Sparking a Mountain of Motivation

Posted by on Aug 21, 2013 | 2 Comments

Tim, Jeremy and Kimberly at the top of Mt. Battie, Camden State Park, Maine

We hiked to the top of Mt. Battie today, just outside Camden, Maine (Goregeous!  If you ever get a chance, you really must go!) and I couldn’t help but think what a study in motivation it was .  (Look, if I’m going to be blogging while on vacation, I will find an insight ’round every bend!).  To propel ourselves, eight year old in tow, up the 780 ft of elevation, required a myriad of external and internal motivators.  The promise of ice cream plus additional “souvenir points” were enough to keep the little guy engaged for the trip up.  I was keenly aware that I was going against all of Dan Pink’s research in heaping on the external motivators to get him to do what we wanted him to do…

At the same time, I was curious about what encouraged my husband and I to do such a thing?  To choose to spend a couple hours hurling ourselves up a steep hill in a forest teeming with mosquitos (with the repellant sadly forgotten in the cabin several hours away), only to have to turn around and hike back down.  Was it the promise of ice cream or “souvenir points” earned at the end?  Probably not, as we are fortunate enough to have the freedom to purchase ice cream and souvenirs if we choose.  So the only motivation I could identify was purely intrinsic.  The thrill of making it to the top!  The challenge!  The beauty all around us.  The desire to get stronger.  The chance to share the experience.  The celebration that we could, in fact, hike at all.

The whole time up the hill (and really, in Maine, they’re just big hills.  I’m from Montana.  Those are “mountains”!) I found myself thinking about people who trek the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail and wondering what it is that keeps them going.  Overcoming the blisters, and the body aches, and the hunger?  Why do they do it?  How do they do it?  And I think it comes down to the ability to tap into powerful intrinsic motivation.  What if we could all tap into that kind of power?

What if we could find it within ourselves to overcome the toughest obstacles and to reach the highest peaks not because of the promise of anything that will be given to us, but because of the promise of what it will make of us.  The promise of becoming our better selves?  And what if we could spark that kind of limitless power in the people we lead?

When we got down the “mountain” our kiddo said, “Mom, I can’t believe I did it!  That was the biggest hike I’ve ever done!”

“I’m so proud of you,” I responded.  “That’s quite an accomplishment.”

“I’m pretty proud of me too, Mom.  I can’t wait to do it again!”

Perhaps “that power” is just waiting to be ignited.  In all of us.

An intrinsic mountain of motivation.


©OnStage Leadership, 2013

If you found this helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, or inspiring please “recommend”, “Like” and share.  It is only through your generosity that we can reach those who may find it valuable too.  My sincere thanks.  Kimberly



  1. Daryl Orts
    August 21, 2013

    Great post, Kimberly. You ask “What if we could all tap into that kind of power?” I think we all do, but we can’t summon it on demand. The key question is “How can we generate ‘intrinsic motivation’ when we want to?”

  2. Kimberly
    August 22, 2013

    You’re absolutely right, Daryl. That’s the real challenge. I think one of the keys to being able to generate intrinsic motivation when we want to is being really clear about our “why” – why we care, why we do what we do – our purpose (or as we call it, Super Objective). It doesn’t solve everything, as we still need to take responsibility for generating the right actions in alignment with that – but it’s certainly puts you on an active path toward experiencing more intrinsic motivation.

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