So back from Wiltshire (again? Yes I do seem to spend quite a bit of time with Wiltshire and Dorset LA’s – nice places and nice people).
On Tuesday I was honoured to be invited to deliver a Key Note address at the Wilts PE Teachers Conference – a superb event which was very well attended. I was sharing the ‘platform’, as it were, with their first key note speaker Talan Skeels Piggins.
What can I say?
Not only was this mans story inspiring and inspirational; it was moving and motivational and very difficult to follow.
For those not in the know, Talan was a member of the 2010 UK Paralympic downhill skiing team.
He told his personal story of triumph over adversity starting in 2003 when he was involved in a horrific motorbike accident which left him paralysed from the chest down. His description of the accident and the aftermath had his audience horrified, amazed and amused.
If you get the chance to hear Talan speak then please take advantage of the opportunity.
During his talk I was not only as moved as the rest of the audience, but because I knew I had to follow his presentation, was forced to reflect more immediately on what he was saying. I remembered being in a similar situation having to ‘follow’ the Falklands vetran Simon Weston and a broad generalisation struck me.
It seems that it is only after a major life trauma, when we, as human beings, take careful stock of what it is we really want to achieve. When we are introduced to our mortality we have to take stock of what is important and valuable to us.
I recalled one of my early teachers/trainers asking me
“Alan, if you were given only six months to live hat you would you do?”
A question was followed with a challenge about “why” I wasn’t doing those things now?
Both Talan and Simon describe their feelings after the events that shaped their lives as being those of anger, frustration, depression… a sense of ‘why me?’
Both Talan and Simon describe a ‘turning point’ after which something ‘inside’ clicked and gave them a new direction, a new focus.
Both Talan and Simon then engaged almost ‘single mindedly’ in a course of actions (behaviours) that led them from where they ‘were’ to where they ‘wanted to be’.
So what can we learn about motivation from their stories?
Firstly it is about accepting CHANGE – having some feelings about that change and more importantly looking beyond the fear, uncertainty and resistance to that change into some alternative future.
Secondly it is about CONTROL – psychologists talk about LOCUS of CONTROL. Individuals with a ‘high locus of control’ will make themselves responsible for their own actions. Those with a ‘low locus of control’ will tend to put responsibility for change onto other people and situations.
In both Simon and Talan’s case their accidents were completely out of their control. The resulting physical limitations where also out of their control. The became ‘motivated’, for want of a better term, when they started to focus on the things they could control and take responsibility for.
Thirdly it is about the ‘NEED” for a ‘DREAM’ an aspiration or a target.
The popular (cranky and fluffy) notion of The Secret (see my Rational Mystic blog post of Rhonnda Byrne) takes sound psychological and behavioural advice and turns it into a ‘psuedo-mystical’ belief system. But as Talan, specifically noted, the idea of having a dream and surrounding himself with images that reminded him of his ‘goal’ was very motivational.
Fourthly there is the need to work back from the dream in order to identify the STEPS that need to be taken from the NOW which lead into the FUTURE.
In education we have spent so much time thinking about motivation rather than being motivational that we forget the real value of what have been called SMART targets.
Simple Statements of outcome with a Measure linked to success, based upon Achievable and Realistic steps set within a valid Time frame. Whilst many of you who have heard me speak on the topic of motivation know that I think this model can be improved, I feel that the value of stating goals in terms of steps, timescales and measures is essential to getting where you want to go.
Fifthly it is about celebrating any success that is a ‘step in the right direction’. Such celebrations are reminders that there is a journey and that there have been changes. These celebrations will also allow for review and reflection so ensuring that the ‘goal’ remains valid and relevant.
What the stories told by Simon, Talan and many many others tell us is that motivation comes from emotional connection to a goal; a willingness to take control of what you can; to be responsible for your own future and having the strength to bring your behaviours in line the steps you have identified.
It’s about D+PMA+A…
Dream + Positive Mental Attitude + Application