Recently, I have focused on ‘Your Inner Game of Leadership’ and ‘Your Mindset’. Taking the time to reflect, to deeply understand yourself and how your strengths play together to best serve you and others is a basic first step to ‘Know thyself’.

“First you will have to understand yourself, because the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself. Second, to be an effective leader, you must take responsibility for your own development.”   — Bill George, True North

Now, over these next few weeks we are going to explore self-motivation. What is it and how does it operate in each of us? I am great at comparing myself to others in terms of what they can accomplish and get done. I tend to work at a different pace and contemplate things more, like the tortoise — making slow, steady progress towards my goals. Knowing and understanding how my strengths play together has helped me both extend grace and acceptance of how I operate.

Successful people take initiative, do whatever it takes, and go beyond minimal work requirements. Click To Tweet

self-motivation, success, initiative, generate self-motivation, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Maslow’s Pyramid, unsatisfied needs, meaningful value, goals, strengths, Strengths Based Leadership, StrengthsFinder, leadership coach

Whether you’re the boss or working for one, the ability to generate self-motivation and be highly productive is increasingly important. In today’s competitive job market, you can not expect to collect a paycheck for just showing up on time.

In the 1980s, at least 90% of people worked for someone else. Now, about one-third of people in U.S. work for themselves, either fully self-employed or as part-time freelancers.

  • In 2006 the Government Accountability Office produced a report that found that 31% of American workers were employed on some kind of contingent basis, including freelancers, part-time, or temporary workers.
  • According to a 2014 survey by the Freelancers Union together with freelance platform Elance-oDesk (now Upwork), 53 million Americans, or 34% of the population, qualify as freelancers.
  • By 2020, more than 40 percent of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be freelancers, contractors, and temp workers according to a study conducted by software company Intuit.

Regardless of employment status, successful people take the initiative, do whatever it takes, and go beyond minimal work requirements. They are self-motivated and able to find unique sources of energy that drive them to high performance.

I often hear this question from people I coach: “How can I generate self-motivation and energy on those days when I feel tired, overwhelmed, or perhaps even bored?” How can you tap into your determination and drive?


What is Self-motivation?

MOTIVATION is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior, the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation is what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior — as when we form habits.

There are many perspectives on motivation theories. Working adults are familiar with rewards programs, bonuses, and organizational incentives designed to encourage performance. But external motivation works only for a limited time and not in all situations.

You may be familiar with Maslow’s Pyramid or Hierarchy of Needs. According to American psychologist Abraham H. Maslow, people are motivated by unsatisfied needs. The needs, listed from basic (lowest/earliest) to most complex (highest/latest) are as follows:

  • Physiology (hunger, thirst, sleep)
  • Safety/Security/Shelter/Health
  • Social/Love/Friendship
  • Self-Esteem/Recognition/Achievement
  • Self-Actualization/Achievement of full potential (can never be fully accomplished)

Maslow’s Pyramid, looks like this:
Maslow's Pyramid, Maslow's Hierarchy, self-motivation, needsAdapted from Our Hierarchy of Needs. Neel Burthon, M.D. Psychology Today. 2012. May 23.


While this list of needs explains why people become motivated, it does not provide applicable tips as to how to use this information to boost your own self-motivation. It is helpful, however, in linking meaningful values to goals. We’ll discuss this in my next post.

What do you know to be true to you about what motivates you? I would love to hear from you. Contact me here and on LinkedIn.


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