A short time ago I had a conversation with two young men (separately, not together) as they had been referred to me by their school. They were both demotivated, unfocussed, falling behind in their work and were a concern to both the school and their families. They are both the same age, 17, and both disorganised. On the face of it I had two identical problems that could be dealt with in identical ways – but the reality was far from that. Additionally I need to work hard against pre-deciding what they need before they arrive and always need to listen to their story before offering any suggestions.
My normal approach is to base any initial discussion around two simply stated, yet difficult to answer questions. Who are you? How can I serve you? As you would imagine the answers to the first question are never the same although most young people struggle with the second question as they are used to serving adults not the other way round.
The first young man was demotivated because he didn’t have a goal for his life. Of course it is not unusual for a 17 year old to have no idea of their specific career path but he had no real idea of who he wanted to become – in any detail. So our discussion focussed around the kind of life he would like to have at age 30. Did he imagine himself married? Children? Where might he be living? This enabled him to estimate he would need a job that paid around $100,000 each year to sustain his dreams. (I thought, good – we are getting somewhere). At this level it isn’t a requirement that he knows where he will get the money but rather for him to see that he will need to improve himself if he is to achieve it.
When we spoke about motivation and the options of external vs internal; positive vs negative; he agreed that up to date his life has been full of external negative motivation. “Do your homework or else….” Also “We are taking your cell phone from you until your grades improve” He actually concluded that external negative was the preferred motivation! That provoked a lively debate.
The conversation concluded with him seeing that to achieve the $100K lifestyle he would need to climb some steps along the way, starting right now with the development of self discipline, self motivation and to eliminate his reliance on others.
The other guy had a totally different issue …. But more that later.