the potential limitations of the careers practitioners expertise in counselling and moves the interaction into a coaching capacity that may better fit a practitioners efficacy.
Advances in Psychiatric Treatment Solution-focused brief therapy (2014)
Changing Minds (2013) Motivation