Managing Motivation For Yourself And Others

Managing Motivation For Yourself And Others


© 2022, Ruth Schimel PhD, Career & Life Management Consultant, Author

Not for distribution or commercial use without permission of author –,


“If it be now, ‘tis not to come;

if it be not to come, it will be now;

if it will be not now, yet it will come:

the readiness is all.”


~ William Shakespeare ~


PREPARATION: 10 minutes to read and choose a new insight to explore


INGREDIENTS:    Listening for data, observing yourself and others, checking out

assumptions, and appreciating differences


FRUITS OF YOUR EFFORTS: Efficiency and effectiveness, good use of time, goals met, and

mutual satisfaction


When my father, the electrical engineer and teacher, said the only psychological idea he believed in was “the law of readiness,” he may not have realized that Shakespeare was the source.  Recognition of readiness as a prelude for action came originally from the arts, then. And understanding and encouraging motivation is often more of an art than science.

Use the ideas and questions below to organize your approach for percolating motivation for yourself and others. To bring art and social science together, following is a poem on the management of motivation. Though it’s oriented to the workplace, you’ll see its relevance to personal life as well.


by Ruth Schimel


Some management insights seem to come in trinities,

Certainly, easier to remember than all those theories,

with one-size-fits-all uses.


A workplace guru, name of Mager, thought

there are three questions to ask about people’s motivation:

Can they do it?


Do they want to do it?

Do they know how to do it?


You’ll see that there is only one of three options here.

If they are not able, don’t make them feel worse by demanding it.

When they don’t want to act, what do you gain by trying to force them?

But if they don’t know how, you can help them learn.


Another guru from academe, name of McClelland, noticed

each person has a cascade of motivation in different sequences,

such as:




By understanding and honoring unique priorities,

both the person and mission may benefit.


Seems too simple?

Of course.

Anything that neatly explains human motivation

is a potential lie about a complex person,

who has history, secrets, and emotions…even fears.


But if such ideas help someone understand another,

allow anyone to appreciate her situation,

what harm is done?

Possibly more than one person is freed to be.


Each to use energy and spirit to do something valued,

instead of resisting, escaping, detouring

or otherwise avoiding true destiny or opportunity.


Each to let go of undue expectations,

avoid hectoring and imposing the *Procrustean bed

of “organizational requirements.”


Now, how do you want to proceed and lead

by encouraging what’s possible for everyone?


* Procrustean bed refers to a Greek legend in which an inn-keeper would “adjust” guests’ heights to fit his bed.


In addition to considering how the ideas in this poem apply to your situation, use any of the following questions to clarify what you want to do to encourage motivation for others as well as yourself.  Jot down briefly whatever comes to mind in the spaces below.

What assumptions are you making about motivation of this person? How will you check them out?

What are the barriers to encouraging motivation (think about history, habits, capacities, relationships, context, and emotions, for example)?

Why should you try to influence the motivation of ______________________ to do _________________________________?

What’s are the tangible and intangible payoffs for the person, whether it be yourself or another?

What needs to be learned or determined in order to proceed (skills, appropriate incentives, time and resources, for example)? 

What have you done in the past to encourage motivation of yourself and others that makes sense to avoid now?

What is truly possible to accomplish by ginning up motivation in a particular situation?

Whether or not the information and insights you have gathered together about motivation from the poem, your own experience, and answers to questions above apply to yourself or others, there is another action to add.  Use conversation to clarify and enrich your understanding. Have it with yourself, the person you wish to motivate or a third party to test ideas.  By engaging in such exploration, you may avoid unproductive repetition at small risk.

To the degree that benefits and goals can be clarified for anyone involved, motivation may be enhanced —- except, that is, for situations where someone can’t or doesn’t want to do something.  Since honest answers and actions are not always encouraged by the culture or in particular relationships, use your intuition, observations, and knowledge to figure out what’s really going on.

If you want to dig a little deeper to encourage action, explore specifically what is involved in getting ready to act for a particular person.  If “readiness is all,” use the back story of the person and situation to learn from and extract understanding. Such informal research and consideration could include attention to:

  • previous relevant experience
  • skill levels and combinations
  • preferred styles of communication
  • access to resources for action
  • clarification of priorities
  • specification and understanding of benefits
  • history of relevant relationships
  • specifying expectations and boundaries
  • barriers of individual psychology and behaviors
  • attitudes such as hope or pessimism

So, you see, percolating motivation is not a quick fix, but demands attention to many often interactive ingredients that may have differing meaning to the parties involved.  Yet, by attending to them, it’s likely that at least readiness will enhanced.


Analyzing Performance Problems: Or You Really Oughta Wanna by Peter Pipe and

Robert Frank Mager

The Motivation to Work by Frederick Herzberg et al

Intrinsic Motivation at Work: Building Energy and Commitment by Kenneth W. Thomas

Human Motivation by David C. McClelland

Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation by Edward L. Ceci and Richard Flaste

Motivation and Personality by Abraham Maslow

Gung Ho! Turn on the People in Any Organization by Ken Blanchard

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Get it Done: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation by Ayelet Fishbach

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