Lasting Memories and Motivation Through Recognition

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Recently while cleaning out the attic I found a file box of memorabilia from middle and high school. In it were many things including a few tests and papers with very good grades at the top, a perfect attendance certificate, and a photo of me wearing my first-place vault medal from a long-ago gymnastics meet. One of the items was a poetry scrapbook given to me by my parents because they thought my poetry was good enough to “publish”. I instantly remembered how great it was to feel that supported, and those positive memories came flooding back to me upon discovering each of these items. I had clearly saved only the things that were associated with happy memories or rewards of a job well done and not any assignments with a low grade or participant ribbons from competitions that may not have gone quite so well. Our personal achievements form who we are and the recognition of these accomplishments by others encourages us to continue to strive for excellence.

I did a quick google search on the topic of “what motivates you.” I expected to find awards listed among the search results, but I was surprised to find a long list of websites related to adult employment, managers looking to motivate their employees or employees striving to increase their own motivation to do a better job. Apparently, motivation is a common topic in interviews, as the top weblink I found was an article by Target Jobs giving advice on acceptable answers to queries about workplace motivation. In case you are wondering, the list of acceptable interview answers by Target Jobs included meeting deadlines, mentoring others, learning new things, working well as part of a team, and finding a way to solve a problem.

In preparation for this article I asked a group of young people, “What motivates you?” and they narrowed it down to parental approval, social acceptance, payment, and public recognition. They all agreed a medal, trophy, or ribbon received was not actually the reward, but rather a memento that later allows us to positively reflect on the accomplish. One of the highlights of our 4-H program is the yearly recognition of our member’s achievements, and on March 4 at 4-H Achievement Night, we did just that. We recognized the accomplishments of 4-H members in the areas of leadership, public speaking, and record keeping through their participation in life skill development activities like dance, shooting, sewing, volunteering, and horses. I do not believe these young people accomplished what they did in 2018 just for the awards, but the applause of their peers when their name was called, their caregivers snapping photos, and their walk to the stage to receive an award could certainly serve as valuable motivators for future accomplishments. The real impact of the award may not resonate with these young people until they are cleaning out the attic as an adult and that positive rush of emotion is invited back. Think about a time you came across a memory of a past achievement and how rewarding it felt. Today, you can celebrate with us, because we have a wonderfully motivated group of 4-H young people making new memories each day and laying the foundation for a better tomorrow.