“I want to… but I just don’t have the energy.”  “Doesn’t he even care about doing a good job.”  “These millennials aren’t serious about work.” “It will be different this time…. at least I hope something will change.” “There’s no way….”

Finding Motivation

How to Use Emotions as a Supercharger

It’s that time of year. Many of us have been looking back at 2018 (which was gorgeous at Six Seconds), and looking ahead at 2019… some are making New Years Resolutions (which don’t work well for most people). Whatever your tradition, if you want to make change in the new year, it’s going to take work. Which takes energy.

Where will you get it?

Each calendar quarter, the Six Seconds community focuses on a theme. For quarter 1 of 2019, our theme is motivation… and the role of emotions in fueling our energy. Here’s my view:

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There are three “lenses” that I’ve found helpful in strengthening motivation, and how I use these as a coach:

  1. Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
  2. Practical vs Idealistic Motivation
  3. The Vital Signs of Motivation

Many of the articles I read about motivation offer fairly generic-but-good tips like, “break the task into small pieces,” or “write down your goal.” Great. But which of these practical tips apply to your specific situation?

Let’s suppose that despite my earlier advice, you’ve decided to set a New Year’s Resolution. If I were coaching you, and you told me that you were not quite sure about this commitment, I might ask you three questions:

How important is your goal?

How clear is the path to achieve this — is it doable?

To what degree do you believe that the path will work for you?


Going in the “way back machine” to Victor Vroom’s research on “expectancy theory,” these three questions reveal how likely it is that you’ll follow through on the goal. For example, if you rate each on a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is highest), and then multiply your scores, you get a total value from 1-1000. Anything over 700 is a win. You’ll quickly see that if any rating is below 7, it’s not possible to get over 700.

What’s valuable in these questions is that they don’t just tell us about a level of motivation: They usually diagnose where the challenge sits. From there, we can design a solution. There’s a guide you can download from this page which offers example strategies for each of the areas. In each area, there is an aspect where emotional intelligence is the key. For value, we need to FEEL the purpose. For practicality, we need CONFIDENCE in the steps. For self-belief, we need to TRUST ourselves. Which is hardest for you? For me it’s usually the third that’s “the real kicker” (a kind of painful-but-freeing realization).


Once you see the challenge clearly, you can look at your situation through the three lenses of motivation to craft a solution:

The Three Lenses to Strengthen Motivation

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic

Is the motivation fueled from inside or driven by external factors?

Practical vs Idealistic

What energizes your brain, and how does this goal match that?

Vital Signs Pulse

Are all three “pulse points” active?

Through this quarter’s articles,  our free EQ Cafés (held by Six Seconds’ volunteer Network Leaders around the globe), webinars and other events, you’ll learn much more about these three lenses over the next three months. Here’s a summary with links for more on each:

Engage Intrinsic Motivation is one of the competencies in the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence. While extrinsic forces do motivate us, they put the power in others’ hands. The word “engage” implies that the intrinsic motivators are present, we need to find a way to connect the current goal with the fire that’s burning within. Explore this competency.

In our model of Brain Styles, one of the three scales is DRIVE; is your brain energized by the practical or idealistic? While we all probably have both, taking the Brain Brief Profile reveals your brain’s current style. If your brain is energized by the practical, then how can the current goal be translated to concrete steps? If you brain is energized by the idealistic, then how can you link the goal to long-term purpose? Discover the simple power of Brain Styles.

In our research to create The Vital Organization field guide, and the bi-annual Vitality research report (here’s the past one on the state of organizational vitality in the world, another coming later this year), we identified three “pulse points” that drive motivation in an organizational context. They apply to personal life as well: Meaning. Mastery. Autonomy. To increase motivation, make the goal meaningful, find aspects of it you’re great at, and create the freedom+responsibility of personal ownership. Dive into a business case on building energy with the Vital Signs of Leadership


This will be a powerful three months of turning the motivation research into practical tools. I hope you’ll join us in person and online — and I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite quotations about motivation, and a question: How are you spending your energy?

"Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich."

– Sarah Bernhardt

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