Tag motivation

Visuals: “The Pursuit” (DRAFT)

(And I still don’t have a clear sense where all of this is going …)

Immersion: Mental Framework

In one of my earlier posts I called attention to a book by Martin Seligman entitled Learned Optimism.  In it, the author presents a useful framework for being successful (*) using the following analogy:

“A composer can have all the talent of a Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing.  He will not try hard enough.  He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize.  Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure.  I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.”

He then goes on to list the three characteristics that determine success:

  1. Aptitude
  2. Motivation
  3. Optimism

Of course, this framework is missing the “X” factor; an encapsulation of circumstances and random events that can positively or negatively influence one’s “success” at any given point in time.  Independent of this, I’ve found the framework useful enough to incorporate into Immersion:

While the Immersion concept began nearly one year ago, the “mental” underpinnings became clear only recently – and ultimately through Seligman’s unique insight.

(*) – In the spirit of building/maintaining self-esteem, it has been said that one does not strive to be successful – she/he already is successful.  However, I believe the framework described above is valid regardless of one’s position.

Key Ingredients for Success.

(from “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman)

Recalibration III.

In my past post, I started to explore the concept of motivation and called attention to why being motivated isn’t always a good thing.

In thinking about my personal and professional lives over the past decade – particularly as it relates to the concept of motivation – I’ve learned the concept of motivation cannot, and perhaps should not, be discussed without a keen focus on the “goal” or objective.  In my opinion, you cannot be motivated to do something if you aren’t sure what you’re motivated for, and goals don’t become real unless someone is actively doing something to make sure they are realized.

Of course, this sounds obvious, right?  In my opinion, it becomes less obvious when there is misalignment between the two.  The purpose of this post is to further explain this connection, highlight the risks when there is misalignment, and illustrate what it means to have “ideal” alignment.

I think achievement of a goal or objective comes down to five things:

1. Understanding what it is that you want and why.
2. Understanding the pathways to bring you towards that goal.
3. Introducing appropriate motivators to push you towards your goal.
4. Periodically ensuring the motivators are working appropriately or need to be replaced.
5. Advance towards a place where supplemental motivators are not required.

Let’s use an example to walk through this process.

Let’s say that you are trying to lose weight.  In order to keep you moving in the right direction, you share your goal with your family and friends.  After all, you may need them to help you stay on track.  And of course, there are many other “motivators” including rewards that you give yourself for reaching milestones in your weight loss journey.  Collectively, this is what I call a motivation framework or motivation support system.  In most cases, having a support system is a good idea.

If your goal is aligned with your values and mission, you’ll find that your motivation level and your ability to reach your goal feeds upon its own successes.  Because your mind is not bound within a self-justification cycle (“I want to lose weight because …”) the energy pathways between mind and body are in alignment and you can ultimately achieve a state of “flow”.  By achieving this state of being, your need for supplemental motivators decreases rapidly and you become further empowered to take on greater challenges (i.e. “I lost ten pounds, but I feel good enough to lose another ten!”).

If however, your wish to lose weight is indirectly connected to your values and purpose, a number of things can start to happen.  First, your support structure may start to “overrun” your initial desire – i.e. your motivation support group may end up being more motivated than you are!  When and if this occurs, you may find that your own motivation starts to plummet and you end up doing less than before.  This downward spiral can proceed even further when your support system begins to run out of energy (i.e. they are no longer providing any motivational support) and/or begins to show its disappointment that you are not reaching your goal (showing evidence that perhaps your support structure wasn’t the right choice to begin with).

As you can start to imagine, this single disconnect between goal identification and values/mission has the potential to negatively influence other aspects of your life – i.e. “If I can’t lose ten pounds with support, how can I do anything?”

In order to have true alignment between goal and motivation, I think one needs to pay close attention to the following:

  • Understand what it is that you want. Keep in mind that this can be a moving target – that’s okay.  If your desires change, ensure that your motivation and motivation support structure changes as well.  If your goals are changing frequently, it might be appropriate to revisit your values and mission.
  • Make sure that your motivation does not require constant support. If it does, it’s possible that don’t want to achieve the goal in the first place.  Along similar lines, if you are tackling the right goal and have the right motivation framework in place, you’ll find that your pursuit of the goal will be natural and the need for motivational support will be much less.
  • You are human. Waning feelings of motivation are normal and may not require significant changes to your goal or support structure.  Instead, you may need to look elsewhere to understand these feelings.

In my opinion, the ideal state is having a goal that is directly linked to your core being and ultimately drives you. It’s the catalyst and energy source for all action.  Without this source, your source for motivation will always need “supplemental power sources” (at least to some extent).  I think that achievement of the farthest end of this motivation maturity scale is the identification and pursuit of a goal that is ultimately self-powered.

In my next post within this series, I’ll spend more time focusing on the human aspect of motivation and goal attainment – this is ultimately where I’ll introduce the next area of “recalibration” which is persistence.

Recalibration II.

Motivation: … the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.” (Source unknown)

In my last post, I highlighted three main areas where I would like to improve – self-motivation, perseverance and connection.  In this post I’ll continue my exploration of motivation.

All too often, the word “motivation” has a positive connotation.  After all, how often do you hear public speakers or other leadership types exclaim “Be Motivated!”  Because of this, how can one not assume that being motivated is always the right thing to do?

In contrast to public opinion, I believe that being motivated to do something isn’t always the right decision.  Why?  Because you could be motivated to do the wrong thing – i.e. something that is misaligned with your core values and/or for the wrong reasons.  In the above definition, it’s easy to assume that the goal or “reason for the action” is clearly known, but in many cases it may not be.

In thinking about this concept, my belief is that truly understanding what motivates one to do something can ultimately help one achieve a particular goal faster than if that level of awareness is left unchecked. Along a similar path, gaining this understanding early on can also highlight whether the goal should be abandoned entirely – i.e. is being motivated truly the right path in a given situation?  In short, I think one needs to have a clear understanding of the goal (and the reasons why achievement of that goal is worth the pursuit) before being motivated to act.

Let me share a personal example to illustrate this concept in more depth.

I grew up in a family where education and success went together.  Over time, I started to believe that my success (the goal) was primarily dependent upon my education.  Not withstanding my desire to learn, even after my master’s degree I continued to take classes in the hope that I would eventually acquire enough knowledge to be “successful”.

My business coach challenged this long-standing belief late last year when I started formulating the basis for Big Generator.  Up until that time, I never thought that I was truly ready to move forward.  Did I know enough?  Did I have enough experience? The answer is that I’ll never know enough.  Thus, I consciously decided to accept this fact and the rest would need to come with more experience.

This example is relevant because being motivated to continue with my education vs. moving forward with my business could have been the wrong decision over the long-term.  Thus, being motivated to carry out the wrong goal for the wrong reasons doesn’t make the activity right.  Instead, being motivated to advance the business while continuing to gain knowledge is the right decision for me at this time in my life.

Formal education, while deemed worthy in nearly all contexts, is actually the direct opposite in this example.  In essence, formal education was employed as a “motivator” to help me meet a goal that I call “success”.  However, “success” takes more than being well-educated.  Thus, taking inventory of what I wanted to do and identifying the right motivators allowed me to break out of this cycle and make alternative decisions.

This isn’t to say that there will not be times when the mantra of “get motivated” doesn’t have value – particularly in situations where you aren’t excited about the path you’re on, but there really isn’t any choice but to use an alternative (positive) perspective and go ahead with the task at hand.  However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s important to understand what it is that you want and build a motivation framework to help you achieve that which you are seeking.

In my next post in this series, I’ll go into more depth about this framework and show some guidelines to make sure that you are motivated for the right reasons.

Recalibration I.

I read an article in a recent issue of The Atlantic which focused on the worsening employment outlook for today’s economy. The article painted a fairly dismal picture connecting unemployment with a vast number of downstream impacts, including socio, interpersonal and self that had negative consequences many years after the economic downturn.

The article sheds light on several impacted demographics – including recent graduates looking for work. This particular demographic – known as the “Millennials” or “New Boomers” – is referenced in a book called “Generation Me” by Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

In her book, Twenge ties the manner by which this generation was raised, their resulting high self-esteem, and their potential long-term success, particularly when faced with a jobless economy.

She notes that “… self-esteem in children began rising sharply around 1980, and hasn’t stopped since.  By 1999, according to one survey, 91 percent of teens described themselves as responsible, 74 percent as physically attractive, and 79 percent as very intelligent. (More than 40 percent of teens also expected that they would be earning $75,000 a year or more by age 30; the median salary made by a 30-year-old was $27,000 that year.) Twenge attributes the shift to broad changes in parenting styles and teaching methods, in response to the growing belief that children should always feel good about themselves, no matter what. As the years have passed, efforts to boost self-esteem—and to decouple it from performance—have become widespread.

“These efforts have succeeded in making today’s youth more confident and individualistic. But that may not benefit them in adulthood, particularly in this economic environment. Twenge writes that “self-esteem without basis encourages laziness rather than hard work,” and that “the ability to persevere and keep going” is “a much better predictor of life outcomes than self-esteem.

This really struck a chord with me as I have always believed that the key to success is self-confidence.  The fact that “… the ability to persevere is a better predictor of life outcomes” is a refreshing perspective.  In fact, I wonder if my challenge isn’t more about perseverance than it is about confidence.  This is an opportunity.

In thinking more about my development in 2010, I would like to improve my skills in three main areas – self-motivation, persistence and connection.  While I am not necessarily lacking in these three areas, it can be difficult to measure progress without a clear understanding of the underlying maturity model associated with each.  This exploration is also key to further push the “advancement envelope”.

The concept of motivation is something that ultimately drives one to achieve something. If you aren’t motivated to do anything, then it’s unlikely that positive things will happen to you (or anything for that matter).  However, motivation can be measured on a scale all of its own.

Of course, the two extremes are obvious – you are motivated to act, or you aren’t.  But what’s in the middle? How do you measure motivation?  And is there just one dimension to this motivation scale?

Let’s explore this concept in more depth.

A wish to learn new things has been a primary motivator in my life.  To go a step further, formal education can be an excellent motivator all on its own – you pay someone to teach you and indirectly hold you accountable through deadlines, quizzes and exams.  Through the process, you naturally become motivated to get a good grade.  In essence, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own – i.e. I want to learn so I take a class, which pushes me to learn more through the identification of a “grade” which allows me to achieve the goal I originally set out to do.

Another commonly heard motivator is money or material wealth.  While money does not bring happiness, studies have shown that people who have a reasonable amount of wealth are generally happier than those who do not.  Thus, attaining money is a powerful motivator.  But is money the motivator, or is the happiness that seems to come with it?

A third motivator is the simple act of pleasing others.  Your relationships with your family and friends may be important enough to drive you to act independent of goal.  Doing something to please others can be its own self-fulfilling prophecy  – i.e. your contributions give a sense of happiness to the other party which can improve the relationship (you are both happy).  The complexity in this case arises when the motivator begins to take on a life of its own.  Using the example just described, this motivator can start to work against the actor if the entire reason for acting is the underlying happiness of the other.

As you can begin to see, the concept of motivation is fairly complex.  What may be labeled as the motivation “source” may in fact be a mask for the true motivator (i.e. is it money or happiness?)  Motivators can also be deceiving – a genuine motivation source may begin to erode over time if the aim isn’t becoming increasingly visible.  Motivators can also be visualized to gain a greater understanding of what is driving (and perhaps what should be driving) the activity.

In a later post under the same title, I’ll explore this concept in more depth.  I’ll also start to introduce the concept of perseverance as I believe the two are closely related.


As I mentioned in my last post, this blog will start to focus more attention to the evolution of my new design firm, Big Generator.

As this blog has significantly helped me with my personal challenges, I think it will offer a similar benefit towards helping me keep up the level of motivation, persistence and energy that a new business venture requires.  I also think that the sheer transparency of what I am thinking about and how I am going about improving my business and design abilities can ultimately serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own.  If I think positively, the majority of the work that I do, both from core design and business perspectives, is also more likely to result in positive outcomes.

While increasing the level of transparency is important, it’s unlikely that I’ll mention specific clients within these posts at least until the project has concluded.  If the client maintains all rights to the work, then I won’t, of course, be allowed to publish any related information about the engagement.  Independent of the situation, the process of approaching a new design challenge and coming to a final solution is worth documenting.  In many circumstances, the process of documenting your experiences can refine your level of understanding and push you to think about the situation in new ways.

At this point, the business “foundation” is nearly built – this foundation includes the core brand, web site, portfolio, letterhead, many project proposal letters, and a supplemental graphic visual suite.  The next step in the process is to develop a comprehensive client building strategy – to do this I am reading a book called Get Clients Now by C.J.Hayden.

After reading the first fifty pages, I’ve learned the key to a successful client building strategy is persistence.  To achieve persistence, the development of a formal plan is required.  To summarize here, there are five such steps that need to be followed every month:

  1. Marketing Strategies – selecting two to four client-building strategies
  2. Marketing Stage – identifying the stage of the marketing cycle where you are having difficulty
  3. Program Goal – identifying what you want to accomplish during that time period
  4. Success Ingredients – identifying the missing ingredients that you need to be successful
  5. Daily Actions – documenting the specific steps that you are going to do

In addition, there are six marketing strategies discussed in the text (from most effective to least effective):

  1. Direct Contact and Follow-up
  2. Networking and referral building
  3. Public Speaking
  4. Writing and Publicity
  5. Promotional Events
  6. Advertising

At this stage, my next step is to finish reading this text and start developing a monthly plan of my own.  In my a future post, I will share additional details about what my client building strategy looks like and how well it’s working.  As indicated earlier, sharing the strategy in this manner will help increase accountability and will provide a history from which I can learn.

Press Release.

The following is a press release that was recently sent to my personal and professional network.  It calls attention to the launch of my personal branding web site as well as a new business venture focusing on information / graphic design.  I’m including this information here as the majority of future posts will center around these two creative endeavors.

The first is the formation of my personal “brand” via the web site www.adriandaniels.com. This is a project that I have been thinking about for nearly a decade and it was only after much thought that I decided to finally push forward with its release.

While www.adriandaniels.com is my primary site, it’s ultimately intended to serve as a jump point for three other portals:

Incubator: (This site!)  A non-fiction / experiential blog that is primarily focused on the generation of new ideas. Incubator incorporates personal and professional experiences and transforms them into formal essays and narratives.

Microcosms: A blog that allows for unrestricted exploration of new concepts in a “fictional” setting.

Pixeldust: A visual portal that shows how my art, design and photography portfolios have evolved over the past six years – and how they will continue to evolve and ultimately improve.

As these sites ultimately encapsulate my creative strengths, this web portfolio is something I collectively call a “Supercharged Creative Exploration”.

The second development that I am very excited about is the launch of a new information (graphic) design firm called Big Generator (www.biggenerator.com). For those of you who have seen examples of my work, you already have an understanding of what information design is all about – visuals that make complex information easier to understand and to use.

I made the decision to launch this part-time endeavor after considerable reflection into my strengths, interests, and values and combined this reflection with more than a decade of experience in graphic design and related disciplines (e.g. computer graphics, illustration, industrial design).

Ultimately, I am interested in doing what I can for my clients whether that need is strict “information design” or is classified under a general “graphic design” classification. In essence, I want to provide quality and effective visual solutions for my clients that simplify understanding and enhance and strengthen the customer experience.