Three Key Strategies to Stay Positive and Motivated – Lessons from Leadership

Staying motivated when your world is getting smaller can be difficult, especially since the current trending advice is not to put pressure on yourself and to relax.  However, as we move into an extended period of imposed separation, it is important to note that optimism and hopefulness reduce stress and depression as does exercise and activity. 

In the field of leadership, keeping employees motivated has been researched for decades.  The original thoughts that people work harder for money were debunked when it was realized that several of the most motivated people in the world were not motivated by cash or perks.

As a Wall Street Journal article titled “Motivating Employees” discussed, the classic text on this subject is “The Human Side of Enterprise,” published in 1960 by Douglas McGregor, a founding faculty member of MIT’s Sloan School of Management.  Mr. McGregor’s book argued that behind the decisions and actions of every manager are a series of assumptions about human behavior; it offered an alternative that rested on alternative assumptions, including:

- People will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which they are committed.

- Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement.

- The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.

Later research expanded on these ideas, and the goal of leadership became focused on creating conditions that make people want to offer maximum effort and stay positive. It was found and later practiced by the best leaders that rewarding people for achievement was a far more effective way to reinforce shared commitment than punishing them for failure.

Create Conditions that Will Entice You to Make Maximum Effort

How do these concepts relate to our current situation and how can we use these them to manage ourselves through isolation, separation and the current world events?

There are various conditions that can become enticements.  For me, I love to compete.  Signing up for a race or event keeps me motivated and brings thoughts of a welcome sense of accomplishment.   If you are considering a competitive event, Spartan has a special race finder feature with races well into the future in various locations. 

However, competition isn’t for everyone.  Instead, try other physical challenges.  For instance, plan a trip to climb a mountain, buy a spot in a trapeze class or learn a new sport.  If you’re goal oriented, hikes that require permits and planning like Yosemite, Na'pali Coast or segments of the Appalachian Trail require permits and planning that help you keep your eyes set on a goal (the carrot) while you create the day-to-day conditions to meet your health and wellness goals.

Reward Yourself for Your Achievements.

For me, trip planning always falls to the bottom of the “to do” list.  Now is the perfect time to plan a dream trip.  Once planned it becomes reality and the fun can be tasted.  Use this time to explore, plan travel logistics, highlights, restaurant stops and site visits.  Let yourself know that if you meet certain goals you will go on that special trip – and won’t the experience be better when you feel you are at your peak of health and wellness?  Try placing pictures of your destination throughout your home to remind yourself of this awaiting reward.      

Share a Commitment

For years, we have known that when embarking on a fitness ritual, over 50% more goals are met when we buddy up with a friend.  Leverage a shared commitment or goal to not only create a connection during these times but to keep you motivated.  Share your goals and milestones – and then share the successes as well.  There are many health-oriented activities you can do while still social distancing, or even doing together on Zoom or FaceTime.