The Three Colours of Motivation Revisited
December 09, 2020
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!