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Self-Motivation: What Sets the Doers Apart From the Talkers

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As a business coach I work with clients to help them build their self-awareness so they can effect positive and lasting change in their personal and professional lives. The goal is usually to close the gap between how they intend to come across and how they actually land on others.

Becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings and actions is a critical first step but only half the equation. Doing something with that awareness like consciously shifting negative patterns of behaviour, trying something different or taking a risk requires the self-motivation to take inspired action that will lead to a new and hopefully better outcome.

Some people are capable of amassing a tremendous amount of knowledge about a variety of subjects. They may be able to speak articulately, eloquently and even captivate an audience with what they know or speak of. They may feel passionate about a political cause, angered by inequities in the workplace or frustrated and bored in their current job however if that talk doesn’t translate to effecting real change, it simply remains an intellectual exercise or discussion.

It’s easy to get caught in the language of “should”, “would”, “will get to it some day” but don’t quite manage to get to the “do” part.

Self-Motivation as a Differentiator in High Achievers

My most successful coaching clients are the ones who do take it one step further and demonstrate the following characteristics that set them apart:

They are eager to immediately put into practice new tactics or strategies we discuss in our coaching sessions. They may express apprehension, anxiety, fear; all normal emotions when trying something new but they do it anyway. For example, one client committed to being less directive with staff and begin asking for their opinion first rather than just telling them what to do when they come to him with an issue. One small shift in behaviour that made a big difference on the team dynamics which encouraged critical thinking.

They engage others on their learning journey. Self-motivated people will tell their staff, colleagues, friends and family they are seeking mentorship, coaching and support to make changes in how they work and behave. Another client openly expressed to her team that she was equally accountable for the broken trust on the team, apologized for some of the things she had said and done and invited them to be part of the culture shift she wanted to create. Their response was heart-warming and they more than met her half way to begin the healing process.

They ask for feedback and are open to hearing constructive criticism. They demonstrate humility and don’t allow their egos to leave them stuck in their old ways of doing things. Another client was surprised to hear that he was perceived as a micro-manager. What he thought was staying on top of things was received as over-controlling by his staff.

Self-motivated people are driven and fueled by their desire to change. They recognize that the only way to move from the inertia of simply knowing to doing is by taking action, even if they don’t get it right the first or second time.

They don’t allow setbacks to keep them down and take personal ownership for the situations they find themselves in. They may feel the disappointment, sadness, hurt or frustration for a short while but they don’t indulge in self-pity for long. Instead they harness that powerful energy to propel them forward with a renewed focus and determination. Another very courageous client didn’t allow cynicism or self-doubt to linger when she didn’t land the job she’d had her heart set on but rather took a reflective view, reassessed the interview process and set a plan for what she could do differently next time.

There is nothing wrong with practicing arm-chair politics or having an opinion about the state of affairs in our organizations and communities as long as we are clear that the only way we can fundamentally change things for the better is by taking specific action. And so in changing ourselves we invariably invite others to change with us.

What motivates you to action? How do you overcome setbacks and disappointments? Share your thoughts and experiences so that others can learn and be inspired.