How to motivate the unmotivated

“Realizing this, we decided to turn the standard solution to self-control on its head: What if instead of seeking advice, we asked struggling people to give it,” write Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach. To answer this question, they conducted a series of experiments that appointed people struggling with self-control to advise others on the very problems they themselves were encountering. The population samples they studied included unemployed adults struggling to find a job, adults struggling to save money, adults struggling with anger management, and children falling behind in school.

“Although giving advice confers no new information to the advice giver, we thought it would increase the advice giver’s confidence,” they write. “Confidence in one’s ability can galvanize motivation and achievement even more than actual ability.”

Here is more from Leah Fessler, via the excellent Samir Varma.  While these results should not be considered as confirmed, I personally believe in them enough that I often act on them.


This explains why the people how love to give advice, even dumb advice, look so happy.

On the other hand, be wary of any advice coming from a professor, coach or priest. They might be the worst. From the article:

"In the learning literature confidence can be problematic: people tend to believe they know more than they actually do (Dunning, Heath, &
Suls, 2004; Ehrlinger, Johnson, Banner, Dunning, & Kruger, 2008). Given this, one might worry about a “dark side” of advice-giving: perhaps giving advice causes confidence to outstrip actual ability, leading to overconfidence."

From a De Andre' song "It's well know that people love giving advice/ feeling like they are Jesus in the Temple/ It's well know that people love giving advice/ when they can no longer give the bad example."

Isn't this the AA method? I have a friend, an alcoholic, who has devoted his life to motivating the unmotivated (i.e., other alcoholics). He is helping himself while helping others (doing good by doing good, Cowen's advice in his new book).

Why not try an approach to drinking based on science such as the Sinclair Method?

As a non-scientific sample of one, "science" didn't work for me. AA did, and has for 24 years now.

So you tried the Sinclair method 24 years ago and it didn't work but AA did? Are you religious?

After a few blowbacks, my advice is to never give advice.

What has happened to your savings and body weight since you stopped giving advice?

In It’s A Wonderful Life (1947), when Jimmy Stewart is contemplating jumping off a bridge to kill himself, his guardian angel jumps off first, causing Jimmy Stewart to jump in, not yo kill himself, but to save his angel.

Mark, that is such an insightful reference! Very cool.

"said that they felt more motivated to..." It would be nice if they had more concrete results like they actually did find a job or lost weight, ect.

My golf partner frequently advises adjustments to my golf swing before he hits his next shot into the trees.

...before he CONFIDENTLY hits his next shot into the trees. =)

" I personally believe in them enough that I often act on them."

Guffaw. I doubt the good professor struggles with much of anything.

==" ...that appointed people struggling with self-control to advise others on the very problems they themselves were encountering. "

AlcoholicsAnonymous, WeightWatchers, etc figured this out long ago.
And everyone knows that a positive mental attitude/optimism makes any task easier.

Yet we're instructed here that reinventing-the-wheel with this useless 'experimental research' is somehow significant and worth our attention amongst all other availabkle information in the world.

Could you please give us some advice on how to stop making needlessly snarky comments?

This strikes me as the same mechanism by which thinking about your problem as a neutral observer can help. It is a different, less biased, more thoughtful approach that you're gaining, not some notion of increased self-confidence.

How to lose friends and start a revolution...

I just saw delightful movie “eighth grade”. As it turns out, the plot centers on putting these observations into practice, with positive, Though incremental results.

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