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Lack of Motivation in the Fire Service Training

So often we hear about this word “MOTIVATION” in the fire service.  It is preached to us at the Academy or our local Fire 1 and 2 classes day in and day out.  Once we graduate and get to the job or back at our volunteer departments, it’s gone, where did it go?  Where are all the hardnosed instructors and mentors screaming those encouraging words or phrases at us? Has it been lost in the transition, or over time as we grow in our departments?  First, we need to discover what this “WORD” means.  There are many definitions for this word, but one simple definition that stands out to me is; MOTIVATION:  The process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal orientated behaviors.  What is it?  How does it affect us in the fire service when we put it in conjunction with the word training?

 I teach a class dealing with these exact questions and dealing with the lack of motivation in our Departments.  So often in my travels I hear the same answers when asked “Is your Department motivated when it comes to training?”  Many of the answers I hear is NO!!!  This is unacceptable, and a change needs to happen NOW!  If we lack motivation in anything we do in life it is hard to find a way to enjoy it, but more importantly get the most out of what we are doing. 

When we relate this to training, if we fail at getting the most out of training then we are failing ourselves, as well as our fellow Brothers and Sisters.  If we get stuck in that rut of just going through the motions during a training event the effort will disappear.  If the effort disappears, we are setting ourselves up for failure that can and will result in injury or even death.  So how do we remedy this important piece of our careers? When I say career, it doesn’t matter if we are a paid Firefighter or a Volunteer Firefighter. It still is a job, and it’s an important job, one that people count on us to be ready when duty calls.  It is important because our lives depend on it, and we depend on each other.

 Well I think if we start by taking a personal look at ourselves first and ask ourselves, do we lack being motivated when we attend training?  I ask this because Motivation is infectious, and if we are not motivated and we are not putting in that 100% effort at training then why should the next person.  If the unmotivated individual standing back in the shadows sees you not training and putting forth the effort the same will be done by them.  I call it the good ole copycat clause.  We are professionals in our business and we are held to a higher standard.  We need to reflect this characteristic every time we are training, and need to be the EXAMPLE to everyone around us.  We all need to be those infectious leaders, not just the Chief Officers, or Line Officers, or Training Officers.  While those individuals absolutely needing to be at the top of their game, they need to be the core of well-trained motivated leaders.  The responsibility starts with you.  The fire that once burned inside you and got you through those tough times at the academy need reignited.  The time to do this is now.  Don’t procrastinate any longer.  Stop sitting on the sidelines and following everyone else.  Be that individual who steps off the wall and isn’t afraid of failure.

I believe that once we have found ourselves and the motivation and what we are missing inside then it is time to reach out and help curve our fellow Firefighters to do the same.  We must take on the responsibility of reigniting that “fire” that lies within.  To do that I see it as taking small steps, baby steps if you will.  If you throw too much at one person, the wall will be built higher and stronger and they won’t let you in.  Our job is to tear down that wall one brick at a time, one training event at a time.  It is just as important not to let them slip away from us from taking too long to step in.  My solution is simple, well-paced and it has been proven repeatedly:  you capitalize on one’s strengths and build on their weakness.  Let them know that the time to fail is during training, not on the fire ground.  If we fail on the fire ground someone could lose their life or be injured. 

A student in my class recently told me what failing is, when you F.A.I. L….it is First Attempt in Learning.  Leaders should reassure them that they will conquer their failures, and the skill will be mastered.  Tell them that you believe in them, look at them with direct eye contact and let them know they will complete the task.  Find your own motivational phrases to impress upon them that you will not give up on them, you believe in them.  So much can be learned during these moments and so much motivation can be gained.  When we succeed, we build that motivation, we build self-confidence and we build that sense of fulfillment.  

Success is one of many things that can motivate us.  We feel a sense of self-satisfaction when we’ve accomplished something that we struggled with at first.  Set goals for yourself. Keep reaching every day to be the best you can be.  Never turn back, and say I can’t, for now on it’s I will and I can.  Never stop believing in yourself or others, we are a family and we must watch out for each other today, tomorrow, and forever.  Motivation and success go hand and hand.  They build on each other much like we learn from each other.  Stay focused on the task at hand and you will find that missing piece in your training, the missing piece…MOTIVATION.  Please feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts about this important subject.  I hope to share more about Motivating our Fire Service in future articles.  Contact me at or follow me on twitter @scottpeterson46.

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