Whether you are trying to motivate a friend, a spouse, an employee, a student or yourself, it is important to understand there are unique rewards that motivate adults to be successful in achieving their goals. These rewards range from the intangible to the tangible.
"I'm proud of you." "Wow, that is so impressive that you managed to control your anger in that situation!" "I really admire you for being on time to work every morning." Positive words of affirmation such as these work wonders. When adults are successful in demonstrating good behavior -- especially one they have been working on -- it is vital to verbally affirm them. When you let someone know you are proud of her and impressed by her achievement, your very words are a reward in themselves.
Recognizing someone for his accomplishments takes the reward one step beyond mere verbal affirmation. For example, an employee who has done an outstanding job may be deserving of recognition at a monthly staff meeting. Telling the whole work crew "I'm indebted to John for the hard work he's put in over the last few weeks" will be perceived as a reward, and a motivation, by the worker you are recognizing.
Monetary incentives work wonders when you are trying to get adults to achieve good behavior. Try telling your employees, for example, that you will give a 100 dollar bill to the person who gets to work first in the morning. You might well see employees who are normally fifteen minutes late showing up an hour early for work the next day!
Adults generally have a high ability to process cause and effect. If you can explain to them the positive effects of certain good behaviors, their comprehension of the good effect may in itself be enough reward to motivate them to behave well. For example, if an overweight person is brought to realize that losing weight may reduce his risk of various diseases, increase his physical attractiveness and make him overall more comfortable and able to enjoy life, he may find those effects adequate motivation to change his behavior. There may be no need for any other reward than the positive effects of the good behaviors themselves.
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