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Motivation as the Motor

Motivation is the engine of social change. No doubt, “where there is a will, there is a way”.


Here, with motivation I refer to an intrinsic, internal drive, rather than to external inspiration, which tends to wane over time.


While external inspiration can be powerful change agent, as people want to fit in, please, and imitate others, such external forces only amplify and transform once a movement has reached critical mass. The sustainability transformation still lacking this critical mass prompts my deep interest in understanding what truly ignites motivation, the one from within.

What enables motivation from within

It is possible to inspire people. Yet this does not last. But it is impossible to motivate someone, the same way it is impossible to eat for someone who is hungry, or to sleep for someone who is tired. Motivation comes from within.


When researching what the conditions need to be for people to build their own motivation, the conclusions across diverse fields of study align. From sports coaching, education, medicine, human resource management to addiction therapy, research consistently underscores a central theme: the pivotal role of self-determination or agency. Self-determination empowers individuals or groups to navigate their own paths within their lives, communities, or political systems, fostering autonomy and the freedom to shape their destinies. This concept largely overlaps with “agency”, wherein individuals possess the capacity to act independently, make decisions, and exert control over their environments.

In contrast, many social change movements, though passionate, often inadvertently impose on others through an oblique or obvious “command-and-control” approach embedded in their recommendations. Their audiences may therefore perceive these movements and their recommendations as manipulative rather than inviting. The result is resistance.

The paradox of change

This paradox lies in the tension between the pre-determined, intentional goal of a social change movement and the necessity for individuals to align with it willingly, through self-determination, not imposition. While historical precedents like civil rights or women liberation movements offer constructive examples of how this paradox can be overcome, the sustainability transformation remains in its infancy, far still from having reached critical mass.

Motivation is the motor. Generating motivation therefore, becomes the lynchpin for effective change.

I am deeply intrigued by ways to cultivate motivation among individuals, companies, cities, and countries to respond to overshoot.


So much we still do not know

The persistence of our ecological Ponzi scheme is staggering. How do we make the topic inviting and exciting? How do we help make clear that there is no downside to better understanding our future? What can we learn from financial Ponzi schemes - what maintains them and how we stop them?
What got you excited about the topic? Which responses to overshoot do you cherish most?

Outcomes I am looking for

Drawing on research and personal experience, I identify three critical conditions for fostering motivation:

  1. Igniting the desire to respond to overshoot. (“I want to…”). Every sentence that contains “should” is a barrier, as it merely judges others, while indicating no personal desire to take on the challenge.

  2. Cultivating a sense of agency in confronting challenges (“I can do something, I can respond…”). Anxiety, including eco-anxiety, originates not so much from the physical threats of overshoot, but from feeling helpless and unable to react to a threat.

  3. Nurturing curiosity as a means of learning and problem-solving. (“I love learning new things…”).  learning more is life—enhancing and titillating). Rather than being stopped by not knowing, the ability to discover our way into the future makes the journey more life-enhancing and titillating. It also demonstrates why all of us are needed and, therefore, welcome. Together we can figure it out…


With every engagement, I therefore ask myself: Am I boosting these aspects among those I engage with? If not, it’s back to the drawing board, as I may do more harm than good. Does this resonate? Let me know.

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