Motivation: Moving From Knowledge To Action

Every one of us has either struggled with or been surprised by our own ability to accomplish things.

Some days we are inspired and energized as we fly through the items on our agenda. Other days (or weeks) we can’t seem to get motivated.

Does it seem that you often find plenty of energy and things to do other than the one task you know has to be completed?

What causes these fluctuations?

What is happening in our minds when we are successfully accomplishing and when we are successfully avoiding?

When a coach understands what drives their clients it can help them partner with them as they step out into the world in bold, new ways.

Current and past research from neuroscience and positive psychology consistently shows evidence that when we are guided by a purpose bigger than ourselves, we are more successful, productive, and happier.

As a coach, you can foster and increase intrinsic motivation, meaning, and purpose with your clients.

Definition and Research

If you Google “Motivation Definition” here are some results:

  • The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
  • The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
  • Enthusiasm for doing something.
  • Internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject or to make an effort to attain a goal.
  • The experience of desire or aversion…You want something, or want to avoid or escape something.

That last definition, from Wikipedia, touches on the old ways of thinking about motivation. The concept of rewards and punishments informed most motivational theories up until 1971.

Research since 1971 has expanded our understanding to include intrinsic motivators and the danger that the old carrot-and-stick way of thinking poses to our intrinsic drive.

The 3rd Drive

Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, is a meta-analysis of research on motivation. He explores early beliefs that people are motivated primarily by a desire to find pleasure or avoid pain and the resulting beliefs that we need to provide rewards or punishments in order to get people to perform well.

Though this is sometimes true and indeed motivating in some circumstances, Pink is much more enamored with what he calls “The 3rd Drive” intrinsic motivation.

He suggests in the majority of relationships we will find ourselves in as coaches, discovering and defining this 3rd drive with our clients will be far more effective than the old reward-and-punishment approach.

He argues that human motivation is largely intrinsic, and that the aspects of this motivation can be divided into autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  

Intrinsic motivation:  

Autonomy is the ability to act with choice in task, time and technique.  In other words, you get to choose what you do, when you do it, how you do it, and with whom you do it.  

Mastery is having full command of a particular subject or skill.  It is impossible to fully realize and is more about mindset than ultimate achievement.  

Purpose is all about living in a way that is meaningful, in service to something greater than self. Living with purpose is about living out your core values in everything you do.

Help your clients increase their autonomy, move toward mastery, and discover and live out their purpose, and you will see them move from knowledge to action.