The hopelessness of hope — beware the motivational speaker

During the depths of Venezuela’s economic crisis amid a global economic recession, Stephan Kaiser built a thriving business. Tens of thousands of middle class Venezuelans attended his seminars, where his closing remarks “brought down the house”.

Speaking in the city of Ciudad Guayana to 1300 sales representatives, Kaiser closed a speech with:

“You can take responsibility each day for creating a better life, a better family, a better business, and above all, a better Venezuela”

That was 2015, at a time the city was so starved of investment and hampered by labour disputes it came to symbolise the country’s economic meltdown. (Once-thriving with state-run heavy industries, Ciudad Guayana was Venezuela’s best hope for escaping its dependence on oil exports).

Kaiser’s unwavering belief that the country’s individuals held the solution to its recovery offered a comforting alternative at a time of despair, and that’s precisely the service he offers.

Feelings vs behaviours:

The problem with the nature of motivational talk it that it’s designed to make you feel motivated. And that’s temporary. Generating adaptive behaviours takes much more work.

Our behaviours and reactive patterns which engender our decision making are fortified by deeply embedded neural networks — entrenched mostly during childhood.

Breaking our behavioural habits — the habit of who we are — requires the same long term effort necessary for a smoker to successfully quit.

Internal thoughts > external talk

Whilst a motivational speaker can make us think differently in a way that makes us feel positive, their influence can only ever by temporary.

Only via influencing our habits — i.e. introducing us to something which we then incorporate into our daily life — can they have any influence at all.

This is consistent with the essence of positive thinking theory — the constant observation of thought — and the definition of mindfulness as an internal psychological process.

And unlike motivational speak, positive thinking and mindfulness actually help us achieve change.

Paying attention to your internal behaviour instead of those around you is a certain route to achieve any desired change.

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