Reality Check: Can you do this?

Do you consider yourself highly motivated? Does your motivation come naturally to you, or do you have to work at it?

For some of us, motivation seems to require an occasional kick in the pants, so to speak, to keep it fresh and inspired. I know that’s not just me either, or there wouldn’t be an over-abundance of motivational speakers, videos, seminars, coaches and books.

Many of those books are on my shelf. Sometimes I even read them. Reading motivational books can be an especially effective technique for avoiding work. So I’m quite familiar with the challenges that come with motivation and the lack thereof.

Among those motivational authors is Dan Pink, who has also created a collection of two-minute videos that he calls pinkcasts. One recent video looks at an approach to motivation through self-talk.

How we talk to ourselves can have a good deal of influence on our motivation and potential success. Positive self-talk, such as, “I can…” is generally more helpful than defeatist self-talk such as, “I can’t; there’s no point in trying.”

When faced with a challenge, Pink suggests that instead of reciting those positive self-talk phrases like, “I will succeed…” it’s more effective to ask ourselves a question. Specifically, this question: “Can I do this, and if so, how?”

Pink is looking at self-talk from a business perspective, such as how to get yourself into a productive mindset before an important meeting. But we can benefit from self-talk in any aspect of our lives.

Beth has made a big decision. She’s selling her house, packing up, and moving to a more manageable living arrangement. She has no doubt that this is the right move for her at this stage in her life.

Still, difficulties can seem insurmountable. Setbacks have caused her to question the change. Beth is having trouble maintaining her motivation to deal with what seems like a mountain of details, possessions, and decisions.

Some days, the tasks and uncertainties seem so huge that she feels like crawling back in bed and avoiding it all. Her self-talk can then easily fall into, “I never should have…” even though she knows that the action she is taking is right for her.

Positive self-talk could be, “I can do this!” But if that sounds hollow and artificial, then another approach could be to ask, “Can I do this? If so, how?”

By focusing on the question: “If so, how?” Beth may be able to move away from her jumble of feelings and into a thinking process. With thinking, she can break down the problems into more manageable, orderly tasks.

Dr. Glasser’s choice theory suggests that it’s more effective to change our thoughts and actions than it is to directly attempt to change our feelings.

While I don’t believe there’s anything magical about the specific question, “Can I do this, and if so, how?” it would seem that asking questions helps us move toward thinking. We can be mind-led rather than emotion led.

So if you are meeting someone with whom you’ve had a conflict, ask yourself, “What might I do differently this time that could make this meeting work better than before?”

If you are struggling with a decision, “How might I look at these options differently?”

If you want to persuade, “How might I present this so it makes the case that I want to make?” And so on.

Asking a question opens up options and leads us toward thinking about answers. The answers that we choose from those options could lead us toward effective actions.

If you think this sounds like a helpful approach, you can see the video yourself at; The Pinkcast 1.9.

When you talk to yourself, do you ever ask questions?

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