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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.



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

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