I don’t think the secret to Motivation has ever been stated this way, but I like to see the world both in its richness and in its raw basic state.
The bottom line.
The root cause.
The “what’s it really all about”.
And the topic of motivation comes up a lot in coaching. And in the 400 plus hours I’ve studied coaching, in the time spent learning about human behaviour, and about 1400 hours of direct coaching time, and I’ve boiled it down to this.
All action is driven by one thing: Values.
Working til midnight to get that thing done? Probably a value around performance, reliability, dedication, or persistence etc.
Lounging on the sofa, watching your favourite series? Probably a value around self-care, freedom, or enjoyment etc.
Let me make the links. And you may know this already, but let me boil years of research and study by amazing professionals into some really simple statements (Lord forgive me).
1. Human behaviour is driven by emotions.
Negative emotions of anger, fear, and disgust, have a special switch that overrides logic and activates REACTION.
Fast action, super focused on the danger, get you to safety.
If a bus is coming at you, there’s no time to think about the best course of action, you’ll just jump one way as fast as possible.
Positive emotions of love, joy, hope, pride, gratitude, serenity, awe etc activate our executive functions (causal or correlation, I’m not going to argue that, but they do go hand in hand). That’s when we reason, find different perspectives, plan, assess etc.
So if you’re thinking what’s our strategy for the next few years, then you’ll be tapping into this part of the brain (hopefully) and thinking about the future you hope for and are excited to create. And then think about what ways you can achieve it, and which ones fit in with your view of life, with your values.
2. Values are connected to emotions
You will have an emotional response when:
a. Your values are stepped on.
e.g. You value Punctuality and someone is late for the meeting? You’ll be annoyed/angry/disappointed (fill in your negative emotion here).
b. Your values are honoured.
e.g. you value Consideration and someone remembers that you prefer the window open, so they open it when you arrive. You’ll feel gratitude/joy/love (fill in your positive emotion).
3. Values => Emotion => Action
What if this was the secret? It sounds pretty cool to me.
So often, we try to use the lever of ACTION to make things happen. If you want to do something, then you just need to Do Something, right?
But it can feel like trying to lift a mountain.
What if instead of trying to be power-lifters, we took the easier way?
What if we just pick a Value, feel the Emotion it creates, then take the Action?
Like on Friday I needed to write a LinkedIn post and I was going in circles. It felt like my own personal Everest.
Yet I have a value of Imperfection: just try something, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
And for writing, I have a Value of “The Shitty First Draft” where I fully embrace that what I’m about to create is shit, and I embrace that. Let the bad ideas come. Just put words down, let them pour out. Maybe some good words will sneak through and land on the page. Maybe not, but at least I’ll have something I can edit.
These values create serenity in me. I’m calm. I can’t fail, and if I do, it means that what I did was not shitty, so still a win. And I feel a little joy too: I can have fun with what I’m doing.
Action: I wrote my shitty first draft.
So I think the secret to Motivation is actually your Values.
Once you know them consciously, you will actually do the things you wanted to do. Value => Emotion => Action
So here’s a quick tool I made years ago so you can discover your values.
There’s also this test you can do online to help you discover the values.
This post is part of my special Coaching Tips Series. This series was inspired by my clients and the core themes in their challenges. When we can apply these tips, we bring a lot of ease into our lives and step into our leadership. Want to talk it through with me? Use a free Experience Coaching session and I’ll help you.