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Reflections on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence:

Part IV: Motivation

Have you ever find yourself in situations juggling many ‘important’ priorities at once and not sure which one to focus on? Are you dealing with a list of actions and struggling to keep up?

Or perhaps you have a vision to achieve something you deem important, and yet, it consistently eludes you despite trying so hard? Each time you set a goal, it goes unachieved - to the point you start beating yourself up about it. Frustrating?

If you fall into any of the categories mentioned, neither Hertzberg’s 2 Factor Theory nor Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will provide the immediate psychological comfort you need to motivate yourself to move forward. If anything, they’ll probably frustrate you all the more.

Stop beating yourself up...

Beating yourself up when a set task goes unachieved is not the right mindset or state (of mind) to ‘operate from’. Instead of motivating you, the “beating-up-yourself mindset”

actually works in reverse order: It motivates you away from the doing itself - ensuring you get depressed, about being depressed - about not being motivated enough! Or, if it actually succeeds in pushing you to do the task, you operate from an unresourceful mindset, such that you’re not able to focus your full energies (or your ‘attention’) on the task in hand. This impacts the quality of the action taken - ensuring you do keep beating yourself up about it...


To unpack, here’s a short story:

I went into my local Print shop a couple of days ago to pick up some printing material. Whilst paying for the service, I scanned the office with my eye. I took particular interest in a picture hanging on the wall. I asked the lady serving me if she didn’t mind me taking a picture of it. She was happy for me to. So I did. It read:

Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention...It represents the wise choice of many alternatives”.

When you operate from a high intention, you are better able to stay focussed on what is important to you - and therefore deliver consistent high quality action: Attention is what you

focus your energies on - as guided by intention. Think about that for a second...

Note use of the word ‘intention’. Intention is different from ‘attention’. Intention is the 'why’ behind the things that you do. Attention is the focus you give to the things you do - as you do them. Put another way, intention is your ability to stay in touch with what is really important to you, whilst using your attention to respond to life's day-to-day, moment-to-moment choices - and the corresponding decisions that you make.


So whilst I sit on my sofa typing this article, I am paying attention to the ‘qwerty’ keys, ensuring I type correctly and speedily. At the same time, I am also paying specific attention to my thinking as I type. I am thinking to myself: “How can I clearly explain this to my readers?”. In effect, I am paying attention to a number of things as they arise moment-to-moment. 'Intention’ on the other hand is that which drives what I am paying attention to.

It is the one very thing, around which, all other things I pay attention to, are only but a means to an end. Why am I writing this article? Why is this topic of interest? Why am I doing this at all?... Because amongst the choice of many alternatives, sharing my thinking with you, yes you (!), makes me happy and fulfilled. So that’s my highest intention or 'my why'. Be-ing happy. To stay in touch with that, I choose this task of putting pen to paper from a place of happiness - and apply my focus and energies, from that state, to my thinking on the subject.

Choosing a task from a place of happiness ensures you stop beating yourself up - about other ‘competing priorities’ which do not fall within the domain of your high intention, at this moment. No matter the number of competing priorities you have, and regardless of how many times you may have ‘failed’ to meet those priorities, operating from a resourceful state (of mind), from a place of intentionality, is critical. It facilitates the mindset that will get you doing the doing, rather than thinking about doing. Furthermore, it provides insight toward making wise choices, amongst competing alternatives.

So, connect with your intention and stop the pattern of wasteful cyclical thinking that keeps motivating you away from high quality doing - to a happier state that motivates you toward doing. Here's how you can take effective action:

  • Step 1: Ask yourself: "What is my why’?,"What is my highest intention? Take your time to respond to these questions within yourself…

  • Step 2: Consciously choose a happy state of mind to operate out from. For example, imagine and feel the positive energy of completing a task. What does that feel like?

  • Step 3: Bring that feeling to bear on how you feel about the task in the present moment. Operate from there…

  • Step 4: Stop thinking about what you haven’t done, and pay attention to the things that you have.

  • Step 5: Finally, congratulate yourself, verbally. Celebrate your small steps and successes.

Remember, always let your intention guide what you focus your attention on – this will lead your choices amongst alternatives.

Happy journeying...

NB: This is the last of 4 reflective articles on leadership and emotional intelligence. Looking forward to your thoughts, sharing, and/or questions. Simply drop me a note below.

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