From the book:
“The Motivated Brain” – written by Helle Bundgaard, Founder, Motivation Factor and Jefferson Roy, neuroscientist, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT.
(All rights reserved – Motivationfactor 2015)
Energy is the foundation of all activity – both mental and physical. It is therefore of great importance that we are able to identify and work to eliminate the things that drain our energy – those obstacles which we often, unconsciously, let steer our daily performance and long term careers.
Research shows that 80% of what drains our energy has to do with external factors such as other people’s behavior, decisions made by others, or circumstantial limitations. Unfortunately, these factors are almost always beyond our control. Motivation, engagement and, ultimately, our success rests on our ability to identify what is blocking our success, determine our ultimate goals, and to generate options and possible actions. Taking charge of the things we CAN control.
When Energy Drainers are left unaddressed, you might observe:
- Lack of initiative, creativity or resourcefulness
- Blaming of others or outside circumstances for lack of progress
- Performance problems or absenteeism
- Defeatist attitudes
The Impact of Energy
In this chapter we explore Energy which is the first level of the hierarchy of motivation. Our energy level provides the basis for our ability to perform and function in all of our daily roles such as a manager, colleague, spouse, or a parent. Unlike a car with a gas gauge, we do not have an indicator that warns us that we are tapping into our last reserves. In fact, we are very poor at realizing we are running out of energy. If you think of the amount of energy that you have as being a finite or limited resource, it is easy to see how we can run out or feel overextended if too many tasks are all vying for a portion. Over the long term, overextension of energy has detrimental effects on our cognitive abilities and general health by increasing our irritability, causing sleep problems, causing us to feel overwhelmed, guilty, and dissatisfied9,10. For an organization the consequences of a workforce that is overextended include low morale, unmotivated employees, lack of initiative or creativity, and an inability to spot opportunities.
Deciding what tasks we focus our energy on and more importantly limiting the effects of inefficient tasks that waste energy is vital for individuals and corporations alike. In the Motivation Factor framework, Energy Drainers are any issues, whether they are internal or external, that impede progress or drag an individual or organization down. This chapter will guide you in identifying Energy Drainers and introduce a framework to use to minimize or eliminate their effects.
Identifying Energy Drainers
Think about any goal or objective – whether it’s starting a new project, meeting your revenue target or installing a new technology. You can get excited about the prospect of achieving that goal and yet a nanosecond later, you think “Ugh! The reality of reaching this goal seems impossible with all the obstacles I have to tackle!” By the time you consider all the things in your way, you can’t even SEE your goal never mind achieve it! Energy Drainers whittle away at our patience, grind us down and leave us with a bigger mountain to climb than we started with. They take away our motivation.
This donkey is a very good picture of how someone who has too many Energy Drainers feels. It wouldn’t matter whether you gave this poor donkey a carrot or a whack of a stick, it’s not going anywhere. Once at capacity, you are compromised in your cognitive ability to perform tasks such as take in new information or think creatively10.
It may be tempting to just ignore the Energy Drainers and push through. Many of us do this on a regular basis just to make it through the day. In fact, one of our workshop participants saw this picture and said “Oh, that’s no problem, just put some packages on the donkey’s head and he’ll balance right out!” In our frenetic, fast-paced, competitive working world it is easy to go down that path.
Pushing forward without addressing and defusing the Energy Drainers is like speeding down the highway with your emergency brake pulled. And even a Ferrari will quickly break in this situation. A consequence of pushing forward is that when people have reached their limit of Energy Drainers they burn out, go down with stress or start looking for a new job.
While an organization may be challenged by morale or motivation problems it is important to recognize that each individual has unique Energy Drainers. Take for example the following Energy Drainers:
- “I can’t sell because I don’t have the right brochures.”
- “I can’t send the link to the customer because marketing hasn’t created the copy”
- “The guy in finance says we have to re-work the budget”
- “I’m going to miss the deadline because production just changed the specs”
- “Our meetings are unproductive because no one arrives on time”
- “This project is going to fail because the other departments aren’t committed”
“No I didn’t get that done because I didn’t hear back from the vendor”
“My star employee is frustrated with the constantly changing strategy”
A common theme among the example statements is that they lay blame on other people. In fact our research has shown that 80% of what drains people’s energy has to do with other people or circumstances that they can’t directly influence. So often we find ourselves dealing with others who we see as uncompromising and uncooperative or we struggle with other circumstances that are beyond our control, leaving us feeling that we can’t influence the situation, that we are powerless.
Our challenge is to engage our own powers to come up with new options for taking back the energy these situations demand from us. To be able to do that we have to shift focus to what we can influence instead of what we can’t influence. A first step towards accomplishing this challenge is to understand the types of Energy Drainers and how they are impacting the individual.
Read more about this subject in the book: The Motivated Brain.
The Motivated Brain was released June 13th 2014 as:
- Kindle-book, and..
Explore More Motivation Science