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Motivation File: Stay Creative, Not Critical

I was listening to a recording of a talk given by Keith Drury, one of my favorite mentors from years ago. In his talk, he brought up a concept I want to relay to you in this blog post. It’s called “Motivation File.” This little idea is one I have practiced for almost three decades now, thanks to Keith. I hope you like it too.


The idea is built off of three basic notions:

  1. Creative people can tend to be critical.

Why? Because they can see what others cannot see. They seem to be able to envision how to make things better, how to improve products, events, music, ideas and art. Because they are so imaginative, they don’t know why others don’t find ways to improve their current “mediocre” work.

  1. Criticism is de-motivating.

I probably don’t need to convince you of this one. When you or someone else becomes critical, the atmosphere can get negative. The more criticism there is, the greater the chance that things turn sour and become de-motivating. This can have an adverse affect on anyone.

  1. The more creative you are, the greater your risk of de-motivation.

Therefore, if the first two notions above are accurate, then creative people are vulnerable to being a bit disheartened and unmotivated. If A = B, and B = C, then A = C. Let’s face it. There’s nothing more common than creative people who sit around and do nothing with their talent.
To combat this, we need to start a “Motivation File.” This means, the moment you see something that could be better, instead of saying: “These people don’t get it. I don’t know why they do that. They should…”

Instead, grab something to write on and begin with the statement: “In this situation, I would…” Never again criticize others for not doing something right or improving current realities. Turn it around into a positive. Jot notes to yourself about what YOU would do if you were in charge. Then, throw that idea into a file. Perhaps it could even remain on your Smart phone. Wherever you put it, the mere act of writing it down and filing it away can channel your emotional energy from negative and critical to positive and creative. Then, when you do get an opportunity, you have a “garden” of ideas to pull from. It’s a motivation file.

Try it this week and see if it just might be more motivating for you, and keep those creative juices flowing.


  1. Tess on May 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    that’s absolutely true! and the story of my love. I’ve quit job that I had been the only one to endure the hiring process and get in because I felt not heard and unappreciated for my wonderful ideas on how to make simply everything better… I’ve put myself in so many misunderstandings when I was just trying to help people and they’d resent me for it… it is not always great being able to see new and improved ways of doing things… and it is the first time I’ve ever seen anybody aknowledge this as an existing fact. I thought it was me, my fault and something that would only happen to me. To know that is observable in others like me as well does give some comfort. And the advice is also welcome: I’ll keep it in and write it down. Enough with trying to help others when they are not seeking any help and believe to be just fine the way they are or do things, in the hopes to be liked and then never getting it!

  2. R on May 10, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Thanks for this idea! I am in a position where this could be a game-changer for me in managing my attitude/frustration with the things I “see”. I’m in an under-employed season so I often feel frustrated when I either do not have the opportunity to personally affect change or need to be patient and not overwhelm others who “see” but are more realistic given the circumstances.. Reality is, in our culture, the things I “see” as tweaks or planning considerations are not a priority AND I still need a way to validate and release the mental traffic and move on. This file idea is one I unthinkingly used in the past and it was really helpful when leadership changed and my ideas were welcomed.

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Motivation File: Stay Creative, Not Critical