What Is Your Hidden Power?
Last summer, my little family of three hiked to the top of Mt. Battie, just outside Camden, Maine (Gorgeous! If you ever get a chance, you really must go!) and I remember thinking what a study in motivation it was. To propel ourselves, our then-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 couldn’t help but be 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 remember thinking about people who trek the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail and wondering what it is that keeps them going. How do they overcome 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” I remember our kiddo saying, “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 hidden inside all of us just waiting to be ignited.
An intrinsic mountain of motivation.
©OnStage Leadership, 2014 (revised from original posted on August, 2013)
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Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying!
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