How to Motivate Someone to Complete a Difficult Task and Perform

Disclaimer: These are not in-depth steps on psychoanalyzing and treating those around you. This article is only written to be a quick tool for navigating casual social situations in which you’re called to calm someone down. 

The anxious will stand out when you become used to the difficulties they stress over. 

As you repeatedly perform in life, you’ll find yourself mentoring new performers in your domain. They’ll be riddled with nerves in the beginning; their voices will shake and their printed speech will exaggerate their hands’ trembles. 

Some will even question if they should continue doing everything their sympathetic nervous system tries to pull them away from. 

You’ll discover the need to motivate the nervous to venture past their nerves. These people may be members of your team about to give an important presentation or a sibling about to go in for an important interview. 

This article aims to guide you through the times in which you need to quickly motivate the anxious to perform difficult tasks. 

Acknowledge and Empathize With Difficulties

Intrusive thoughts are strongest when we try our hardest to not focus on them. 

It is harder to not think of a yellow elephant when someone tells you not to do it.

Similarly, we often recognize the negative thought processes we should stay away from. For instance, we have a general idea that it’s probably unwise to visualize ourselves stuttering and forgetting the words to an important presentation we’re about to give. 

In our attempts to not fall into a negative thinking pattern however, we often try blocking our minds to no avail. The more we try thinking about something other than the things we don’t want to think about, the faster we seem to rebound back to those negative thinking patterns we try so hard to ignore. 

An extensive and direct addressal of things we want to cognitively stay clear of seems to be a good way to overcome their negative effects. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy makes use of this notion with the concept of “in vivo exposure.” It entails focusing on one’s negative thoughts, emotions, and memories while putting them through objective, real world experiments in an effort to rid them of their power.  

When engaging with an individual who just can’t keep their anxieties about a difficult task in check, ensure that you do not ignore the barriers which seem so impenetrable from their perspective. Your acknowledgement of the things these individuals fear will be a critical initial step in calming them down. 

Recommended Book: Dark Psychology.

In being aligned with what these nervous individuals fear most, you’ll establish yourself as being empathetic to their stance at the moment in time. You’ll establish yourself as an understanding entity who sees and acknowledges the same barriers which elicit fear within them. 

Only by acknowledging those barriers would the people you interact with believe in your ability to help scale them. You’d first say, “Yes, I see what you see. The feelings you feel are understandable and relatable.” 

As an established understanding entity, your work from here will be easier to perform. 

By acknowledging the barriers and emotions involved in the matter, you’ll leave breathing room for the possibility of a successful performance to be seriously considered. Rather than forcing them to only think of positive, successful performances, you’ll manage to escape the intrusive thought of possible failure by addressing it early and directly. 

If you were to tell these individuals to ignore the difficulties and to not focus on their fears, you’d facilitate the opposite effect to take place. You’d in essence be saying to not think of the yellow elephant; only to ensure that they do. 

Recommended Book: Educated: A Memoir.

Ensure the Window of Objective Success Always Remains in View

Next, you should make it known, as objectively as you can, that these barriers are in fact surmountable

Ensure that your listener understands that yes, such barriers will be difficult and nerve-wracking to overcome, but that it is doable. Your honest and brave acknowledgement of the difficulties involved will motivate these individuals to further believe your dialogue about the possibility of success. 

Akin to needing to scale a treacherous mountain in front of yourself and your partner, pretending that it’s not there will not make it any easier to scale. The proper analysis, planning, and confidence in your mutual ability to scale such a mountain first requires your undivided acknowledgement and attention. 

As your attention is directed at the barriers’ intimidating presence, your next step is to find the paths of least resistance and objective opportunities for success in that domain. 

If you have knowledge of the detailed objective steps needed to ensure a successful performance, be sure to lay those steps out after you satiate the anxious individual’s yearning to have their fears acknowledged. 

If your knowledge of the possibility of overcoming the feared barriers is not detailed and extensive, you’ll find yourself being general in your assurance that success is possible. In such a case, past examples, things you’ve learned prior, and general strategies for success will be your tools of influence. 

Recommended Book: The Psychology of Persuasion.

For example, prior to your friend stepping up in front of the room to give an important presentation, cite another time they’ve successfully presented in the past. Illuminate the path of success by either presenting proven steps in that direction, or general anecdotes which point that way. 

Remind Them That the Successful Were Once in Their Position (Physically and Emotionally)

We instinctively seem to look for role models in the domain of any venture we embark on. 

Especially in the age of instant access to information, it becomes easy to discover people who are ahead of you in their specialization of a certain skill. 

An inordinate attention to detail is a requirement if you hope to be good at anything. The more you specialize in improving your skills in the domain of your choice, the ones in your immediate vicinity may not seem like they can empathize with your troubles. You’d thereby look for others who’ve specialized in the same things you yearn to become skilled at for potential solutions to your problems.  

You’ll use them for motivation to keep going on your journey of specialization, and will look to them for important lessons in your field. 

Recommended Book: Leaders Eat Last.

The unlikely heroes we look up to in our specified paths in life will be used as pillars to lean our worries against. 

If you’re a struggling medical student for instance, you’ll remember that the doctors you respect went through the same processes of exam taking and credentialing in their youth. 

The greatest speech givers also had to face similar fears of speaking to large rooms with the spotlights singling them out. 

Know whom those you’re attempting to motivate look up to and respect. In keeping that knowledge accessible for times in which you’re called to motivate, you’ll be able to ground the nerves that anxious individuals feel. 

Recommended Book: The Intelligent Investor.

By referencing that those whom anxious people respect experienced the same / similar difficulties as they currently are, the tracks in the snow will begin to show. Rather than their feeling of being alone on an island going unchecked, it’ll feel as if someone was there before them. They’ll remember the paths those whom they respect took before them, and will think of the difficulties those they respect also had to overcome. 

You don’t have to look too high to reference such heroes. Make educated assumptions on whom the individuals you’re attempting to calm may respect in their immediate surroundings. Maybe there’s a professor who motivated them to embark on learning about molecular biology, or a director in the company they work for whose public speaking ability their respect. 

Reference those role models’ early journeys, and make it known how similar the path your subject is on is to the paths of those whom they respect. 

Referencing the similarities between an anxious person you speak with and their role models will be a quick way to ground anxious thoughts and focus on proven pathways of success. 

Recommended Book: Notes from Underground.

Remind Them That They’ve Prepared Well With Quantitative Facts

Anxiety is good at wedging doubt between what we consider steps toward successful outcomes. 

Your objective knowledge and extensive amount of practice can often seem to not be enough when it comes time to perform. Anxiety encourages us to overthink and over-analyze. It causes us to doubt and to reconsider whether we were right to take one course of action over another in our preparations for success. 

Your reminder of the objective validity behind people’s preparation for their performances / evaluations will do well to calm them and reestablish confidence. 

Remind those whom you find to be second guessing their abilities, of them knowing and having mastered the steps needed to achieve success. Cite the number of days they practiced their performance on the piano, and how many hours they spent rehearsing the presentation they’re about to give. 

Introduce a quantitative pillar for them to lean their perceived sense of preparedness against. Use numbers of hours, days, steps, and accomplishments to remind those you’re speaking with of their capacity to adequately perform. 

Your reminders of the quantitative evidence which points to the likelihood of a good performance will do well to raise confidence in the anxious. Ensure that you establish the notion that the time they’ve spent preparing for their upcoming performance is a lot and more than enough. Let them know that they should trust the extensive steps they’ve taken to prepare for their important day in an effort to limit their chances of paralyzing themselves with analysis.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.