Sunday, March 17, 2013


There seems to be a plethora of kitschy sayings attached to photos floating around the internet these days. You know the ones. There is a picture of someone climbing a long rock route, skiing a big mountain, running a marathon, kayaking a huge rapid, or some other “ultra-extreme” sport and some supposedly inspiring quote such as: “Every day is a chance to change your life,” or “There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path, don't allow yourself to become one of them,” or perhaps “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it;” or even simply “Go, do,” is emblazoned across the photo.  

I assume these photo/quote combinations (so called “motivational posters”) are somehow supposed to inspire us to achieve great things, or at least greater things than we are actually doing right now. Apparently, studies have shown that motivational posters can actually affect behaviour. At least, Wikapeadia quotes one study that reported an increase in stair climbing when motivational posters encouraging stair climbing were prominently displayed by escalators and steps.  Disappointingly, or perhaps tellingly, the motivational effect gradually regressed to zero after the posters were removed.  

Achieving big goals, however, (or even little goals) requires planning, dedication, discipline, sacrifice, hard work, and motivation followed by more hard work, discipline, sacrifice and motivation. You must be prepared to push doggedly forward through set-backs, often alone. That kind of single-minded purpose does requires motivation, but I'm pretty sure it’s not the motivation that comes from a kitschy saying inscribed on a pretty picture.  

The people who go on to become great climbers, skiers, paddlers, tennis players, chess masters are the kind of people who are out doing what they want to do – have to do, even - regardless of what anyone else is doing or saying.  If you are so easily swayed that a trite saying on a second rate photo influences your actions, you’re hardly likely to have the stamina to keep going when the going is anything but easy.   

Personally, I approach with scepticism all those folks that surround themselves (or post and repost) motivational posters. It seems to me anyone whose motivation comes from such a flimsy source is likely to be as motivated to reach their goals as a politician is to fulfil campaign promises once elected, and we all know how that turns out.  

No comments:

Post a Comment