In a basic sense, motivation is the fuel that gives us the drive and energy to do what matters most to us. Without it, the plans and strategies we develop with young people are likely to fall short.
From a developmental perspective, adolescence is a time where we grapple with the question of “Who am I and what do I value?” rather than what parents or other carers may have wanted for us.
So when we work with young people, it may feel like the question is one of “How do I motivate you?” when their developmental stage really asks the question “What motivates you?”
But before we think about the young people we work with, lets start with ourselves.
You know the experience. Maybe you’re at a barbeque and someone asks what you do. And you tell them. And you know a common response is some version of “I couldn’t do that!” Whether it’s the mental health, substance use, challenging or criminal behaviour, homeless, whatever – it seems too hard.
And you know the work isn’t easy. So… why do you do it? Why did you choose to become a helper?
It’s probably not for fame or fortune. Perhaps you fell into it, or chose the work because of personal experience. Whatever the reason, there’s a good chance that somewhere in the heart of it are your core values.
And when the work gets tough, it’s the deeper meaning that keeps us going, re-energises us and helps us to work through the difficulties.
“Why am I doing this?” We need a good answer. One that we feel in our guts, rather than just think is sensible.
Motivation can not only define our choices, but define who we are.
"Try not to become a man of success, but rather become a man of value."