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Intrinsic Motivation

A couple of years ago, I traveled to Barcelona for a trip with two of my girlfriends. We were having the time of our lives exploring the city, enjoying new experiences, and dining on great food.

Unfortunately, I had packed the wrong shoes for walking around this beautiful city and by day three my feet were over it! I told my friends I didn’t care what mode of transportation passed us next, I was flagging it down and getting a ride back to the hotel. I turned around and here came Alex, with the biggest smile, pedaling a rickshaw.

I knew from experience that rickshaws weren’t the most cost effective means of transportation. In fact, Alex quoted a price that made me gasp, but I couldn’t walk another step, so we climbed aboard his rickshaw and away we went. I wasn’t prepared for the conversation that would follow.

Alex began asking us lots of questions…where were we from, what were we doing in Spain, how we liked Barcelona, and more. During the ten-minute ride, we learned that he was a sophomore at the local university. He LOVED being a rickshaw driver and had some big goals. He realized that if he got up an extra hour everyday to work, he could save enough money over the next semester to buy his own rickshaw and start his own company. He handed me his business card and it was clear he had created a marketing and business plan to get his company off the ground and make a living. His motivation as a young person was overwhelmingly refreshing and I began to wonder if he was born with some level of intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is defined as engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding, not for an external award. Alex possessed five key components that had helped him realize measurable success over a short amount of time.

  • Achievement drive – the personal drive to improve and achieve
  • Commitment – the ability to set, and reach, goals
  • Initiative – the willingness and readiness to act on opportunities
  • Optimism – the gift of finding the silver lining, even after a set-back
  • Resilience – the ability to adapt and overcome

The more I’ve studied the relationship between motivation and emotional intelligence, the more I’ve understood how we become motivated the most when we find activities that allow us to operate at an optimal “flow.”

Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence gives the example of “Joe.” Joe is someone who finds his work exhilarating and performs at his best. The key to exhilaration is not the task itself – Joe’s job is often routine – but the special state of mind Joe creates as he works, a state called “flow.” Flow moves people to do their best work, no matter what work they are doing.

Goleman isn’t the only expert in “flow.” Years ago, I meandered through a Barnes & Noble and found a book titled Flow. The psychology of the optimal experience.

In 1975, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defined flow as, “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at a great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” Csikszentmihalyi said that psychologists who study happiness, life satisfaction and intrinsic motivation have found this definition helpful.

The idea of flow and intrinsic motivation fascinates me. The idea that someone like Alex was intrinsically motivated to start his own company at the age of 20 and put the desire into action is inspiring.

Recently, I asked a few friends these questions:

  • What motivates you?
  • When do you feel you are performing at an optimal level?
  • What in your life do you take initiative on?

 

The range of answers was pretty cool…

  • Creating solutions for customers
  • When I am working on something really important for someone else
  • Motivated by learning, growing and creating
  • Having a goal, dream or vision
  • To be the best in my profession

Emotional intelligence and motivation go hand-in-hand. If you get out of bed everyday but aren’t compelled to live your life with a sense of purpose, perhaps you need to ask yourself those three questions. I want to know what drives people, what makes them tick, what makes them want to give 110%. And I want that for you, too.

Motivation is what pushes us to achieve our goals, feel more fulfilled and improve overall quality of life. Without proper motivation, the quality of work is likely not at its full potential. Understanding what motivates you is a primary component in becoming more emotionally intelligent, but also in achieving success in life.

So, what’s motivating you today? Is it to return to school? Earn a promotion? Take a dream vacation? Pay off some debt?

In my keynotes, I talk about emotional intelligence and success in the workplace. From working with c-level executives in healthcare, middle managers in corporate America or students forging the start of their careers, I am passionate about helping people find their definition of success.

 

Shannon is a motivational speaker based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

What does Patrick Mahomes have to do with Emotional Intelligence?

There was a phase of my life when the term “emotional rollercoaster” would have been an appropriate label. In fact, there has probably been more than just one phase when that would have been an accurate description.

It started when I was a child. I went from 0 to 10 quickly…overly excited, overly frustrated, overly passionate, overly emotional. Maybe it’s in my DNA. Maybe it’s a result of my surroundings. Whatever the cause, I have become aware of my emotions and how they affect me and those around me, which has been key to interacting with those in my closest circle and beyond. The more I can control my emotions, the more I can achieve in my personal and professional relationships.

I’ve been studying emotional intelligence for nearly two decades and the more I research, the more I realize no matter how “emotional” one is, we all have an opportunity to grow more “emotionally intelligent.”

Specifically, a key factor to the EQ formula includes managing our emotions. It’s not enough to simply have awareness of our emotions. Being able to be in control emotionally is huge but can also be challenging. We are wired to feel emotion through the limbic system in our brain. The degree to which we experience emotions differs from person to person, but we all feel anger, stress, fear, and happiness. It’s how we respond to those emotions that are so important – critical, really – in affecting our interactions with others in the workplace.

Take Kansas City Chiefs 2nd year Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II; who is just 23 years old!  In the spotlight of Monday Night Football’s national stage, Mahomes performed on a level rarely seen in Kansas City let alone in the NFL.  Not only did he display exemplary skill, he also managed his emotions in a way, I believe, helped him lead the Chiefs to their fourth consecutive win!

There were several variables that a person lacking emotional intelligence would have allowed to affect their performance.  Flags disrupting the Chiefs offensive rhythm, the pressure of needing to overcome a ten point 4th quarter deficit, the deafening roar of the opposing fans at Denver’s Mile High Stadium and relentless pressure from the Bronco’s defense. But during all of it, I barely saw Mahomes get worked up. Instead, he was calm and collected for almost the entire game. That is a huge part of what emotional intelligence is – managing your emotions especially in challenging moments to still achieve your desired outcome.

During my years in corporate America, I found the same principle to ring true. It was much easier to become energized and remain positive about my job when working for someone who exhibited servant leadership and stayed calm, even when faced with difficult business decisions. These people made me want to work harder and do better, because my efforts were valued. Likewise, I’ve experienced projects that left me feeling emotionally drained and pessimistic when I worked for someone who couldn’t control his or her emotions and expressed extreme verbal frustration when I didn’t meet my goals. That’s a tough and toxic environment in which to work and ultimately caused me to change my circumstances (i.e. get a new job!).

The next time you are watching a sporting event, observe the leadership of the team or the coaching staff. How are they responding in the heat of the moment? How does that behavior affect the players and supporting coaches? One of my favorite recent articles about emotional intelligence in the sports world discusses the Philadelphia Eagles decision to hire an “emotionally intelligent” coach and the team’s success as a result of that hire.

Not a sports fan? That’s ok! You can make these same observations at work or school. Identify someone in a leadership position and take note of the way they respond to critical issues. Then, look at those around them. Are employees eager to please, because they respect the leader? Or, do they seem bent and broken from years of working under autocratic leadership?

With a few simple steps, we can all learn to manage our EQ and take our game to the next level.

  1. Take a day and focus on what triggers your emotions both positively and negatively. Use your senses. What smells, sounds, sight and the environment around you triggers you to react. Having awareness is the first key step.
  2. Knowing what those triggers are, identify 1-2 ways that will help you stay calm and collected before you react. Do you need to walk away from the situation? Do you need to write down your thoughts first?
  3. Think about these three key areas of managing your emotions: Control, Accountability and Adaptability.

Just like Patrick Mahomes II, we all have the ability to strengthen our EQ especially in intense moments. It’s the practice and education that makes us ready for them.

One of my most popular speaking topics is, “Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: What’s your EIQ?” wherein I work with groups to discuss ways to identify, assess and control their own personalities and to work with the variety of personalities they encounter in the workplace. My Four Square approach will help everyone increase his or her social and emotional I.Q. Sound like this might be a good fit for your organization? Let’s talk!

Do you have this one key attribute?

I was recently leading a two-day workshop for the leaders of various divisions across a company. We were having a blast talking all things leadership, emotional intelligence, generational differences and personal development in the workplace.

I love having opportunities like this to spend so much time with corporate or student leadership teams, helping them grow and evolve!

As we started the self-awareness piece of the workshop, I asked all attendees to complete a personality test. Though I was certain everyone in the room had taken various tests throughout their careers, I wanted to focus on a different aspect for the purpose of our training. I handed each attendee a 40-question test and upon completion, we compiled the answers into four groupings of “personalities.”

As we looked at the attributes of the personality groups, nearly everyone nodded in agreement as they unveiled attributes that defined the group in which they felt like they belonged: “life of the party,” “analytical,” “inclusive,” “logical,” and so on.

Then, I changed the results from how the participant saw him or herself, to how others interpreted those personalities in the workplace. In one case, the HR Director saw herself as rational, firm on policy, and tough-minded. However, others in the office saw her as critical, ruthless, and lacking empathy. She was shocked to hear how she was perceived by her co-workers.

Being self-aware about our emotions isn’t just about knowing if we are happy or sad. It’s also about being aware of how our behaviors and emotions affect those with whom we interact. Understanding this could make all the difference in how successful our interactions are in the workplace.

It has been proven that people who are self-aware are able to achieve much more success because of this one key attribute.

If you are curious about ways to strengthen your self-awareness as it relates to personality and emotional intelligence, try this exercise:

Download your own worksheet:  SelfAwarenessActivity

On a piece of paper, create three columns: self awareness, perceived awareness, and other’s feedback. Write down all of the attributes you believe to be true about yourself in the first column. In the middle column, create a list of how you think others see you. Remember, it’s important for us to understand how we are perceived by others! The final column may take some time but is so worth it! Find a few people whom you trust to provide candid and constructive feedback.

Here’s a sample email you could send to these people:

Hi! I am working on my goals and self-awareness. Would you consider providing honest and constructive feedback about these four questions? I have intentionally left them open-ended so you can provide answers in your own words. Thanks, in advance, for helping me become a better {peer, coworker, student, boss, etc.}.

In the workplace, please describe how you view me in these areas:

  • Personality: Do others see me as funny? Inclusive? Kind? Hard to work with? Easy going? Strict on deadlines? Overly emotional?
  • Work Product: How can I improve my work as part of the overall team/company success?
  • Strengths: What are my strengths and how can I better use them to contribute to our team?
  • Weaknesses: Are there things I do that may be perceived as a weakness or that may prevent me from being seen as a leader in the office?

I hope this exercise helps you become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent in all areas of your life. My goal is to create more cohesive teams and develop better leaders, and I believe that being emotionally intelligent about ourselves and those around us is key for optimal success!

Shannon is a motivational speaker based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.