In his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes states that if you want motivate people to make a change, you must help them feel the pain of not changing first.

Tony Robbins says that the two controlling forces in our life are desire and pain. We move toward pleasure and away from pain.

This idea can apply to our students in our classes.

Students have to take some classes because they are required.  However, if students don’t feel that the class is important, they may drift and not give their full effort.

Have you ever seen that in your classes?

Help Them Feel The Pain

To help them understand the importance, we need to help them feel the pain.

To do this, we need to give them two points:

  1. The “why” of the class or subject, and
  2. How NOT knowing the subject will hurt them

The “Why” of the Class

Looking back into my college years, very few gave me the “why” of the class. Why is this class important? What benefit will I receive from taking this class, from this knowledge?

Sometimes students, and people in general, do not understand the importance of history. So they don’t take the class seriously.

Some don’t understand why they need to learn how to do certain math problems. In their mind, “they will never use it.”

Or they don’t understand why they need to learn the importance of various English rules.

Or they don’t understand the importance of psychology, or sociology, or microeconomics, or art appreciation, and so on.

To counteract this, we need to help them understand the “why” of the class (or subject).

How NOT knowing will hurt them

I also don’t remember any professor telling me how NOT knowing the subject will hurt me.

Ignorance is tricky. We are often ignorant that we are ignorant.

I remember reading a book recently and realizing that I had not known that I didn’t know some of the issues it covered. If I had run into one of the situations it mentioned, I would have been oblivious to some of the issues I would have faced.

Our students don’t know the danger of not knowing some of what we teach them, so they think it’s not important.

If we help them feel the pain, what they are missing out on, how it will hurt them to NOT know the subject, we can help them engage with what we teach.

First Day of Class

When I was in college, the first day would often go like this: The professor would give us the syllabus, review it, then let us go.

Sometimes, to the disappointment of the students, some would begin teaching.

Very few ever explained why I would want to know what they are teaching (besides needing it to graduate).

The first day of class would be a great time to sell your subject and your class to your students. You can explain to them:

  • Why do they need to learn this subject?
  • Why are they lucky that they are taking this particular class?
  • What benefit will they get from taking it?
  • How will what they learn in this class affect their future jobs? Their college career? Their everyday life?
  • How will NOT knowing this subject hurt them?
  • How could it hurt future relationships? Future jobs? The amount of money they might make? Their college career?

If you can sell your students on the importance of the class, help them feel the pain of not knowing and the benefits of knowing, you have a much greater chance of students being more engaged and giving their full effort.