The Time Has Come to Manufacture a Crisis

I have a favorite quote, “Nothing breeds motivation like necessity.” It sums up the challenge that plagues any person or entity in a position to try to change others: despite earnest attempts the last two decades in the fields of change management and engagement, the fact remains, people don’t like to change unless they absolutely have to.

We know we don’t have healthy eating or other habits, we know our corporate culture rewards the wrong behaviors, we know if we networked more we could get out of this dismal job, we know we should have more diversity in the management ranks and yet nothing is really wrong.


Proper oral care is a great metaphor for many things, particularly when it comes to motivation. Companies and people are no different from teeth: if you don’t clean your teeth (i.e the things listed above), eventually you will get a cavity.

As a leader, you have enough data and experience to see something needs to change, and you are probably right. However, this rarely resonates with others. They’re just not in your world. Your potential cavity is not their potential cavity.

Personally or professionally, people need a good old-fashioned crisis to change anything! Like with teeth, you have to take the perspective of “when” not “if.” Status quo is a big “life” or “business” cavity waiting to happen.

Some may say, “Well, I’m a glass half full person, I prefer to view changing as what one can gain, vs. to avoid something bad.” That’s fine, too. It’s just that most people aren’t like that, unfortunately. Even with the prospect of something really positive, people don’t like to change. You need both.

But crises are always blessings as well. So, why not move on out of status quo and invent your own crisis?

What do you want to be doing that you’re not doing?

Ask yourself that question. Notice I didn’t use the word “should.” “Should” talk is the surest way to fail to do something different. You have to want to do it. For example, I want to be more courageous at work, I want to write a book, I want to mentor others, I want a new job, I want to feel like I’m contributing to X.

The glass if half empty:

Next, paint a picture in your head: what bad things will happen if you don’t do this – what’s the possible cavity in this scenario? It could be as bad as staying right where you are. For some, where they are now is the worst-case scenario. That’s good – instant motivation.

The glass is half full:

If you can’t think of a cavity, move to the glass is half full. Paint a picture in your head of the accomplishment. What have you gained? How have you affected others? How do you feel?

“If you can’t feed 100 people, just feed one.”

This is a famous quote by Mother Teresa that is key for jump starting and maintaining motivation. For example, I have been really surprised by how rewarding just doing the smallest thing toward a “want” goal lifts my spirit. Additionally, the outcome possibilities grow over time with each small action, like a ripple.

If you can’t come up with a real motivator for yourself, and one small step forward, you’re probably not inspired enough. Can you afford to stay uninspired? Maybe, but not for long. Try again with a different “want.”

Besides, you deserve nothing less, so let’s summarize the benefits of manufacturing a crisis for yourself:

  1. Avoid current and/or future discomfort.
  2. Imagined and unimaginable accomplishments in your life.
  3. Inspiring others.

Sounds pretty motivating to me!

“Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.” ― Zig Ziglar

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