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Encountering the Four Horsemen of the Motivational Apocalypse

October 30, 2019

A Tale on Motivation by Mark Lim.


The horsemen were relentless in their pursuit. Fast and furious, they punished the educators with unbridled fury. These teachers, experts in their own right, seemed powerless to halt the onslaught. Yet they knew that if they allowed themselves to be beaten by the horsemen, that they would soon be relegated to the realms of educational oblivion, no doubt the primary objective of the motivational apocalypse.
What are the obstacles that our children face? How can we help them to be overcomers?
So the educators were determined to better understand their attackers, with the intention of identifying weaknesses and defeating them. They highlighted the following attributes in their attackers:
  1. No Benefit
  2. Overwhelming Contexts
  3. Protecting the Ego
  4. Energy Outweighs Success
The first horseman operates on the principle that there is No Benefit to the work we do; and that short term benefits trump long-term growth. To counter this attacker, the educator has to work on the premise that we live in an instant society and that we need to  help our students to realise the importance of what they do in the short term; eventually helping them to work towards understanding how a series of short term goals can be of benefit to them in the long term.

The second horseman utilises the modus operandi of Overwhelming Contexts. This results in a stressful context for the student; especially in the emotive and cognitive domains. To help the student overcome the overwhelming assault on the student, educators have to help them to create environments that are safe for both the emotions and the cognition.
How to we create environments that are safe for our kids both emotively and cognitively?
The third horseman adopts the philosophy of Protecting the Ego. This is linked to aspects of self identity and self esteem. To combat this attacker, educators need to create contexts that are both safe and respectful; providing a safe and nurturing space for students to learn.

The fourth horseman is driven by the notion that Energy Outweighs Success. This conveys the idea that too much energy is needed to achieve a goal. It then results in the mindset that long term goals, while important, are too difficult to achieve. Students therefore end up in a rut and choose not to even attempt to reach their goals. To defend against such an attack, educators need to consider situations that reward process and allow for visible growth to be recognised. This would then provide an enabling environment for students to thrive.

The four horsemen persisted in their assault of the educators; but this time, the teachers were not deterred. By addressing the specific weakness inherent in each horseman, the educators took aim and launched their counter-attack, in a last minute bid to save the world they knew; the world of education, with eager students desiring to achieve their learning goals. Only time will tell if this final salvo would serve any purpose, and if the world would be saved from the impending doom of the apocalypse. For if we as educators do not make that choice for the future, there would be no other force powerful enough to halt the advances of the horseman.
As parents, are we creating the optimal environment to motivate our children and help them win the race of life?
This article was written as a reflection and response to “Four Horsemen of the Motivational Apocalypse” by Chase Mielke. While the article was written specifically to help teachers motivate their students, the strategies mentioned will also be relevant for parents who want to help motivate their children in the area of learning.

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