(This is a guest post from Justin Anderson. Justin is a Licensed Sport Psychologist and Principal of JSA Advising, a Minneapolis/St.Paul consulting firm that specializes in optimizing sustainable performance and harmony in family-owned businesses. Justin’s worked with athletes/teams from all competitive levels, and over the past five years, he’s used those experiences to help family-businesses build thriving and sustainable legacies. Justin can be reached through JSA Advising. Thank you, Justin!)
What motivates you to act? Contemporary thought can reduce human motivation into two basic modalities; fear and desire. If you are like most, you will likely find that you do many things in your daily routine out of fear. For example, many people get up in the morning with less than ideal sleep, not because they desire the feeling of being tired. Rather, they do it because they “fear” the consequences of not getting up “on-time”. For many, not getting up “on-time” means missing work and missing work means getting fired and getting fired could mean losing the house.
It’s not too often that we consciously connect all the dots. Rather, we typically go through our routines automatically, because it’s what we “need” to do. It’s why so many of us are tired, stressed, and anxious. Taking consistent action through the fear perspective leads to higher levels of anxiety and tension which, over a longer period of time, leads to poorer health, less meaningful relationships, and a decreased ability to process information clearly.
In addition, taking action from the fear motivator can lead us to be critical of ourselves or those around us. Negativity breeds negativity. Like an out of control snowball, if you find that fear is your dominate motivator, than it’s likely that you could be contributing to a work place environment that is more judgmental and paranoid. And a workplace that is judgmental and paranoid will create more negativity and fear. Ultimate result: a work place where creativity and productivity is stifled or even frowned upon.
The solution to ending the negativity spiral can be found by developing a keener sense of self-awareness and self-accountability. It calls for us to slow down and reflect on the “why” as we check-off our to-do lists. It requires us to retrain our neural networks to focus on things we can control as well as to be able to let go of the things we cannot. And, it requires us to focus our attention on the things for which we are grateful and that give us positive energy.
This final requirement is not as easy as it sounds. The human mind instinctively wants to solve the “problems first”, a practice that served our ancestors well when they were looking for food and avoiding predators. But today when our physiological needs are fairly secure, this type of thinking doesn’t do us any favors. Instead, it creates a negative lens that primarily focuses on problems that we cannot control or those things that we are still “missing in our lives”. Being able to retrain the brain to instinctively focus on the things we can control and are grateful for creates a greater sense of tranquility, thus relaxing the tension, opening the mind to new and innovated ways to get our needs met through our desire motivator.
Don’t abuse: Like all good things in this world, too much of a good thing can lead us right back down the negativity path again. By suggesting that we operate out of our “desire” motivation, I’m not suggesting that we ignore all the rules and moral guidelines and become hedonistic. Rather, I am simply pointing out that on the spectrum of motivation, many of us act far too often from fear. If we acted more firmly from our desire modality (within reason) we would also find that positivity is contagious. Similar to how negativity can breed negativity, positivity and gratefulness can breed a healthy and energetic environment, fostering increased creativity, greater productivity, and more meaningful relationships.
If you are a leader or manager, consider what motivator drives your actions.