How do - Personality, Self-Concept and Expectations – contribute to motivation?
Can how we see ourselves have an influence on what motivates us?

Becoming a Deep Expert

Jetty perspective out to sea

You may remember in the previous article we established that three elements contribute to that force or energy which we call motivation. The three primary sources of motivation are our:




Together they are like rivers which flow within us, and they stream into the turbulent sea or ocean of our fluctuating motivations. But unlike rivers, which are separate, they all interact with each other, and with the final outcome - our specific motivations in a given moment or period of time - continuously and continually.

We realise as we consider each one of these elements of motivation that as coaches we can zone in on any one or all of them in dealing with a client. Take 'personality'. We are all familiar with the concept of our Personality. In some ways it appears to be us; after all, it is our PERSON-ality? There are various instruments – personality and psychometric tests – that measure ‘personality’, either our traits or types, or specifically the predictive behaviours which emerge from these traits or types. ‘It’ – the personality - appears to be relatively stable; personality can shift under pressure, but there seems to be a norm to which it reverts and wants to revert. In that sense, then, it appears to be a ‘given’; our personality seems to be largely fixed and ordered at birth.

I refer to this (in my book, Mapping Motivation (Routledge 2016) as ‘past’ tense: it goes back to our origin. That said, the fact the personality experts themselves consider increasingly that personality is malleable (that, indeed, that a person may appear to be very different at one some future point in their life from what they were as, say, a younger person or as a pre-the-trauma person) only demonstrates the complexity of the human psyche and the fact that the self-concept and the expectations of an individual can, if prolonged or intense enough, have a profound effect on the personality.

Picture 1Figure 1

For more information on the various models of personality, read my book Mapping Motivation; but for now I’d like to make a personal observation about personality. Most basic models seem to predicate 4 types of personality. See figure 1. Sometimes these are colour coded: Leader -Red, Influencer – Yellow, Connector – Green, and  Planner -Blue. Indeed, looking at this you might ask yourself, what type/colour most seems like me?

The point is that I am certainly a Yellow or Influencer type – by nature, or by my natural inclination, or as I was growing up as a kid. But doing a Motivational Map today, the motivator ‘recognition’, or what we call The Star, is not even in my top 6. Something has changed or overlaid my primary drive or hunger. It may be that under severe stress or circumstances I might revert to recognition as a driver – motivator – but that would be an exceptional circumstance.

So I think two points interesting issues arise from this. One, people selling personality and psychometric tools on the basis that they reveal your motivators are selling really a pig in a poke! It is true that if someone had no learning and no experiences in life, or conversely had an early age been deeply traumatised, then their personality profile might not shift; and so the consequence would be that their personality motivator would align with their personality: so, for example, all Red or Leader types would have Control (what we call The Director) as their dominant motivator. But this, of course, is highly unlikely and obviously a rare phenomenon, if one could believe it happened at all!

No: people learn, people have trivial and profound experiences, and as they do so they try to make sense of the world. Eventually, in making sense every individual comes to believe certain things in two key domains that affect everything: they develop beliefs about themselves (which we short-hand as their Self-Concept) and they develop beliefs about outcomes in their environment (which we short-hand as their Expectations). As these beliefs intensify they provide either an enabling and dynamic energy that we call motivation; or they do the reverse and shut us down, and drain our energy. We need to remember that whatever we focus on as individuals grows in our experience and in our reality. Beliefs will always manifest themselves in the material world, for good and for ill.

In the third Part of this series we’ll take a more in-depth look at the Self-Concept and what this means for our motivators, and how we need to take more conscious control of it if we are to stay highly motivated – and one might add, stay or achieve greater success.

For more on success with teams, also see my book, Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams (Routledge).


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