Motivational pictures and Chinese bottles

self confidence ladderDoes your house or office have any of those commercial motivational/inspirational posters on the walls? Slick, vivid color “perfect” images with a nice quote or bland saying to match. For example a photo of “businessman’s hands” with the following:-

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Part of me likes the concept, its just that the products to me seem too slick – I cannot imagine these inspiring or motivating me. The fact that there is now good business selling “demotivational” products says that others prefer humor and honesty! For instance, a photo of the pyramids with:-

“You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor.”

What brought this to mind was story in the news about a shop in Beijing selling “spirit bottles” – empty bottles with meaningful (rather than inspirational) sentiments written on them. The best sellers have been “courage for change”, “sense of security”, “great wisdom”, “tolerance” and “unconditional love”.

Apparently sales have increased dramatically since the recent earthquake, leading to some concern that this is exploitation or a confidence trip. I cannot see that, as its quite clear that people know they are buying a bottle, filled with nothing but air, with a fairly simple label – anything but slick!

Management guru Charles Handy was successful at using images and metaphors to translate conceptual ideas into things people could understand and relate to. Since reading a Hungry Spirit I keep a white stone on my desk – as he does. It symbolizes the journey towards self knowledge:-

It means that if I “prevail,” I will, eventually, find out who I truly ought to be, the other hidden self. Life is a search for the white stone. It will be a different one for each of us. Of course, it depends on what is meant by “prevail.” It means, I suspect, passing life’s little tests, until you are free to be fully yourself, which is when you get your white stone.

Its worth reading the full extract, as it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense out of context! But the point here is that a simple white stone – with no writing on – can convey meaning to someone if they have given it a personal meaning at some point.

I’m sure you have heard a piece of music on the radio or television, that for you is linked to some event or person in your life. Just hearing the opening bars can rekindle emotions and images in your mind – good and bad.

When you find a good quote, saying, speech, affirmation – anything that inspires or motivates you – there are many ways of keeping that thought to the fore. I have written about affirmations before, and personally use software to reinforce their message. But you can link anything you want.

For example, you may have the following affirmations:-

I am strong and calm; I am a very confident person. I maintain my self confidence at all times and places. I am totally confident in my capabilities, expertise and know how.

Personally, I wouldn’t put a poster or picture on my office wall with that written on it. But I may create a personal paper weight – a piece of rock, wood, anything – or have a photograph (or screen saver) that I have linked to those three sentences. Create your own positive meanings in the things around you.common confidence
photo credits:- top aloshbennett bottom aaronmerrell

Karen (Karooch from Scraps of Mind) June 4, 2008 at 12:17 pm

I think humans have always related well to symbols David. A look through history sees it littered with symbolism that has motivated people.

One of the things I like about your idea of creating a personal symbol is that you can imbue it with whatever meaning you want and you don’t need to explain it to others.

Karen (Karooch from Scraps of Mind)’s last blog post..By: karooch

JoLynn Braley June 4, 2008 at 8:57 pm

Hi David,

I don’t have any of those slick motivational type posters at home, they remind me of corporate work. I do have some motivational sayings and wall hangings but they are the kind that I find to be very fun and joyful – lots of color, creative, fun & festive, I love those types of things that I find when I’m traveling around.

JoLynn Braley’s last blog post..Drop the Excuses – Sit Tight & Work Out with Richard Simmons

David Leonhardt - The Happy Guy June 13, 2008 at 3:27 pm

OK, you made me laugh. Now let’s get serious; were can I get that endless supply of expendable labor?

I must agree with you. I have none of those slick posters or other items around my desk. I am not sure if I would like the spirit bottles any more, but whatever works for a person is good. I have in the past recommended placing messages on Post-It notes around the house. The really meaningful messages are the ones we write to ourselves.

David Leonhardt – The Happy Guy’s last blog post..Persian Proverb Quote

Land Projects UK June 18, 2008 at 4:41 am

Those pictures serve as a motivation for people to do things that they want to do and to pursue what they wish to achieve. Whether it’s a picture or a message as long as you are motivated to do , you will surely achieve it.

Land Projects UK’s last blog post..Why Commercial Property Investment

M.G.Raja. January 31, 2009 at 11:59 am

very inspirational!

bryan April 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Thank you for the interesting article – I have always had mixed feelings about those motivational posters :).

bryans last blog post..Negotiation For Success In Life And Business

nspire_incentive_programs October 20, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Motivation may come to you in different forms and ways. Some are motivated by posters, some by quotes, some use these posters and quotes on their desktop, on their room walls, some are motivated seeing others. Various symbols that motivate people. Individuals are inspired and motivated by different motivational sources.

nspire_incentive_programs November 9, 2009 at 6:11 am

I have lots of motivational posters at my home, I really like and also in my office cubical. I am pessimist and so these posters speak when ever I feel low. Thanks for sharing the article.

Jon Daniels - Step Up Speak Out December 13, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I love these motivational posters lol. I saw some great ones in the past that had a joke element to them saying something like “Depression is just anger without the enthusiams”

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