Spirit of EQ – Engaging Intrinsic Motivation
Eric Pennington: Welcome to The Spirit Of EQ podcast. We’re going to talk about engaging intrinsic motivation. With me today, as always, is Jeff East. Intrinsic motivation. I’m familiar with the motivation part. But tell us a little bit about what intrinsic motivation is.
Jeff East: We need to look at two words. One is intrinsic and another is extrinsic. They’re pretty simple. Intrinsic. It’s something that comes from within. In this case, your motivation comes from within you, within who you are. Extrinsic motivation comes from exterior things, like peer pressure. Anything that can affect you from the outside. Any external force that causes you to do what you do.
Eric: Internal forces and the external. Between the two, what would you say is the most powerful?.
Jeff: For most people, I believe extrinsic motivation is more powerful because they haven’t taken the time to really examine what is actually motivating them. What kind of a result do they want to have in whatever they’re doing? Whether it’s family, work, hobbies even, social issues. What is driving them? And most people are driven by the extrinsic. So it’s more powerful in that way, but it’s not the most important.
Eric: How do we engage intrinsic motivation?.
Jeff: Intrinsic motivation is understanding what drives you. Taking a close look at “what is it that makes me do what I’m doing.” To take the time to figure out what’s important and to learn how to use those drivers, those things that motivate you, to accomplish the results you want in your life.
Eric: Are there opportunities to inspire others by taking that kind of direction?
Jeff: Yes. Let’s say you are working on a project at work, and if you’re driven just by getting the job done, so that you can turn it into your boss and say this project is over, you’re probably not going inspire your co-workers, your peers or the people that you are reporting to you. When you have intrinsic motivation for the project, you want to make this the best, to do the best you can, so that the result is the best that you can present to your boss, your customer, whoever. That can inspire people to be driven by your example. And that’s just one example. It could be sports, music, anything that you can think of.
Eric: The intrinsic is really the power side of the equation in getting people inspired, and to get that inspiration to spread.
Jeff: Yes. I mentioned sports. I can remember the first time I heard about LeBron James when he was playing for the high school team. He never went to college. When he was playing for the high school team, the story about his motivation caught my attention. When his team would have a huge lead, he would stay in the game, and his motivation would be to not score points, his motivation was to help the other players on his team to score, to show that he shared the win with them. His motivation was to make his teammates better.
Eric: That’s interesting you mention him in that story because you hear consistently that everyone says that they love to play with him. And I guess if you’re motivated to help others succeed, that would be a strong inspiration tool.
Jeff: All basketball players don’t look that way. Some of them get kind of selfish, and when that happens, they’re only motivated to serve themselves. Their external motivation is they want the glory. They want the notoriety. That will drive them. And their teams usually don’t do that well.
Eric: History confirms that. I saw this ahead of time before we were going to meet. One of my all-time favorite lyricist and musician. Neil Peart, the drummer for the band Rush. I really want to hear this.
Jeff: I’m going to do a little bit backstory with Neil. Neil had a very solid relationship with his wife. He had a daughter, he was part of a very strong family. And he got hit with two tragedies in about a month’s time. His daughter was killed in a car accident, and they found out his wife was terminal with cancer. He told the other two guys in Rush that he didn’t think he would ever be able to play again. He didn’t think he could play music again. He got on his motorcycle and was gone for about a year. He wrote a really great book about that experience called Ghost Rider, which I highly recommend. But he finally got himself straightened around, he came back to the band (Rush had been on hiatus during his absence). So he started playing, touring, recording, and he decided that he didn’t like how he was drumming. Arguably, you could say he’s one of the top two or three, maybe the best, rock and roll drummer ever, easily. That’s what people were saying, but he said he didn’t like how he was playing. He went to New York and studied with famous big band and jazz drummer Buddy Rich. Even though everybody was telling Neil that he was one of the best drummers that ever played rock n roll music, he wasn’t happy. So he decided he was going to go study with Buddy to become a better drummer. Because he was intrinsically motivated to become a better drummer. He spent six months in New York, and I believe the first two months they didn’t even touch a drum kit. He was taking dance classes and ballet because Buddy told him he had to learn that first. So he was intrinsically motivated to go make himself better, even though externally, everybody was telling him he was the best. So I have a lot of respect for him. You know Rush is not everybody’s cup of tea. Geddy Lee’s voice is different. Their lyrics, Neil Peart’s lyrics, are pretty convoluted but very deep. But I just respect that he was intrinsically motivated to make himself better. When somebody can do that, I think they have a really good head start on becoming a success.
Eric: That’s a great story. I’m going to use my intrinsic motivation to use self-control and not go on to talk about all kinds of other things relating to Neil Peart and such. We only have so much time but maybe we’ll do another episode just on Neal Peart, and how it relates to EQ. How about that?.
Eric: So you’ve used two good stories there, LeBron James and Neil Peart, and the power of intrinsic motivation. So what do I do? How do I how I get started with that? To find my intrinsic motivation?
Jeff: One of the ways to think about what gives you “juice,” what gives you energy. If you’re just going through the motions, you’re not intrinsically motivated. But when you start something, and it can be anything, and it gives you energy, it gives you satisfaction, it gives you a sense of accomplishment, and makes you want to do more, you’re probably experiencing intrinsic motivation.
Eric: Sometimes we find our intrinsic motivation. And we do get the juice. And then we hear those external voices that tell us “Hey, maybe it won’t work. Nobody’s going to be interested.” All the reasons why not to do it. And there’s that struggle. That’s something that leaps out at me. And some of the things that we’ve looked at prior to this episode. These ideas of extremes. We’ve talked about it in other episodes, about the passive and the driven, and how these things can come into play. Talk a little bit about that.
Jeff: If you’re passive, you’re just not going to be motivated. You’re going to be blown way the wind blows, whatever the external motivation is, whatever the external pressures. People coercing you to do things. You’re going to go that path.
Eric: Like maybe today I’m told by five different people by how great I could do, or be, and try this, and you should that. And then tomorrow I get all the critics coming out of the woodwork. So I’m happy today but then tomorrow I’m down in the dumps. Is that what you’re talking about?
Jeff: That could be part of it. Or you just take the path of least resistance. I’m just going to go wherever they push me. I’m not really making a choice so I really don’t have the responsibility now. It goes wherever it goes.
Eric: What about on the other side? The other extreme?.
Jeff: A person that is intrinsically motivated is going to be confident. They’re going to be reliant on themselves. They’re not going to need other people to push them. Now, they’re going to need other people to help with a project or something like that. It’s not like they’re a loner. But they don’t need that input from other people to help them achieve their goals. People that are very intrinsically motivated can be strong leaders. Either official leaders, the kind we talked about earlier. And I think sometimes, more importantly, they can be the unofficial leaders. I believe a lot of times those leaders are the ones that really get things done, just because of who they are. But there are some downfalls to being very highly intrinsically motivated. You might lose tolerance for people that aren’t as driven or don’t have all the skills you think they should have. You become impatient. Something that is important to someone else and not important to you can cause an issue. You can become too self-motivated, and other people’s feelings and skills may be pushed to the side. But when you start looking at some of the other EQ competencies we talked about, and couple that with intrinsic motivation, you’re navigating emotions, paying attention to the emotions of other people. For somebody that’s intrinsically motivated, recognizing your patterns is really important to make sure you don’t trample people.
Eric: That’s a great point. And I think the idea here is that, in past episodes, there is a thread running through this. So the person is in this place has tools, that we’ve discussed previously, to make this a very positive impact versus a negative.
Jeff: When we do a full SAE assessment with these eight competencies, one of the things we look at is “balance.” Not necessarily how high or low somebody has rated themselves, but the balance. If someone’s intrinsic motivation is very high, and other competencies are lower, that high intrinsic motivation is something we need to talk about, to kind of keep it in check. And it works the same way with all the other competencies. We want a balance in a person.
Eric: Let’s go back to the LeBron James story. I can imagine that if he wasn’t careful, the idea of sharing the ball and helping other people look good could be a problem. Because there might be a time, especially in crunch time, where he needs to be the one to take the shot. So we’ve talked a little bit about these extremes. Are there any other dangers around this intrinsic motivation?
Jeff: You need to make sure that you’re balancing your competencies so that your life is in harmony.
Eric: How about a little homework.
Jeff: Look at a week. Look at your projects or the things that you’ve done. What was the motivating factor? Were you motivated because you had a deadline? Or were you motivated because you wanted this to go well, you wanted to achieve this because it is what you wanted to accomplish. Did this motivation help you achieve what you really wanted?
The emotional intelligence network Six Seconds is a nonprofit organization researching what works in emotional intelligence. Best practices are shared through methods and tools that are global, scientific and transformational. To find out more about Spirit Of EQ or to request a speaker, go to SpiritOfEQ.com. If you have any questions or want more information about anything we’ve talked about to send Jeff a quick e-mail, Jeff@spiritofeq.com and he will get right back with you.
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