Preface: It’s difficult to increase employee motivation when we don’t know how to motivate ourselves to achieve our own goals. A steady theme in this blog is about motivating ourselves to do those things that we want to do, but are finding it difficult to actually get done. (See, for example, How to achieve your goals despite yourself.) The article below by Marshall Goldsmith attracted my attention because he has an interesting take on how we can motivate ourselves — by harnessing our “mojo” or positive spirit. Learning to do this will decrease our stress at work and increase our potential for joy, or at least satisfaction.
I know from experience that knowing how to kick up my enthusiasm has saved me from many a dull and boring activity. Doing this, though, requires a conscious decision. If I don’t decide to move past my inertia, I am stuck half-heartedly doing a dreaded task with a pit in my stomach. When I can follow Marshall Goldsmith’s advice, the work just flows. The article below is reproduced here with his permission.
by Marshall Goldsmith • March 22, 2011
Readers who remember the first installment of this two-part article should know that there is a further concept with significant impact on your day-to-day energy and performance. It promotes a greater sense of ownership and job satisfaction.
Ask yourself: “Given a set of circumstances, how can I not only make the situation more palatable but also transform via my positive spirit?” This constitutes “mojo”—a type of magic charm. It’s that positive spirit toward one’s activities that originates from the inside and radiates to the outside.
Your mojo is not fixed or limited in quantity at birth, such that “when it’s gone, it’s gone.” It is renewable. Each person governs how it gets renewed. Mojo changes with different activities and circumstances over time.
The goal in renewing mojo is two-fold: First, you want to choose activities that more naturally maximize it. Second, you should generate as much of it as possible, regardless of the activity. On the inside, high mojo results in personal excitement about the activity in which you are engaged at the moment. As it radiates to the outside, which it will, you will spread positive energy to everyone around you.
Assess What You Put Into Activities
The first aspect investigates what you bring to a certain activity in personal or professional pursuits. This includes enthusiasm and energy, knowledge and know-how, skills, confidence, genuineness, and authenticity. Obviously, you bring differing levels of these attributes depending on the activity. For some activities, you might bring high amounts of several of these attributes; for other activities, you might bring lesser amounts.
The second aspect deals with what a certain activity brings to you. An activity can impart both short-term and long-term returns. For the short term, an activity can be stimulating and rewarding and promote personal happiness. In the long-term, an activity can provide meaning and help you to learn and grow. Overall, an activity can engender a sense that it was a valuable use of time, promoting feelings of gratitude.
As with your inputs, the short- and long-term returns differ by activity. Some activities might have either a short- or long-term impact, whereas others may bring about both.
Ideally your day is filled with activities that score high on most of the above inputs and returns. Over time, if you know which activities bring you happiness and meaning and which don’t, you want to manage your life so that you engage in more of those activities that bring up your mo and minimize or eliminate altogether those that don’t.
Coping With Low-Return Activities
But life is not ideal. The reality is that we all have to do things we don’t like sometimes. However, we’re not stuck. Here are some quick suggestions for how you might engage, retain, or regain mo, even while you’re engaged in the most mundane activities.
1. Validate that the activity must be done or must be done as you are currently doing it—or both. If it is an unnecessary task, stop and focus on a high-mojo activity. Don’t assume that just because it’s being done that it’s important and must continue. On the second point, if you have options for changing it to any degree, see the next suggestion.
2. Brainstorm ideas for reframing or redefining the activity to more closely align it with what reflects your positive spirit. That might increase the short- or long-term returns. If you can simply add a little fun to the activity, the short-term stimulation might be worth it. If you can learn something new or find a deeper meaning in the process, then you’ve gained long-term value.
3. Identify actions for enriching what you bring to the activity. Perhaps training or coaching would enhance your knowledge or skills. This, in turn, could build greater self-confidence. Increased confidence could drive enthusiasm and create energy.
4. Rehearse expectations from the activity. Perhaps the activity, though not presently stimulating, is providing a long-term opportunity for growth. Conversely, an activity may not offer any long-term meaning, though it brings happiness and stimulation in the present. The attendant value of an activity, either in the short or long term, may not be obvious. Have a talk with yourself and deliberately focus on the value proposition as it pertains to you.
Life is much too short to simply tolerate living. Continually pursue some aspect of self-discovery, as we talked about earlier. Take responsibility for forging a new path that fits better with your personality make-up. If that seems unlikely—and that is the reality for most of us—take responsibility for being more effective in your current situation.
As simple as it may sound, increasing your effectiveness can help you elicit a more positive response from others. Finally, take action to discover and enhance your own happiness and meaning—through new pursuits, by reframing current activities, by extending what you bring to the situation, or by finding hidden value. In so doing, you will experience more positive associations with others and a richer, more satisfying life in general.
Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority at helping successful leaders grow by achieving positive, lasting behavioral change in themselves, their people, and their teams. In November 2009, he was ranked as one of the field’s 15 most influential business thinkers in a study involving 35,000 respondents that was published by The Times of London and Forbes. Dr. Goldsmith’s books have sold over a million copies and have been translated into more than 25 languages. His best selling books include What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (also a Longman Award Winner for business book of the year) and his most recent, MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back If You Lose It.
Reproduced with permission of Marshall Goldsmith
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