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|Motivation starts with the desire to be free, to be free from dependency on others, freedom to live the lifestyle we dream of, freedom to explore our ideas. Total freedom is not possible or desirable, but the struggle to achieve that ideal is the basis for motivation.|
I was building a 50-foot wooden sailboat. During construction there were many visitors and one family stood out. Charlie would bring his three teenage sons on board, who seemed to be excited about everything they saw. They would focus on a construction method or potential problem and exchange ideas on its strong and weak points, or discus other ways to achieve the same results. Charlie would ask leading questions and his sons would have answers, each one trying to give a better answer than the other. When one teen presented a possible dumb idea, the others did not put him down, they countered with other possibilities.
It was not only on my boat they excised creative thinking, this was their life style, always asking why, and what are the other possibilities. They had a work shop where family members could work on projects. They needed "U" bolts for one of their projects. After threading a steel rod at both ends, they needed to bend them. They made a furnace from a five-gallon bucket and used the blower end of a vacuum cleaner for draft. They buried the rods in the red-hot charcoal. When pulling them out they had stubs. The fire was so hot it melted the steel. They did not realize how hot the furnace was. The only way to learn and get experiences is to try.
Farther and sons were a team that focused on creativity. A wild idea was something to embrace and develop. The teens were excited about life and highly motivated.
Charlie kept active the three legs of motivation:
By keeping all three motivation elements active, Charlie’s sons were highly motivated. Creative thinking was promoted and supported. In the adult world, their creative skills will find a profitable market. More important, they will not have to overcome negative barriers carried over from their teen years.
Compare Charlie to parents who are always putting down any idea their children might present. A gulf develops between them and soon the teen keeps all thoughts to them self. Many parents consider children’s wild ideas something to grow out of. This is the killing of creativity, the first leg of motivation. Putting down ideas is teaching children to accept the status quo. Forcing children to accept the status quo is the building of barriers. In the adult word, most never overcome these barriers.
Let's consider Ken’s parents who do not support or discourage, wild ideas, but tolerate them.
Ken is a typical thirteen-year-old boy, who is being exposed to truck loads of information via Internet, TV, and printed matter. He does not do well in school and his reading is not up to par, but he does work on self-motivated projects that interest him. He scans a variety of projects, usually related to a broad theme such as computers, mechanics or electronics. As time passes it becomes obvious that his interest is narrowing to flying, he reads more on this subject that any other. He is becoming focused and wants to engage in flying projects, so as to be connected. Teenagers, without support, don’t have many resources. Ken uses what he has, that is, cutting out pictures of airplanes and/or assembles plastic airplane models. For resourceful teens, this limited opportunity offers ways to be creative. Simple projects turn into elaborate projects, as resources become available, flying radio control models for example. Somewhere along the way, a burning desire is developing and this desire is associated with natural talent.
Ken is at a crossroads. School is telling him he is a failure while his flying interest is teaching him the art of how-to-learn in a natural learning environment. He is under pressure by parents and teachers to give classroom studies priority. How will he react?
Under pressure, every teen reacts differently. If Ken’s ambition is crushed, he may or may not bounce back again. Without support, teens give up easily and sometimes turn to rebellion where they take on self-destructive goals. Formal education and flying ambitions are dead. Motivation is dead.
If Ken's parents recognized his natural interest and supported it, he could achieve the impossible.
As adults, most of us had our teenage dreams putdown and we accepted the status quo. Trying to bring old dreams back to life again is extremely difficult. The barriers are huge, but they can be overcome.
At-risk youth are in the process of rejecting the status quo. The problem is, they reject everything and become losers. All of us were born with a natural desire to learn and be an achiever. During our teen years, we were pressured to accept the status quo and we reacted differently to that pressure. At-risk youth can be a reminder of what we went through. Reviewing the pages below, you may better understand the barriers that need to be conquered.
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