"Imagine your life is perfect in every respect; what would it look like?"

This question, posed by motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy, is at the heart of much that he writes about. See where you want to be. Imagine a better life. Then, begin to work backward toward achieving it.

This principle isn't unique to Tracy. Inspirational teachers in every generation have used such language to motivate us toward reaching our goals.

I love motivational literature. Rarely do I have less than two or three such books going at a given time. I find they challenge me to improve, equip me with useful tools to promote change and prevent me from complaining and making excuses about my life. If you feel like your life or career is stagnant, maybe it is time to browse the self-help section of your local bookstore.

Maybe it is my love for this genre that has led me to view the pharmacist as a motivator even more than an educator. Yes, we have knowledge and must share it. But knowledge alone is useless without action.

Motivation is the fuel that drives us and others to use our knowledge to bring about positive change. If we, as pharmacists, think about our role as motivators, it will result in greater job satisfaction and better health for patients.

But who do we motivate? I suggest that pharmacists should think about motivation on three levels: self-motivation, staff motivation and patient motivation.


We need to motivate ourselves for many reasons. For example, the field of pharmacy is constantly changing. Staying current takes motivation and effort.

Additionally, for many pharmacists, the work environment in which they have to conduct their profession is less than ideal. Take the retail pharmacy atmosphere, for instance. Pharmacists today must wake up and go to battle with numerous obstacles, such as mind-boggling PBM rejections, inept store policies and sometimes even incompetent management.

Self-motivation keeps you from discouragement. Self-motivation challenges you to face the day and focus on the good things you can do and the positive changes you can promote.

My advice for self-motivation is to set specific, achievable goals for yourself, along with a plan of small steps — emphasis on small designed to help you reach them. As author George Eliot once put it, "It is never too late be what you might have been."

Staff motivation

Pharmacists rarely work in isolation. Most likely you have tangible connections with other pharmacists or nonpharmacist employees on a daily basis. Regardless of your title, pharmacists are often looked at as leaders within their ranks and likely have a significant impact on the motivation level of their team.

Staff motivation is critical to the success of most pharmacy operations. Whether this is retail, long-term care, hospital or industry, motivated employees will typically perform better and be more engaged than unmotivated workers.

Pharmacists can set the tone. This is especially true of pharmacy managers who, according to Gallup research, "account for as much as 70 percent of variance in employee engagement scores."

Patient motivation

But maybe nothing is more significant than the role pharmacists can play in motivating patients to succeed with their medication therapy. A Danish study recently published in JAMA demonstrated that pharmacists significantly reduced 30- and 180-day hospital readmissions.

The study included 1,499 patients, 18 years or older, taking five or more medications. The patients were divided into three random groups receiving either no additional medication assistance, a simple medication review or an extensive motivational interview series. The patients who received the motivational interviewing experienced the significant readmission reduction.

The techniques involved in motivational interviewing can be easily learned and are currently taught in pharmacy schools. These are not cheerleading sessions. Motivational interviewing is a nonjudgmental discussion in which pharmacists lead patients to determine their own plans and approach to the new habits they need to adopt for healthier lives. Patient get motivated to take their medications because they are the ones initiating the steps, but pharmacists can make this happen.


Great pharmacists are, in my experience, great motivators. They are the ones who typically do the most good.

As Tracy once said, "Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, 'What's in it for me?'"

Motivation helps people. Motivation equips us to do get the best from others and do the best for others. Motivation helps ourselves, our staff and our patients. I hope these few thoughts have given you a bit of motivation as well.