The Three Colours of Motivation Revisited

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In the winter of January, 2010, I wrote a blog called “The Three Colours of Motivation”. Little did I know at the time that this would become my most popular and searched-for blog! What I think surprises me so much about this is that the blog is not “informative” in the same way as many other articles I write for this Motivational Memos series, but more symbolic. Actually, more poetic. To me this suggests something very hopeful and important indeed: that people want more poetry and beauty in their lives! As we enter another (dreadfully cold) winter, after a very trying and strange year, I thought it would be good to revisit this blog; hopefully, it will give you some motivation, or even inspiration, to make it through to next year!

 

The idea behind the “three colours” of motivation is based on the three clusters of motivators. There are “Relationship” motivators, for example, which are centred around security, belonging, and getting recognition from others. These are green in hue because they represent our roots, our connection with the world around us.

 

Then there are “Achievement” motivators, which are about work: having control over resources, material gain, and knowledge. These are red because red is the colour of human endeavour, both physical and intellectual; it’s the colour of war, of martial prowess, of triumph and achievement.

 

Finally, here are “Growth” motivators, sometimes thought of as “Self” motivators, which are about personal development. These are focused on creativity, independence, and making a difference to others (sometimes called transcendence). Blue is the hue of the Growth motivators, as it is the colour we most associate with the divine (a heavenly blue sky), and with the spirit. Blue is a colour of deep introspection, of an ocean we delve into to get to know the real inner self.

 

Most of us have a predominance of one colour in our profile. In other words, a colour may call to you! This predominance or preference can tell us almost as much as what someone’s individual motivators are. The colour of our motivation could, for example, indicate whether we like a lot of change in our life, whether we prefer take things fast or slow, or where our overall focus in the three principle domains of life lies: relationships with people, achievements at work, or developing oneself. Of course, unlike prescriptive psychometric “personality colours”, which are fixed and stereotyping, we believe that our motivations change over time and with experience. In addition, it is not merely about which cluster or colour is most dominant in the profile, but also how that interrelates with the motivators themselves. Having said that, you may feel that one or more of the colours speaks to you very deeply, and perhaps that could help you? So, here are the original colour descriptions I wrote back in 2010. Why not read them and see which one appeals to you most?

 

First, there is Green motivation. Green motivation is very strong – perhaps the strongest of all. If it were a sound it would be a big deep bass note – vibrating and resonating in the very core of us. As a colour it refreshes us – it makes us comfortable. We like to wear green. And when we see it outside, we hardly notice it because it is part of the texture of life itself.

 

What did your mother say when you were young? Eat your greens. Yes, the green energy comes directly from the sun, and this is woven into our being. It is the energy of relationships – feeling secure with someone else, belonging and friendship, and getting recognition for simply being us.

Green motivation is a real therapy. Is that what you feel like this winter?

 

The second colour of motivation is Red. Red motivation is not so much strong as dynamic – it glows with its own intensity. You notice Red; you cannot help it. In times past, Red has always been the martial colour: the God of War, Ares/Mars, is Red. The note here is a loud middle note – we cannot help but clearly hear it. It is a clear note struck in our working day.

 

It is the colour of stimulation and achievement. As we start the New Year, have you made those resolutions of achievement? They’re Red motivators. You want power and control – you want money and things – you want expertise and mastery? You want Red – wear that Red badge. Make 2010 (or indeed 2021!) the year you achieve your dreams – all fuelled by the Red motivator.

 

Finally, there is Blue motivation: cool Blue. If Green is strong, and Red is dynamic, then Blue is heroic. The note is high – ethereal – sometimes even difficult to hear, but when heard so sweet and inspiring.

 

Blue is not about achievement but more aspiration. We want heaven – the blue sky above us is where humans belong. When the Blue motivators are in us we are seeking to realise all we can be – we want creativity – we want freedom – we want meaning. At our heart the Blue motivator demands growth. And strangely, here there is a paradox: as we get seriously Blue motivated we find that the changes we want only lead us into the eternal now, which never changes. So what do you choose for the next few months? What motivators are obsessing you? How will you feed them?

 

And I know what you are thinking – and you are right! You are thinking, “Got you James – there’s a fourth motivator, isn’t there?” That’s right, what if I want a bit of all three colours? Of course. Let’s call that the Rainbow motivation!

 

 

 


Going into 2021: What should we be thinking?

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We know that security is a primary human desire and that whenever we don’t have it, we feel – at the least – uneasy, and sometimes much worse. It is also certainly true that 2020 has been a year unlike any other in terms of the uncertainty and fear that it has generated. We would probably need to go back to World War 2 to find a comparable – or even worse – period of time. World War 2, of course, lasted for six years and the thought that Covid-19 could do the same might well inspire a profound terror in all of us. However, we have been reassured in recent months that vaccines are coming down the line and that it is only a matter of time before the virus is contained. Let’s hope so.

But as we wait to see, some developments are already occurring which are of profound interest to all of us who are in the consultancy, training and coaching businesses – especially those who are both deep experts and also well-established in this field. I owe to my good friend Ian Brodie (linkedin.com/in/ianbrodie) the following information which he mined from The Financial Times. Apparently, there is world-wide a surge of new businesses being formed. In the USA, the UK and France for comparable periods of time with the same in 2019, there were 82%, 30% and 20% increases in applications respectively. In France these were the highest ever recorded. It is probably a safe bet to conclude that this is happening in all Western democracies.

What is this telling us? Probably at least two things. One, that work is never going to return to what it was; that there is going to be a new normal that establishes itself by the end of 2021 (assuming that the virus is contained). Two, that the rush to create new businesses is because an increasing number of people are beginning to realise: a. that they don’t like working in offices anymore, and b. that there is no security in so doing; the job for life is truly well and gone and this crisis exposes it. So, what is the alternative? Strangely, it is following GK Chesterton’s advice: “There is no way out of danger except the dangerous way.” Starting a new business is a highly risky undertaking, as all the statistics show – some 80% of businesses fail in the first five years! Yet, this now seems less dangerous or less risky than staying in a job; add to that the fact that many now realise it is probably going to be far more enjoyable anyway – succeed or not – then you have a far-reaching situation emerging.

And the point? Well, what an opportunity for those consultants and coaches who are deep experts already in this field, and who have been round the block a few times! If we cast our minds back to when we first started, what do we remember? I have been self-employed and running businesses for 25 years now, but I fully accept that I was woefully under-supported when I started and could have benefited massively from some coaching that would have prevented me from making some of the colossal mistakes I made! Furthermore, a really good coach would almost certainly have got me where I wanted to be much quicker than I did. In fact, I didn’t start using coaches for myself till well after five years from when I started. That’s a lot of lost ground to make-up.

So what we have, then, is potentially hundreds, if not thousands of individuals wanting to come into this market over the coming year or two. Indeed, it has already started. We at Motivational Maps have just received an enquiry from someone being made redundant – but having experienced the Map within their role – and now seeking to be accredited in our tool. And I think this too is an important point: being a coach or consultant is one thing, but differentiation is going to be critical. Access to a brilliant tool, a relevant tool to today’s changing work place, is critical. As it happens, Motivational Maps is just that tool: it is possibly now the most pre-eminent change tool in the world; and part of its glory is its simplicity. Yes, simplicity to read and understand, but then within it, layers of complexity and extra value that coaches, consultants and trainers can deliver.

A good place to start thinking about where these new self-employed people might be is in your own databases – if they are on Linkedin, what indeed is happening, what shifts might be occurring? The thing is, these will not be high-ticket items like working for corporates, and not as ‘prestigious’ either. But as I like to say, “Small fish are sweet” and there are a lot of them. Plus, from the Searcher point of view, which many coaches are, it’s simply fantastic being able to help them launch their business successfully – to be part of it with them! We know a thing or two about that in Motivational Maps because that is one of the things our tool does: helps coaches become more fantastic, more successful.

Follow this link to connect with a Motivational Map Practitioner.


MOTIVATION & THE GREAT ESCAPE or 'building our ability to persist'

 

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The old masters used to observe the natural world and discern what lessons could be learned from it. We see this evident in our western tradition of poetry, where many of the great writers of their respective ages had a seeming affinity with the natural world and human nature that led to them creating scenes and images of profound beauty. We see it even more strongly in the martial arts traditions of the east, where individual fighting styles are often named after animals: tiger, monkey, crane, etcetera. I learned one such lesson from the natural world a few decades ago, albeit it was rather less grand and beautiful than the past ones I have cited!

 

I was lying in bed, almost on the verge of sleep. My wife snored (I mean, breathed very quietly and beautifully) next to me, obviously deeply asleep. Suddenly, the fabric of the universe didn’t seem quite right. There was some disturbance, a small noise that was almost imperceptible at first, but slowly it gnawed at my consciousness until I became fully alert – eyes wide open – listening for danger.

 

Scratch, scratch, scratch. Rustle. It was so soft that I doubted for a moment, was it my imagination? No! I turned on the bedside light, “Linda … I think …”

 

Pandemonium broke out. We leapt out of the bed in a frantic search. There! There!

 

Our son’s hamster, Nicky, had broken out from his cage.

 

It was 2:00am in the morning. We frantically scrambled to follow his tiny, scurrying body, then scrambled again for a box to gently return him to his metal bastion.

 

After a stressful search and capture, we securely locked him back in his “Gulag”. Our son Joe snored on, happy and oblivious.

 

We returned to bed, congratulating ourselves. But an hour later, 3:00am, Nicky escaped again – making a second dash for freedom.

 

The search began again. Finally, we got him back in his cage and gave him a grape. There was a pause of deep bliss, of calm, and in this moment I wondered: how did he do it?

 

The cage looked as secure as Alcatraz (albeit for hamsters). It had a metal frame, hard plastic locks, and a weighty cage lid that had to be twisted to be opened. We’d had Nicky for a year at this point, and he’d never escaped before; had one of us made a mistake? A careless oversight?

 

Examining the evidence, dreamily entertaining the notion of myself a kind of pet detective, I realised this was not the case.

 

Nicky had moved one of his toys to the centre of the cage. When standing on top of this cage, he was able to place both of his little paws on the lid. By applying his bodyweight from this vantage, he was able to turn this lid and open the cage. He had learned, presumably by watching us, that a twisting motion was needed to open the lid. The ingenuity left me pretty speechless. It’s then that the lesson struck me.

 

To be successful, we may utilise many strategies, such as strengthening our purpose, taking responsibility, committing to excellence, being of service to others, and seeking synergy from co-operation, and of course increasing creativity… but there is another factor that is vitally important, one that Nicky demonstrated in abundance: persistence. Nicky tested that elaborate cage to destruction – every crevice, every corner, every angle. His teeth gnawed here, gnawed there, and importantly he never gave up. We see this in the success stories of famous athletes, writers, musicians, and others—they keep going no matter how many setbacks or rejections they suffer. It was something I “already knew” in some sense, at least at a conscious level, but the image of that determined hamster, tiny and seemingly powerless, cracking out of the “Gulag” was much more potent than any of those celebrity stories. It was purer. The message finally reached me at an unconscious (and hence far deeper) level.

 

Nicky knew nothing of discouragement. Even after his two great escapes, he was still looking for the weak spot, the next opportunity. That’s how we should be in business. We cannot afford to stand still and accept our fate. We must test the boundaries, create solutions, and never lose heart. As Thomas Watson Snr, founder of IBM, said, “If you want to increase your success, increase your failure rate!”

 

We need, then, to strengthen our resolve to persist. One way that we can do this is by increasing our motivation levels. When we are motivated, we have the energy to keep going and the resilience to bounce back from setbacks. We’re also more highly aware of our purpose. When we have this focus on purpose, we’re prepared to put up with the setbacks, because we can reconnect with the reason for doing what we’re doing: the end-goal, perhaps even reward for our long labours. The key, however, which is again something Nicky demonstrated so brilliantly, is that we must not merely persist doing the exact same thing over and over again, but trying out different methods until we come up with the one that works, thereby creating a new and ingenious way forward. They say the definition of madness is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result”, after all.

 

The first step to increasing our motivation, which in turn will build our ability to persist, is to become aware of what motivates us: is it security (Defender), belonging (Friend), recognition (Star), control (Director), material gain (Builder), acquiring and passing on knowledge (Expert), creativity (Creator), making a difference to others (Searcher), or freedom and independence (if little Nicky could complete a Motivational Map, surely Spirit motivator would be his number one!), or even a combination of several of these? These are the nine primary drivers that influence human behaviour, and by recognising which ones are acting on us most strongly, we can harness more energy, more enthusiasm, and the endless optimism of Nicky the Hamster: guru of the Gulag!

 

 

 

 

 

 


MOTIVATION & THE CENTIPEDE or 'taking care of the details'...

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In the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” We see this time and time again where one small overlooked element causes the whole house of cards to come crashing down. It is often in the small things that the telltale signs may be read about the state of an organisation or relationship’s health. We have to get the small details right, and in doing so, will often fix the big things.

 

Take motivation as a case in point. For many organisations or leaders, motivation is considered a relatively unimportant factor, a “nice-to-have”. If they’re making profit, and everyone is being paid on time, then surely the minor issue of a few disgruntled employees is no major issue? Of course, they fail to see that over time this “small” issue will become a major one, and indeed, if it is not redressed, possibly cause the collapse of the organisation. In addition, the issue of staff motivation, whilst on the surface seeming to be purely a “people” or “HR” issue, will in fact cause knock-on effects in every other department and facet of the business. Demotivated people don’t sell, which leads to loss of revenue. Demotivated people leave, which leads to the extortionate costs of recruitment multiplying. Demotivated people spread bad press, such as “It was awful working for XYZ, don’t apply for a job there.” Or, in some ways even more disastrous, “Don’t by XYZ products, they mistreat their staff!” This is detrimental to the strength of your brand, loses even more revenue, and closes down new opportunities. As you can see this “small” issue of motivation, left unaddressed, suddenly affects everything and everyone.

 

Of course, motivation is particularly important to me, but motivation is not the only “small detail” that can make a colossal difference to your organisation. There are many small upkeep factors that we must pay due attention to. In the light of Covid, and all the big things going on in the world, we are more likely than ever to overlook these small things as we’re overwhelmed with these crises and large challenges. However, arguably, it is still more important to focus on the little things; we have no control over Covid, after all, but we do have control over whether our staff feel valued and rewarded, whether our website is optimised, and whether we decide to put those extra-personal touches in all we do, in relation to customer-service or otherwise!

 

This principle is not only true of the business world. We can see it in our personal relationships and self-development as well. When you think about your relationships, whether friendships, family relationships, or romantic ones, don’t the small details count for so much more? It’s the little things our partners or friends do that make a difference to us day-to-day. When the little attentive things stop, often this precipitates a serious calamity or deterioration in the relationship.

 

Likewise, when we think about personal development, it’s the little things we do – a ten-minute yoga practice each day, a mindfulness or meditation routine, a regular creative practice – that becomes transformative over time. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bootcamp, where you go away for three weeks and study or train in an intensive fashion. But the learning we acquire from a bootcamp cannot be maintained without these small habits and elements in place.

 

There is an American story I came across a while ago and love, that illustrates this attitude perfectly, I’ll share with you now…

 

***

 

One day, not so long ago, two teams of animals decided to compete to see who was best at football. It was a case of the large animals, The Lumpers, versus the small ones, the Tiny Team. Elephants, rhinos, hippos, lions and tigers versus rats, skunks, hedgehogs, frogs and, well, a centipede.

 

Naturally, there was a lot of animosity and name-calling.

 

“We’ll crush you, small fry!”

“You big lumpuses!”

 

The day arrived. The coach for Team Tiny was very excited.

 

“Go out – give it everything you got,” he said. “Remember – you can do it – believe in yourself.”

 

So out they went.

 

They returned at halftime, bruised, crestfallen, and down 3-0. The rhino (the elephant’s run always tended to peter out) – once he’d gotten up steam – was unstoppable. But the Tiny Team’s coach was a real motivator.

 

“Go on,” he said. “Don’t quit now – winners never quit and quitters never win. Visualise that ball going in the back of their net – next thing, you’ll see it happen!”

 

So out they went. The game had barely kicked off when the rhino got possession and charged straight at goal. He was in the penalty area and on-side. The goalkeeper – the frog – had simply jumped aside. All the rhino had to do was shoot… when suddenly there was a green flash. The rhino, hypnotised, crashed over his own feet. The rest of the players were riveted watching him collide with the mud and into the goal post. Thud! And the ball, it went in the other end. 3-1.

 

A huge cheer went up.

 

“Who did that?” cried Team Tiny’s coach in ecstasy.

“Got ‘em that time, coach,” yelled the centipede.

“Well done, centipede, keep it up,” beamed the coach.

“Right,” thought the tiger. A neat bit of paw and claw work later and there he was, open goal in front, when … whoosh … a green blur, and suddenly a goal for the Tiny Team. The tiger hadn’t even felt the ball leave his control. It was now 3-2.

 

“Who did that?” cried Team Tiny’s coach.

“Got ‘em again, coach,” yelled the centipede.

“Well done, centipede, keep it up.”

That’s more like it, thought the coach.

 

Now the lion – who always saw himself as a cut above the rest – was really hacked off. He made it his personal business to score (usually he couldn’t be bothered). One roar and the small animals vacated the pitch on mass. He was just about to put it in the back of the net when … whoosh, green lightning … and the score was 3-3! Unbelievable!

 

“Who did that?” roared the coach.

“Showed ‘em again,” chuckled the centipede.

“Well done, centipede, keep it up – we can win this one,” said the coach. Then a quizzical look came over his face. “By the way, centipede, where were you in the first half?”

The centipede replied, “Putting on my shoes, coach.”

 

 

 

***

 

You see, the best vision, the most sublime goals, the most wonderful exhortations and inspirations in the world won’t work unless… we really ensure we’ve taken care of the smallest details! In the centipede’s case: tying their many, many shoelaces!

 

So, what small details might trip you up – at work, in your relationships, or in your self development?

 

Here are some typical examples:

 

At work – lack of punctuality, failure to keep promises, disorderly work habits and record keeping?

 

In relationships – lack of time spent with a loved person or friend, inattention to others’ needs, critical and blaming spirit, failure to generously praise and encourage.

 

For self development – lack of exercise, lack of sleep, lack of special hobby/interest, no ‘learning’ stretch built into future programme for your life.

 

Be honest with yourself – where do you need to tighten your focus? If you’re not sure, then ask someone you trust.

 

For more information on motivation, why not pick up a copy of Mapping Motivation.