Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On motivation

When motivation guru, best-selling writer and NLP practitioner Tony Robbins started his career, he claimed himself to be an one-stop therapist, no matter who came to him for help, he could improve his situation in one therapy session. Later in his career, he added one qualification: provided the client/patient was willing to change! Motivation has to start with oneself.

Sometimes I was approached by people who said (or showed that) they were not convinced by the efficacy of chi-kung or meditation; and asked (or challenged) me to find a way to teach (or change) them. Sort of "Try it on me!" attitude. I would kindly excuse myself from this impossible task. Instead I advised them to do some readings first and see or judge by themselves whether these practices will be good or suitable for them. Without proper initial motivation (or a good reason to proceed), one is simply wasting one's time.

Since chi-kung and meditation are "internal" disciplines which means everything happens inside one's body, a teacher can't really demonstrate his art "externally", like breaking a piece of wood in karate. Modern man is skeptical and rightly so, because he has experienced of, or has read stories about, being cheated by people claimed to be, or actually are, professionals (like the defunct investment banker Lehman Brothers, and most people can probably sympathize with current demonstrators outside New York's banking district).

In short, the responsibility of motivation falls on the practitioners instead of the teachers! But it still begs the question: How can (if at all they can) results from behavioral research like BF Skinner's Operand Conditioning be relevant to the issue of learning? [The gist of Operand Conditioning is that when a "subject" randomly moves towards the direction the "experimenter" wants, the latter gives the former some goodies (sugar for mice as per Skinner's original experiment) as positive reinforcement.]

In my opinion, behavioral change should also be the responsibility of the practitioners, for chi-kung and meditation (assuming he or she is an adult with an average rational mind). For one thing, it is easier to suspend one's disbelief and imagine oneself (as in a game) of being a little mouse pushing buttons for a piece of sugar, then to imagine oneself being fed or motivated by pieces of little sugar like a little mouse!

The final issue of how to design one motivational program for oneself is beyond the scope of this post.

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