I’ll Show Them
After I lose weight, I’ll show THEM.
After I lift this weight, I’ll show THEM.
I’ll prove THEM wrong.
I’m sure there’ve been many instances in your coaching career where you’ve been on the receiving end of these phrases.
It usually begins with you asking the client why they’ve decided to pursue a certain goal.
‘So… why don’t you tell me the reason behind the goal?’
If you’re lucky, they’ll be honest with you regarding their true feelings and intentions.
If you’re unlucky, they won’t.
If you’re very unlucky, they will be in denial, not even aware that the driver of their behaviour is extrinsic.
In a brief summation, an extrinsic motivator is something where the reward is external to the person. It could be money, social approval, glory, but it is something outside of their control.
An intrinsic motivator is something where the reward is internal to the person. It could be that they enjoy learning a new skill, gain satisfaction from seeing self-improvement, or they find a lot of leisure in the activity.
Most people have a combination of both, but leaning too far into the external is usually unhelpful because it is easily removed. Once it is removed, if the individual SOLELY relies on extrinsic motivators, they’re very likely to stop the activity.
So it’s all well and good to talk about extrinsic and internal motivators… and usually we might recommend our clients use internal motivators.
But that’s like telling someone this: ‘HEY! JUST CHANGE YOUR MIND!’
Doesn’t really work, does it?
If I said to you ‘HEY! CHANGE YOUR MIND, RIGHT NOW!’ You probably wouldn’t. You might even slap me in the face for being obnoxious.
That’s because in part, formulation of ideas and motivators are driven by internal narratives.
These are the stories we tell ourselves. These are the stories that are constructed by our experiences and memories. These are the stories we believe to be true about ourselves.
If you’ve been told you’re dumb your whole life, you might actually believe it. Then, you’ll start acting out in a way that matches that belief. You might choose jobs that are for ‘dumber’ people. You might stop yourself from taking on more challenging tasks because of this belief.
Or perhaps you’ve been taught to do things for the sake of impressing others. Like you should always dress well because you don’t want to look bad in front of other people. Or that you should make sure you work hard and get a good job so that other people will RESPECT you.
For some of you, this might really hit home. And if it does, I encourage you to explore your thoughts and past.
Going back to the clients who have external motivators, we might want to ask ourselves… what story are they playing out with their behaviour?
For the people who want an amazing body to SHOW others. Is the narrative… to do with redemption? Are they trying to play out a redemption story, where they feel they have failed in the past in front of others and now they want their REVENGE moment?
Or perhaps the narrative is that they have been doubted, bullied, disregarded in the past and now they want to achieve something that propels them into higher social status?
Whatever it is, it takes time to uncover the narrative behind the motivation, and it’s important we do so because at the very least, the client gains clarity over the reasons why they do it.
So… what next? You might uncover a particular narrative, but what next?
In some forms of psycho-therapy, the client is put into a re-writing of their past, where actors are hired to play the people who played a pivotal role in their past. The client is encouraged to speak as if they were in the past, exactly what they would’ve wanted to say. And thus healing begins. However, this is a highly trained skill – and as coaches we don’t have the training to do that.
But I have found it to be useful to ask people to imagine their future narrative.
What is it that you want to be FEELING in the future?
What does your health and fitness mean to YOU in the future?
Do you still want your past to have POWER over you?
We are not therapists, we are coaches. And coaching involves asking the right questions to facilitate healthy behaviour. By appreciating that motivators can be influenced by internal narratives, we can ask deeper questions that help our clients reflect on their motivators, and hopefully, their future.