3rd Core of Emotional Intelligence: Motivation

3rd Core of Emotional Intelligence: Motivation

The following is a true story by the "Dean of Personal Development," Earl Nightingale (from his book The Essence of Success).

“I had a call the other day from an older woman I know, and she said ‘you know, when I was a girl, I wanted more than anything to learn to play the piano, but my parents couldn’t afford it. And there was a super private school I wanted to go to, but they couldn’t afford it either.’

I asked her if she had learned to play the piano later on, after she left home. She said no. I reminded her that she could have learned to play every instrument in the entire symphony during the time she’d wasted since then. I told her that blaming her parents was the easy way out. People who would love to play an instrument, or seek a good education, can do it one way or another, even if they have to teach themselves, as countless individuals have proved. So I won the argument and infuriated a nice woman.”

The woman’s real challenge was one of motivation. Sure, she wanted to play the piano, but what she actually lacked was the ability to find the emotional ignition switch to move her forward; the spark to accelerate; the fuel to pursue her dream.

Motivation comes from motive, and motive comes from the latin motivus “to move.”

Motivation, from an emotional intelligence perspective, is about your ability to focus the searchlight in your brain to look for fuel to keep the inner fire burning — to turn the wheels forward. Coal is all you need to move a steam train, but the sustenance for human motivation is far more complicated. It comes from asking yourself why you want something, what you care about, what you value, and it is using both positive and negative feelings as momentum to bridge the distance between where you are and where you want to be.


Motivation Defined: A passion to work for reasons that go beyond the external drive for knowledge, utility, surroundings, others, power or methodology and are based on an internal drive or propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.

In his original books, Goleman included Motivation as 1 of 5 core competencies. In his more recent writings, he has collapsed these back to 4, with Motivation and Self Regulation becoming “Self Management.” While they are very closely related, we actually find it more useful from a business perspective to maintain these ideas separately.

Motivation is more about momentum (the ability to understand what you value and to use emotional fuel to move you forward in pursuit of your goals) whereas Self Regulation is more about discipline (the ability to stay in an optimal, clear thinking state on a day-to-day basis; to not let emotions like anger, frustration, annoyance, fear, sadness etc get the better of you).

The 4 core components of motivation are: 1. Achievement Drive (striving to improve or meet a standard of excellence) 2. Commitment (aligning with the goals of a group or organisation) 3. Initiative (being ready to act on opportunities when they present themselves) 4. Optimism (persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks)


Motivation Example:

Reader's Digest Australia interview with Will Smith (January 2007). Will gives an excellent example of the kind of internal dialogue that he uses as fuel to drive him forward.

RD: Has your success surprised you?

Smith: For a long time now, it has been beyond anything that I ever dreamt. I just put my head down and run hard, and I am almost always surprised when I look up and see where I am.

RD: So getting to where you are is all just about running hard?

Smith: I consider myself to be of basically average talent, right? What I have that other people do not have is a sick, obsessive, raw animal drive.

RD: Do you get tired of pushing?

Smith: Not yet. There is no pain worse than not achieving a dream when it is your fault. If you were not meant to have it, that is one thing. But if you do not get what you desire because you are lazy, there is no pain worse than that.

RD: Have you always been a runner?

Smith: I started about five years ago. Running introduces you to your worst enemy, to that person who tells you, “Ooh, our ankles hurt and we should stop. Why do we need to run five miles? Let us run three miles.” That is the same person who says to the man, “Hey, your wife will never find out if you sleep with her,” and the same person who tells the 16-year-old, “You are not gonna be cool if you do not smoke it.” If you start giving in to that person, you will never get to your goals.

RD: Are you the most driven person you’ve ever met?

Smith: No. That’s Michael Jordan.

White White


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