Coaching Corner: Motivation 3.0

“Manifesting is a lot like making a cake. The things needed are supplied by you, the mixing is done by your mind and the baking is done in the oven of the universe.”
― Stephen Richards, Think Your way to Success: Let Your Dreams Run Free


Ever wonder why it’s not so simple to motivate people to lose weight or to exercise regularly?  Even with impending illness, I often see individuals who say they know what to do, then return with only minimal success.  My quest to better understand motivation led me to recently read Drive by Daniel Pink.  Though Pink’s book focuses on a business context, his science will help many of us upgrade our thinking about promoting health in our personal and professional lives.  Let’s look inside.

Science suggests there are three essential elements to Motivation 3.0:  Autonomy – the ability to direct our own lives; 2) Mastery – our ability to get better at a skill such that we achieve a clear sense of successful flow; and 3) Purpose – to have a clear sense of why our work matters.   Let’s look at each element and see how this works for motivating optimal healing.

So often, medical advice from physicians to public health officials offer absolutes: don’t smoke, eat a low fat diet, get 30 minutes of exercise three times a week or sleep eight hours each night.  Trouble is, often this has little to do with many if not most of our individual lives.  Yes, in an ideal world, we would do any and all of these activities, but my life doesn’t work that way. How about yours?

Autonomy starts when we learn the difference between intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.  Intrinsic motivation is to act for the inherent satisfaction in doing the activity.  Extrinsic motivation is action in order to obtain some separate do it yourselfoutcome.  A simple example – losing weight to feel light, healthy and strong, versus losing weight because having 30% body fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  While the latter is true, it is still an extrinsic motivator.  In motivation 3.0, focusing on intrinsic motivation is key.  Often in a health coaching setting this begins with mindfulness, learning to attend to our experience. It is here we can connect more fully to our intrinsic motivation.  As a health coach, connecting to internal motivation for a client and helping them choose the way to their own personal approach, builds healthy autonomy.

Mastery comes from regular engagement.  Counter to the quick paced world of easy access to information and media, mastery occurs with countless hours spent engaged in an activity of choice.  I’ve always appreciated George Leonard’s definition of Mastery: “The masteryprocess where what was difficult becomes easier, a life-long commitment to hone your skills, realizing that the ultimate goal is the path to mastery itself, and practicing, even when you seem to be getting nowhere.”  Unpacking this, one can see how this relates to motivation – when I choose to master something (autonomy) and I stick with it, though at times I don’t seem to be getting anywhere, I’ll come to know that the goal is as much mastering something as it is simply gaining a cool skill.  Yes, mastery means one has learned about mastery.  In health, through mastering somatic practices, healthy eating and sustainable lifestyle choices, I have gained the skills for optimal healing and increased flourishing.  One can easily see this when a client shifts from “having to workout” to “being unable to go more than a day or two without exercising.”

Purpose may be more elusive in a health context, for often purpose has to do with being in service of others.  Why should my health matter?  How do I know that I’m making a contribution beyond myself? This is why a broader, more integral perspective of health and healing is essential.  Rather than conventional perspective of health as physiology within normal ranges on a blood test, or cardio-vascular fitness, an integral health perspective considers the whole body-mind-spirit.  A simple example are the social determinants of Purpose Signhealth, choosing just three for this example – meaningful work, social cohesion and civic participation.  Evidence continues to mount that meaningful work positively impacts our health.  Social cohesion, the number of healthy friendships, has a very positive salutogenic effect reducing depression as we get older. Civic participation gives us a deep sense of purpose that nurtures our healing resources.  In a health coaching context, helping clients get in touch with their deeper sense of purpose offers a powerful opportunity to support healing and increase motivation: grandparents for the love of their grandkids, parents for their commitment to leave a better place for their kids, and professionals for their commitment to succeed in positive change and innovation.  Individuals more closely aligned with their deeper sense of purpose can use this as motivation for supporting health changes and optimal healing.

autonomyMotivation 3.0 offers a powerful frame for a new approach to Optimal Healing.  I have offered the three elements of motivation 3.0 – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose here without reviewing the science that supports the claims made.  For me, these naturally make sense. I see applications in my Integral Health Coaching practice daily.  If you would like to read the science that supports this perspective I do highly recommend reading Daniel Pink’s well written book.  For a brief start view his Ted Talk – Click Here.

Or choose something you love to do that feels good for your body and start doing it regularly! A good way to motivate yourself to get outdoors more often and get exercise is to participate in the Optimal Healing 30×30 Nature Challenge. For more info, Click Here to watch the video.

Mastery by George Leonard:



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