Talk To Me About Self-Motivation

Recently, one of the most respected sales trainers in the country, Jim Meisenheimer, interviewed me on the subject of self-motivation … because it’s a critical element in the succes of any salesperson as well as individual.  

If you’re in the field of sales, I highly recommend Jim’s work.  Check it out by going to and

Here’s how our conversation went. 

Jim:  How did you become an expert on the subject of self-motivation? 

Alan:  Even though I have a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degree, my real education came outside the classroom.  I soon learned when I got into the world of business that too much of my “formal” education was theoretical in nature, and too many of my professors had never been employed in the “real” world.  They were content with their book knowledge, but I was passionate about discovering what works and doesn’t work in the area of motivation.  

So I began my own course of study.  I attended dozens of workshops and read every book on motivation I could find.  Over time, I got smart enough to know what information and which skills were solid gold and which ones were pure garbage.  And even though I’ve spent 25 years teaching people how to motivate themselves and motivate others, I still go to workshops and I keep on reading to make sure I know the latest and best in my field.  

Jim:  How do you define self-motivation?   

Alan:  Self-motivation is the power to get yourself to do what you need to do … even though you don’t want to do it.  It involves a combination of attitude, energy, and discipline … all of which can be learned.

Unfortunately, too many people wait until they “feel” like doing something before they take the actions that will result in their success.  And to make matters worse, they’ll even say, “I can’t help the way I feel.” 

I tell my audiences, “Yes, you can.  You can take control of your feelings, but it’s not always necessary.”  After all, self-motivation is all about motion, not emotion.

Jim:  Based on your observations and experience,  what percentage of the American workforce is really self-motivated? 

Alan:  About 25%.  The other 75% wait until they’re told what to do or a crisis gets them going.  

But let me clarify.  I don’t want to sound too harsh.  The 75% that are not self-motivated are not necessarily lazy, irresponsible, or incompetent people.  They’re simply ignorant or  misinformed.  Some of them don’t know “how” to motivate themselves, and the other ones think it’s someone else’s job to motivate them.

Jim:  Is there some kind of litmus test that someone could use to determine if he is a self-motivated person? 

Alan:   I would ask a person to think about his/her overall approach to life and work.  Is he/she more of an “actor” or a “reactor?” 

If you’re an “actor” who decides what has to be done to be successful in any given situation, if you then take charge and do those things, you’re a self-motivated individual.  But if you’re  a “reactor” who waits for the pressures of life before you take any action, you’re not all that self-motivated.  You’ve got some learning to do. 

Jim:  How can you motivate someone to become self-motivated? 

Alan:  It all comes down to education.  First, I have to teach people that self-motivation is possible.  Second, I have to show what they stand to gain if they become self-motivated people.  And third, I have to show them “how” to do it.  In other words, I have to give them some quick and easy skills that bring almost instant rewards.

Jim:  What are some of the tips you can recommend if people want to maintain a high level of self-motivation?

Alan:  Well, we could spend an hour, three hours, or even a whole day answering that question, and I do exactly that in my keynotes and seminars.  But to get your readers started, let me suggest the following.

  1.  Eliminate negative self-talk.  Stop telling yourself “I can’t do that …. I’ll never amount to anything … or … I’m the victim of circumstances.”  Negative self-talk destroys self-motivation.
  2. Tell yourself positive affirmations.  Start telling yourself “I like myself … I can do it … I believe in myself … I’m a winner” and a hundred other variations of those sentences.  With enough repetition, you will become what you tell yourself.
  3. Use the “act-as-if” principle.  If you act as if you’re enthusiastic, you’ll soon find yourself being enthusiastic.
  4. Survey your strengths.  People who lack self-motivation tend to be keenly aware of their faults and failures.  And to some extent that’s okay.  But if you want a lot more self-motivation, list all your strengths, talents, gifts, and abilities.  Write down 50, 100 or 200 of them.  The more aware  you are of your strengths,  the more motivation you’ll have.

Jim:  How do you work with businesses and organizations to help their people to become more self-motivated?

Alan:  Even though people tend to call me a “motivational speaker,” I’m really more of an educator.  To me, it’s not good enough to get people excited for an hour or a day.  I want people to know exactly what they can do to get the results they want … on and off the job … today, tomorrow, and for the rest of their future.   

So businesses and organizations hire me to speak to their leaders, their managers, and their employees through keynote speeches and educational seminars.  And then they often give their people copies of my books and audio CDs to reinforce what they learned.

Jim:  For those of my readers who don’t know you personally or professionally, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Alan:  I’m one of only 9 people in the world to hold a Ph.D., the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), and the CPAE (Speaker Hall of Fame).  In the last 25 years I’ve give more than 2000 programs in 48 states and 22 countries, maintaining a 92% repeat and referral business.  You see … with 6 different programs, all of which get amazingly good results, I’m usually invited back to teach people more of what they need to know about attitudes, leadership, communication, and work relationships.

Jim:  How can people learn more about your work?

Alan:  I would invite people to go to my web site which is You’ll find a lot more information about me and my programs as well as several free resources, like my weekly Internet newsletter called “Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip.”

Jim:  Finally, Alan – how can people contact you?

Alan:  There are two ways, Jim.  People can e-mail me ( or call me (1-800-621-7881).