Family Resources on Motivation: Pain and Gain, Part 2

Project and Purpose

Students determine pain and gain motivations in their own lives and write a personal motivating value statement

Essential Questions

What is my personal motivating value statement?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: In part 1 students analyzed an article from Psychology Today about motivation and leadership using the concept of pain and gain. In this lesson students continue exploring these concepts. In groups students completed a “pain and gain” chart and then following discussions used the pain and gain charts to write a motivating values statement.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

Many people believe that people are only motivated by external rewards and punishments, which is not true. While external rewards and punishments do motivate people in short-term situations, this perspective overlooks the most important factors such as inner desire for success and healthy interpersonal relationships. To understand motivation and to better develop a sense of inner discipline it is helpful to critically assess one’s own values and learn to put those values into action.

Conversation notes:
For parents and mentors developing relationships with adolescents is the key to healthy motivation.

For more on motivation check out these articles on the Search Institute blog:

Constructive Conversation Starters

The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.

What were the most interesting entries on your group’s “pain and gain” chart? Why do you think so? Share your motivating values statement and tell why you think it is helpful for you.

Who are the people whose relationships motivate you? Describe why.

What are some long-term goals you have? Develop a pain and gain chart for reaching each goal. Do goals that are worth reaching require pain and gain? Why or why not? Reassess your pain and gain chart as needed.

School to Home Resources on Motivation: Pain and Gain, Part 2



1. Review the previous session and how the students learned your strategies for helping them find their own motivation.

2. Have students return to their working groups from the previous session.

3. Give each group a Pain and Gain Chart. Tell groups they are to fill the chart with as many ideas for what would be “Pain” motivators and what would constitute “Gain” motivators for them at this point in their lives. Remind them of the information from the article: Pain (Very unpleasant circumstances) / Gain (Very pleasant circumstances) Ideas should include (but are not limited to):

  • Challenges
  • Recognition and accolades
  • Rewards
  • Good grades
  • Satisfying a work ethic
  • Curiosity
  • Honor
  • Saving one’s reputation
  • Necessity
  • Fear of failure
  • People are relying on them
  • Chip on shoulder (must prove something to someone)
  • Legacy (they ARE one or they want to leave one)
  • Pride
  • The alternatives are worse
  • Mission
  • Knowledge for knowledge’s sake
  • Avoiding a fate
  • Improving oneself
  • Financial gain (now and/or later)

4. Gather the group back together and discuss their charts, asking them to give specific examples to support their statements.

5. Tell students that in order to be truly motivated, a person must have a goal, something to work toward. In order to have a goal, a person should have a motivating value statement, words that specifically say what you wish to attain or accomplish. This is only the first step in achieving goals, but a very important one, and one that should not be skipped.

6. Motivating values statements use the words “I will…because…” because they carry intention of following through. It is more than saying “I want…” Wanting is easy. Everybody wants something. “I will…because…” means it matters to you. Examples of motivating value statements are:

  • I will ace the final exam this year because it will help me get into college.
  • I will control my anger in school because I want to stay out of detention.
  • I will come to school every day because it will help me when I join the military.
  • I will pass class because I want to rub it in my teacher’s face that I can too do this.

7. Allow students a few minutes to think independently or with a trusted partner to write their own motivating values statements.


At the end of the class, tell students you will set up a private meeting to discuss their motivating values statements and help them create an action plan.

(Note: The lesson “Creating SMART Goals” in the College and Career Readiness section is a good follow up to this session.)

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