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Cultivating Your Intrinsic Motivation

The 5 Second Rule

You’ve heard of the five second rule – the myth that food which falls on the floor is safe to eat, provided you pick it up within five seconds. While this rule seems ill-advised, there is another five second rule that may be well worth trying.

Motivational speaker Mel Robbins, author of the book The 5 Second Rule, tells a story of how she conquered the snooze button on her alarm clock. As soon as her alarm clock went off in the morning, she would count backwards 5-4-3-2-1, throw her beddings off, and jump out of bed. It may sound rather simplistic, but it worked. She explains that counting down interrupts your brain from thinking of all the reasons why you don’t want to, or are too afraid to get out of bed. In fact, Mel asserts that this works for any difficult task that you want to embark on. If you don’t start within five seconds of thinking of it, your brain will sabotage you by presenting you with a host of difficulties and fears.

Intrinsic Motivation

Mel’s theory is simple. If you wait to feel like doing anything difficult, it’s never going to happen.

No one gets out of bed on a freezing cold morning because they feel like it. No one stays up past midnight working on a report because they feel like it. No one runs to the finish line in a marathon just because they feel like it.

We can safely conclude two things. The first is that motivation is not a feeling. The second is that motivation has to be intrinsic. An external stimulus, like an alarm clock, is not sufficient, on its own, to get you out of bed. In the same vein, we can conclude that external stimuli, like being offered more money, can only go so far in motivating us to work harder.

We want to achieve things; to start the day earlier, to get those reports done, to exceed the sales goals that seem elusive. But how can we move from ‘wanting’ to actually ‘doing’. How can we harness that self-motivation that just seems to fly out the window every morning, leaving us feeling like tomorrow is probably a better day to begin?

Cultivating Self Discipline

Harvard psychology professor Ron Siegel says that our brains naturally warn us away from tasks that seem unpleasant to us to help us survive danger. If, for instance, you associate getting up early with feeling cold and miserable, your brain will try to protect you from doing it.

To test Professor Siegel’s premise, you might want to build new and pleasant associations in your mind to waking up early; perhaps having time to eat a delicious breakfast before work. To help get started, maybe Mel’s method – jumping out of bed before your brain kicks in – is just what you need.

What is it, inside you, keeps you going at any task even when you’re tired and just plain fed-up?

©2018 David Waweru is the Chief Learning Officer at Will to Win Global. Photo credit: Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.



Productive Work Habits

During the reign of the Roman Empire, a Roman soldier could order the subject of a conquered nation to carry a package for one mile. It didn’t matter that you were actually headed in the opposite direction, or that your feet hurt, or that you still had a lot of your own work to do.

Sounds like torture, right?

A modern-day version of this has probably happened to each of us at some point in our work life. You work in sales, or in accounting, or in communications. Your boss comes along one Monday afternoon, just as you’re beginning to feel like you’ve already been at work for 20 hours. He asks you to run an errand.

“Would you make 100 copies of this document and drop them off at our client’s office? Oh, and on your way, would you deposit this cheque at the bank, please.”

What! You can’t believe what you’re hearing.

“Does this guy realize that I have a masters’ degree? Does he think I’m the messenger? Is he not seeing me right?”

Of course these thoughts are going on silently in your mind, behind a carefully painted on smile.

“Of course,” you say wryly, taking the documents. You don’t trust yourself to say more than that, and besides, you’re busy swallowing the sentiments you would much rather express.

You may not be feeling terribly happy about this scenario, but picture this – your boss is only making you to go an additional mile. If you subscribe to the ‘extra mile’ philosophy (it might even be something you put down in your CV during your job hunting days), you would say something like this:

“Sir, the coffee shop is right next to the bank. Shall I pick you a Latte on my way back?”

Never mind that he hardly remembers to make any refunds.

The first mile you were forced to go was difficult enough. Why would you take on the extra one?

The answer lies in one of the work habits of highly successful people.

Every day, people around the world are forced to go just the extra one mile. They reluctantly do it because they really don’t see any alternative. The bills are piling up and they need the pay cheque. That’s the bottom line. You’ll meet many on the road doing this single forced mile.

Most people quit at the end of that first mile and will not go one step further. But the voluntary second mile is not so populated. The second mile is really about the habitual attitude of willingness to give more and better service; to go beyond the expected; to have personal initiative. The second mile is the one that sets you free.

The second mile is an ingredient in every success story, it is an important principle of success. It is the story of the people who consistently do more than the job description demands, more than they agreed to in a relationship, more than they signed up for at the gym.

Determine to go that extra mile this week – with hope and a smile!

©2018 David Waweru is the Chief Learning Officer at Will to Win Global. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Turning Random Groups into Teams

A stalled elevator. And suddenly, the group has a purpose. A life and death purpose. To get that elevator moving, to alert someone on the outside. To find a safe way out.

An elevator is normally perhaps the most antisocial setting in the world. The unspoken rule that eye contact is frowned upon is instinctively understood by all. Certainly, no greetings are expected, or offered, among this little group of strangers thrown together for the quick ride up or down. For some, elevatophobia, the fear of elevators, is already in high gear. Even among friends riding together, conversation is suspended, or stilted at best. Only those under the age of six carry on with their chatter, fortunately oblivious.

Then the worst case scenario happens. A hiccup, a jerk, and… could it be…? Yes, the elevator grinds to an ungainly halt.

Suddenly, the group gathered in the elevator by default becomes like family; a team is born. Eyes meet for the first time. Reassurance is sought from the faces of former strangers. The newfound team members take stock of those around them. Are there any panickers? Any potential leaders?

Strengths begin to show up. Someone takes charge. Resources are shared.

Made eye contact with your teammates lately?

Some ‘teams’ feel a lot like the group in the elevator before it broke down. You probably didn’t pick your teammates. You reported to work on the first day, and like walking into an elevator, there they were. For whatever reason, you find yourselves in the same space.

Has your team made eye contact recently; really taken a good look at each other? Has one had a baby recently? Lost a parent recently? Been diagnosed with cancer?

Have you and your teammates had a real conversation of late? Do you know what each one is passionate about? Do they know what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Psychological safety

A few years ago, Google embarked on Project Aristotle, a study to figure out what makes the perfect team. They already had the idea that combining the right people would form perfect teams, but what were the best combinations? Was it common interests? Similar personalities? Gender balance? How much they socialized outside work? Ove several years they studied 180 of their own teams, looking for patterns that would reveal the answer. What they found out astounded them.

It was not the ‘who’ of the team make-up that made a difference. It was ‘psychological safety’ – an atmosphere in which team members connect with each other on a deeper personal level.

Just as the group in the stalled elevator started off as a random group of people, so it is with our teams at work. We become a team when we begin to look at each other and identify other human beings with whom we can connect.Are you a team member at work or in any other setting? What makes your team feel like a team?

©2018 David Waweru is the Chief Learning Officer at Will to Win Global. Photo credit: Ricardo Mancia, Unsplash

Prioritizing: New Mom’s Invaluable Lesson for Entrepreneurs


First Things First

A new mom can teach entrepreneurs a thing or two about prioritizing.

How so?

She understands a basic fact – that it is counterproductive to try and do everything all at once. She knows what’s truly important.

New Mom chooses what to let go now, what to postpone, and what must get done at each moment. Her single most important goal? To successfully raise a healthy, happy child, stage by stage.

Systems Thinking

She recognizes that in his first stage, her infant has very basic needs; but they are needs that must be attended to with diligence. Feed. Change. Sleep. Repeat.

New Mom would like to get a full night’s sleep; but she knows it’s not going to happen. She might want to dine out or go for a movie; but she knows those plans must take a back seat.

Not permanently, but for now.


New Mom does not expect her two-week-old baby to smile broadly at her and announce ‘thank you’ when she feeds him. She certainly does not expect him to crawl.

Before the baby was born, she kept an impeccably clean and tidy house. Everything was in its place. Dishes were not allowed to sit in the sink unwashed. Now she often leaves the laundry unfolded in the living room, or it just stays on the clothesline for the night. Dishes too may sit overnight, if need be. Meals are much simpler than the full course spread she used to serve.


It’s not that New Mom has become a slob. She just has her priorities straight; focused on the needs of her infant.

Feed. Change. Sleep. Repeat.

She knows that soon enough, her baby will begin to smile, to eat solid food, to crawl and to walk. He will eventually go to school. Stage by stage she will change her priorities to accomplish her goal of raising a healthy, happy son.

What can a fledgling entrepreneur learn from New Mom?


Something about managing expectations, for starters. Do you expect your startup business to roar to success right away? Do you compare your infant business to someone else’s toddler business and wonder why yours is not ‘smiling’ or ‘walking’? Are you realistic enough to recognize the stage you’re at in the business lifecycle?

New Mom has given up her eight hours of uninterrupted sleep and her nights out. What sacrifices are you making to give your fledgling business the extra attention it needs to survive and eventually thrive? Do your mornings start earlier or your working hours extend beyond what used to be the norm?

Do you know what’s important to do at this stage; what is a priority, and what you can let go for now? What tasks take priority day by day in these early stages of your business life? What are your ‘Feed. Change. Sleep. Repeat’ tasks; the top priorities that you need to focus on to enhance your chance of success?

Time is money. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you will need to utilize it to the fullest. And to maximize time, you must prioritize. Maybe it’s time you took a fresh look at your priorities.


Copyright ©2018 David Waweru. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

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