3 Surprising Motivation Killers

You know the saying, “Performance is one half inspiration and one half perspiration.” What happens when your “inspiration” is cut in half? Suddenly a perfectly good, or even great effort is sacked by a 50% collapse in personal commitment.

Let’s take a look at 3 surprising motivation killers at work:


  1. Perfecting the Good (Great)

You’ve come up with a perfect solution. It’s original, clever and practical – sure to be impressive to others. You share your exciting idea with your boss, … and, in return, get tips on how to “make it even better.”

“Glad you like it,” you state with the sarcasm of a flopping comedian. What a motivation killer.

Suddenly, your 99% perfect idea — is counterattacked by the headwinds of another’s, “perfecting input.” Your connection to and motivation for what was your idea is cut in half. So a 99% good idea is now accompanied by a 50% commitment. Is this a net win?

A second, but subtler, way in which perfecting the good can be shameful is similarly well intended, but comes from a position of pure power:

Blessing the Idea.

Here you have an individual (typically a leader) who is unsurprised and inauthentic in their “appreciation” for any newly presented ideas. Rather than showing true excitement, they act like a judge who expects nothing less – and probably knew about your idea well before you. Rather than expressing genuine appreciation or value, they “bless the idea” by noting that this is a good idea because it agrees with what they already know.

  1. Fawning Affirmation

To  paraphrase Shakespeare, “methinks thou dost {affirm} too much.”

Similar to “Blessing the Idea”, the receiver of the news either 1) goes on and on about what a good job you did, 2) loves EVERYTHING that comes their way and/or 3) affirms the obvious.

The first two examples are fairly well known – the praise is so frequent or so over the top so as not to be authentic – or at least you can’t tell because even opening a window on a hot day is the “best solution ever.” The third is possibly even more offensive.

Here the individual offering praise may feel genuine, but subconsciously, they’re revealing a preconception – their surprise that you could have come up with such a good idea (or similar).

Consider the scene where someone has the gall to tell Luciano Pavarotti, one of the greatest tenors of all time, that he’s a great singer. Huh? And you’re a pretty good earthling.

The compliment is so obviously under appropriate that it’s inappropriate – and offensive. In The South, this is akin to the conscious, but similarly shrouded, “bless their heart” comment upon which the source is obviously patronizing the recipient.

  1. One Upping

Of the three, this one is probably the most offensive and unfortunate. It not only diminishes the innovator’s motivation, perhaps worse, the offender is revealed as being quite obnoxious to everyone present.

The “one upper” is a common and uniformly unappreciated offender. No matter what you’ve done, the one upper has been there, done that … AND MORE!

If you’ve run a marathon, they’ve finished a triathlon. If you saw Bruce Springsteen in concert, they met Bob Dylan at his flat for an intimate party. Funny story? They’ve got one funnier. And the list goes on – literally.

Where does this all come from?

Insecurity. In most circumstances, each of these ‘Trump cards’ (careful with political puns) is the result of a player with low self-esteem (though, typically not VERY low self-esteem which is a bigger problem, i.e., “psychological burnout“). In order to express their value, the offender uses one of these plays to ‘steal steam’ from your idea with intent of making themselves look superior. It never works.

The next time someone shares or does something impressive, it’s best to simply truly appreciate it.

It really matters.

Psychways is owned and produced by Talentlift, LLC.

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