Enter the Matrix (of Motivation, that is!)

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In our last post, we discussed the important role that managers play in creating a motivating environment for their employees. This week, we’re switching gears to focus more on the individual (aka you!) and what you can do to find (and maintain) motivation at work.

For starters, motivation isn’t exactly optional in the workplace. Within each workday, we are constantly striving toward change. Whether it’s leading a team toward a shared objective, or something smaller like completing an expense report, successfully driving change by taking action day in and day out defines the very nature of work.

And this is not always easy! Sure, some days we’re operating in our “flow”, but we all have our fair share of days where work feels like a grind. To find the desire and energy to be continually interested and committed to the changes required by a job—through the ups and the downs—takes motivation. (Business Dictionary definition of ‘motivation’). Without it, you can find yourself feeling miserable and performing poorly, which can have a number of unpleasant consequences.

But how do we start to better understand our own motivation? Jim Taylor, Ph.D., shares a concept called the Motivation Matrix in his Psychology Today article, which breaks down motivation into two basic dimensions: internal vs. external and positive vs. negative.


As you might suspect, the Positive/Internal quadrant is ideal. Consider this Motivational Nirvana. This sweet spot offers people the highest probability of satisfaction and self-validation, along with successful and fulfilling change. According to Taylor, this is idyllic because the motivation is “coming from a place of strength and security,” which also increases its likelihood of being sustained. So, assuming we’re able to get there (with the help of our environment), how can we stay there?

This requires effort and a bit of self-reflection on our part, as many of us are not naturally inclined to function at Motivational Nirvana—and that’s perfectly okay. Let’s start by acknowledging that internal and positive motivation is unique to each of us, and while finding our internal motivators can seem like quite the undertaking, it doesn’t have to be. A solid first step is to understand your behavioral preferences and tendencies that shape your work experience, and, by extension, the tasks, and situations that are naturally motivating to you.

Everything DiSC Workplace® offers people a jumping-off point to begin recognizing and understanding the common motivators that extend from one’s unique behavioral profile.  Here’s a glimpse into one distinct motivator for each of the four DiSC® Styles:

D: Thrives in situations and positions where they have power and authority.
i: Social recognition from peers and managers enables them to feel satisfied and validated.
S: Experiences satisfaction and excitement when given opportunities to help others.
C: Projects and tasks with a framework of unbiased, logical reasoning allow them to flourish.

Once equipped with the self-awareness an Everything DiSC Workplace learning experience provides, we are able to check in with ourselves on a deeper level to see what’s really going on in certain situations. Questions like, “Why am I so afraid to fail at this?” or “I wonder why I’m feeling way more excited about this project than the others?” are easily deferred to the DiSC profile, which outlines your style’s motivators in highly personalized detail. By cross-referencing these motivators with Taylor’s Motivation Matrix, the path to Positive/Internal motivation is illuminated and more accessible.

The solution to reaching Motivational Nirvana isn’t rocket science…but it does require self-awareness, intention, and dedication. Arming yourself with tools like DiSC and Taylor’s matrix can make the journey easier, but the real factor in making change lies within. If you can commit yourself to the challenge, we’re more than confident in your ability to achieve positive, internal motivation.

Laura A. Davis is an Everything DiSC® Authorized Partner delivering personalized, soft skills learning experiences that have an immediate and lasting impact on the performance of people and cultures of organizations.

To learn more about how Everything DiSC can engage every individual in building more effective relationships at work, explore the Everything DiSC Workplace® application and connect with Laura A. Davis Today.


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