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The Meaning Behind Motivation

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Thinking Organized recently welcomed Rebecca Kullback, Licensed Certified Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-C) and co-founder of Metropolitan Counseling Services in Bethesda, to speak at our staff development meeting and give us a new perspective on the topic of motivation. We all know what it is like to dread getting started on certain tasks, procrastinate, and feel a lack of motivation. One interesting point that Ms. Kullback brought up is that we have to be mindful of why this might be the case. In any given situation, who is the person that wants a certain behavior to be executed? If a child’s room is messy, for instance, a parent might tell him to clean his room. The child may not see any purpose in doing so and is just fine with the mess, appearing unmotivated to complete the task. Instead of saying, “You need to clean your room,” a parent might say, “I need you to clean your room.” Why? Because it is the parent’s need that has to be fulfilled, not necessarily the child’s. Ms. Kullback made an important distinction between motivation and behavior, saying that if a child can do the behavior but just won’t, it is a behavioral issue and not a motivation issue.

When it comes to shaping behaviors, many people have differing views on the practice of using external motivation, such as rewards, to encourage behavior. Every person’s brain develops connections based on experience and environment. In the case of students with ADHD, Ms. Kullback explained that sometimes their brain needs time to catch up and make the necessary connections in order to associate the presentation of a demand with follow-through. White matter found in the brain may be at the core of this issue. According to Trends in Neurosciences Research Journal, “White matter is the brain region underlying the gray matter cortex, composed of neuronal fibers coated with electrical insulation called myelin.” Myelin determines how quickly and efficiently brain impulses can travel. As a result, it can be worthwhile to use external motivators as a short-term intervention if implemented thoughtfully until habits are developed and imprinted in the brain. More simply put, students with ADHD have different brain chemistry that often requires them to need more time in developing and consistently using desired routines. Until that time comes, external rewards can be an effective way to encourage the brain to form certain habits.  One way Ms. Kullback described it is that for kids with ADHD, it can be like they have a Mazda Miata engine in a 40-year-old clunker with 100,000 miles on it, and external motivation can go a long way in encouraging them to reach their full potential.

We learned a lot and gained some wonderful new insight from all of the meaningful topics that Ms. Kullback discussed, and above are just a couple that we found particularly beneficial and wanted to share with you! If you are interested, you can learn more about the great work that Ms. Kullback and her team are doing at Metropolitan Counseling Services here:



Erica MechlinskiThe Meaning Behind Motivation

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