Karin’s Leadership Articles

I had just finished reviewing the syllabus with my Masters level leadership class, and asked my typical follow-up question. “What else would you like to cover?” Lin raised her hand and asked sincerely, “Professor, you are so passionate about what you do, it’s oozing out of you. How do we motivate ourselves to feel like that?”

Oh boy, a challenge.

You see this is the debate my husband, Marcus, and I have been having for the last 12 years. He swears that kind of motivation is genetic, and therefore, unteachable. If you met my family, you’d see where his gene theory comes from. But still, I’m passionate about proving him wrong. Yes, the irony is not lost on me.

I do know one thing, you can’t give someone 5 steps to figuring it out. It involves miring in the muck of what drives you, what you value and why.

From Motivation Theory to Real Life

So last night, I told them to buckle their seat belts and took them on a tour of motivation theory. We started with the classics: content theories (what motivates), process theories (how to motivate) and of course good old reinforcement theory. We then moved to more current thinking like Sinek and Pink. I told them to take good notes because it would be on the exam (that’s always a motivator.)

Then the real work began. I asked them to break into small groups and come up with five ways to help someone motivate themselves (all of which had to be grounded in at least one of the theories).

They started miring in the muck. I overheard deep conversation about where they get stuck and why: Childhood memories of reinforcement motivation for which they blame their bad habits, frustration of sending out so many resumes they have a hard time mustering up the gumption to send one more, questions of how they had let themselves turn from an athlete to a couch potato.

And so today I bring  you five ways to motivate yourself, courtesy of BUMO 796.

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself

1. Love (my personal favorite)

Connect with the feelings of love and sacrifice others have made for you. Acknowledge that support. Go get more if you need it. And then, turn that love into something spectacular. (P.S. this might not be unrelated to gene theory).

2. Focus on Your Basic Needs First

Work your way up Maslow’s hierarchy. If you need sleep and food, get that first. It’s hard to be motivated to change the world if you’re exhausted.

3. Set Achieveable Goals

Expectancy theory seemed to resonate.

4. Create a Support Network

Don’t try to do this alone. Articulate your goals, and surround yourself with people who will help to keep you on track.

5. Reward Yourself

Give yourself something to look forward to at each milestone.

If you’re feeling stuck, perhaps a good mire in motivation theory muck will help.

Are you looking to take your team to the next level? Please give me a call for a free consultation.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Rick Foreman

    My experience from ongoing mentoring and coaching engagements has shown that it all starts with helping the person understand their “Why.” Without the “Why” and “Purpose,” it’s really impossible to connect with the passions that we engage at a high level. I’m a very conservative, quiet, reserved guy. Yet, when I engage in adding value to others, (My “Why”) I turn into this deeply, obvious, passionate person, who will overcome any and all obstacles to help move someone from where they are to where they want to go. I like to ask folks, “what is one word that describes you?” “If you could do anything today, what would you be doing?” “What gets your heart pumping and excited about life?” And finally, “What is your Why?” I believe that once we find define the “why” which connects and engages our purpose, then the clarity for the journey towards the future becomes more visible and full of passion.
    Great post!

    • karin hurt

      Rick (and all), I’m so sorry that its been a few days since I got back to you. I had an event that ran right into the Natioal Speakers Association conference and I’ve been having a really happy busy. Those are beautiful questions. I find it so sad when the “if you could be doing anything questions” are so far away from what someone is doing today… with no path forward to get there.

  2. Steve Borek

    Karin you just planted the seed for a new blog post. Gracias.

    I set stretch goals. The challenge needs to bring me to a new place. A place where I become a new person. I’m changed.

    • karin hurt

      I’m excited to read it. I’m going to head to your site after commenting to see if it’s there. Namaste.

  3. Terri Klass

    I wish there had been a “Self-Motivation” course when I was getting my MBA. That’s such a fantastic idea. There are numerous motivation theories as you mention yet at the hub I think motivation is finding what makes us jump out of bed in the morning. Working with so many leaders through the years, I have come to understand that each of us has a different reason for following through on a plan. For one manager it was feeling that she could achieve the stretch goal. For another manager it was more about empowering his team to rise up even higher.

    Look inwards to find ways to take action and propel forward. Ask: What really energizes me?

    Thanks Karin for an outstanding post!

    • karin hurt

      Thanks! Great suggestions and questions. Paying attention to your energy levels, is such an important way to get to root cause.

  4. Paul Robbins

    Thank you, Karin! Related to your first point (Love), I find that when I am in touch with my gratitude I move forward. I also have experienced the truth that, for me, exercise and sufficient sleep on a regular basis, keeps me moving forward. As Douglas MacArthur said, “Fear makes cowards of us all,” and I believe the parallel is that fatigue (physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual) is a serious obstacle to motivation.

    • karin hurt

      Paul, 2 Excellent points! Gratitude and sleep. Amen. You should right about the power of “saying your bedtime prayers;-)

  5. LaRae Quy

    I see that drive and motivation in you Karin! Well spotted by your student 🙂

    I truly believe that motivation must come from within and that while you might inspire people to perform a certain task, that is energy that will quickly dissipate when the task is over. This can be a very effective way to get folks pumped up for an upcoming event or project.

    But in the end, it does come down to our WHY? For some, it’s as simple as paying the bills and putting food on the table. Even that is not enough motivation to satisfy our basic desires that remain hidden inside.

    When you start asking what truly motivates people, it means they have some inward work to do. This is not a question that many people can answer honestly because it gets muddled up with money, status, power, etc.

    I would begin this process by having them do personality tests such as strengthsfinder or the enneagram. Both tests are steeped in psychology and yet is accessible to the average person just curious enough about themselves to do the extra work.

    Great question, Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, First thank you 😉 I see that in you as well. Second, yes, assessments can really help!

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much!

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