For the last two blog posts we have been exploring the concept of human motivation and how leaders that understand and execute the process for motivating themselves and others can achieve significantly greater levels of success than leaders who don’t. You can find those previous posts here.
Helping people move forward, set goals, choose a direction, and chase it, is a tremendous part of what any leader does. Practicing our ability to motivate ourselves as leaders keeps us at our best more often and helps us master the process so that we can help others as they pursue excellence as well.
This post is focused on the final component of motivation: support. We might think of support as something someone does for us. When we help others capture and sustain motivation, we absolutely have a supportive role. But there are other components of support that I want to explore as well that might get left out in our thinking sometimes.
This means that we have set up the world around us, as best we can, to support the new thing we want to pursue or the new set of behaviors we are working towards.
Motivation in humans wanes pretty quickly if they are in an environment that creates roadblocks or barriers to achieving some new thing or new direction. This is similar to, but separate from, not believing we can, covered in my last post. Environment is not so much about our beliefs, or patterns of negative thinking, or even capabilities. It’s more about external barriers.
Let’s say that we are creating motivation to get healthier, but our pantry is full of junk food, or that we want to become more organized, but our office is a mess and we don’t have any kind of planner or organizational tool. These are environmental roadblocks, and they can kill our motivation because now our goals seem farther away and more difficult.
To remove these speedbumps around us, which can significantly slow motivation down, we want to think about our environment in terms of what one would look like if it fully supported us, not just refrained from getting in our way.
If we want to coach others more consistently, how would we plan and prepare conversations? What would the schedule of a great coach look like? What tools, resources, learning and development would help us get there.
Environments can be built and designed in ways that support us and our motivation. How many times have you cleaned an office and it made you want to work, or washed a car and it made you want to take it for a drive? Or bought a new planner and it made you want to plan, or painted a room and it made you want to decorate it? We want to think about all the things that would keep pushing us minute by minute and day by day towards the things we want, and make sure those things are in place in our world.
This helps us rely less on will power for our motivation and more on what’s around us, helping us make the choices we want to and keeping us on track. This allows us to cultivate the other tools of motivation more consistently and keep it strong for us when it might otherwise fade.
Environmental support, while it is not only people, can and should certainly include them. If we want to get in shape, do we have a gym buddy or a walking partner? Who have we shared our thoughts, goals and wants with that can also help us stay on track? This is not about increased discipline, it’s about increased motivation. If we are motivated to move toward something, we do not need to force ourselves in that direction.
A hint here about helping others build motivation too; if we help them sustain motivation, we don’t have to try to force them toward goals either. If we want someone to learn new things and stay motivated toward a higher level of achievement, then we want them to learn and try, and improve and enjoy. If we create a world of punishment or blame for mistakes, no one learns or tries new things. The risk is too high of getting in trouble or suffering consequences for trying to learn something new. Mistakes are always part of that process, no matter how much we might wish they weren't.
So, if you want to motivate yourself toward anything explore these components of motivation and make sure that you spend time on each one. What might feel tedious to work through initially will ultimately create a process for motivating yourself that you can repeat, improve, and use to achieve the life you want.
What I’ve discovered over and over again in my work is that leaders who have built the life they want are happier, more generous with their time, their support and their leadership in ways that help them build and sustain amazing teams. Leaders who can take themselves to the next level can take individuals, teams, and businesses there too.
This doesn’t mean that we have to be flawless to lead others well, far from it. But if we are on the journey working to motivate ourselves, trying, learning, and growing in our ability to do that, then we are better at supporting others on their journey as well. And journeys are important. They are the path to a better future. And leadership is all about that.