Emotional Intelligence Competency
                                                                  Self Motivation

In "Emotional Intelligence" author Daniel Goleman maintained that self-motivated people are more highly productive
and effective. Numerous author, such as Baldoni, Catlin and Putzler affirm this notion, indicating that self-motivation is
a prime employee qualification. As Pollock pointed out, individuals cannot rely on others to motivate them.

The literatures contain numerous methods for facilitating self-motivation. Discussed below are techniques espoused by
DuBrin and Parachin. Also addressed is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, a well know theory of motivation. This article  
concludes with some thoughts on self-motivation versus leader motivation.  

Durbin’s Techniques for Self-Motivation

DuBrin described motivation as, “an energizing force that stimulates arousal, direction, and persistence of behavior.”   
The author maintained that learning techniques to motivate oneself is equally important as learning how to motivate
others.  He provided the following ideas to facilitate self-motivation.

  • Set goals for yourself.  Goals are fundamental to human motivation and can be either long or short range.  
    Hence one can set goals for such intervals as yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, morning, or afternoon.   

  • Find intrinsically motivating work.  Determine what motivates you and seek a job that provides those motivators
    in ample supply.  If you are not able to change jobs, strive to find something in your current one that motivates
    you and adjust your work habits to engage in that activity more frequently.

  • Get feedback on your performance.  Feedback, either objective or subjective, is critical for sustaining a high
    level of drive.  If your boss does not offer, ask for it occasionally with such questions as, “Is my work satisfactory
    so far?”

  • Apply behavior modification to yourself. Decide which motivated actions you want to increase (clearing out your
    inbox each day) and then reward yourself for accomplishing it.

  • Improve skills relevant to your goals.  If you have the skills required to perform a particular task, it increases the
    likelihood that you will see yourself successfully performing it.

  • Raise your level of self-expectation.  If you raise your level of expectation, you are likely to achieve more.
    Because you expect to succeed, you do succeed.

  • Develop a strong work ethic.  If you believe there is value in all work and joy in working hard, you will find work

Parachin’s secrets for self-motivation

Parachin cited Henry Ford as a model of self-motivation. Ford is often attributed with creating the first automobile.  In
actuality he did not build the first automobile. Rather, he created the first assembly line to build automobiles, which
made them affordable for the masses. He did this despite competition, excessive costs, and naysayers because he
had a dream that every family in America could own a car.  According to Parachin self-motivation drove Ford to
disregard the obstacles and seek creative ways to achieve his dream.  The author gave seven secrets for generating
and maintaining self-motivation.

1.  Begin with this belief: every obstacle contains an opportunity.  Strive to see good in everything

2.  Be your own best friend.  Speak affirmatively to yourself regarding your potential.

3.  Follow your dreams.  Give them time become realities; don’t give up prematurely.

4.  Live your life by the three “Ps:” persistence, patience, and perseverance.  Most great achievements come
from hard work.

5.  Visualize yourself successful.  Creating a mental picture of what you wish to accomplish heightens self

6.  Be like President Lincoln. When you slip, get back up.  On the road to becoming president Lincoln lost jobs,
lost elections and had a nervous breakdown.  However, he lived by the motto “The path was worn and
slippery.  My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way, but I recovered and said to myself,
It’s a slip not a fall.”

7.  Forgive yourself. Focusing too much on your mistakes causes a negative energy to grow in your soul, which
will suffocate creative and motivation to move on.  

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need

No lecture on motivation is complete without discussing the work of famed clinical psychologist, Abraham M. Maslow
(1908 – 1970). The psychologist saw humans as “perpetually wanting animals,” few of who are totally satisfied with
life.  Maslow devoted his career to studying creative people who were functional at high levels in society. From his
studies he developed a comprehensive view of individual motivation.  Essentially he surmised that people have an
internal need pushing them toward self-actualization and personal superiority. A humanistic psychologist, Maslow  
determined that people typically, though not always, reach this high level of "being need” after they satisfied four
deprivation needs. He described these needs in his renowned five level hierarchy, illustrated below.

First, physiological needs, which are bodily needs such as food, shelter, and sleep.

Second, safety needs, which include physical safety and feeling of being safe from both physical and emotional injury.

Third, social needs, which are essentially love and belonging needs.  

Fourth, esteem needs, which represent an individual’s demands to be seen by others and to appear to himself or
herself as a person of worth.

Fifth, self-actualization needs, which are the highest level of needs and include the needs of self-fulfillment and
personal development.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has its critics. First, that the theory has not undergone rigorous empirical testing causes
some to question its validity. Also, others question the practicality of the theory because Maslow surmised that few
people achieve self-actualization. Maslow maintained that self-actualization is an idea to strive for rather than a
concrete accomplishment. Finally, research suggests that all people do not follow this progress all the time.

Self-motivation vs. leader motivation

Dahl and Sykes stressed the importance of “creating synergy between the expectations of business and those of each
individual employee.” Toward that end, the authors advocated personal life-goal planning for employees. Presumably,
it is easy for employees with established goals to link their personal goals to those of the company. Thus, they are
more motivated to achieve company goals seeing them as an extension of their personal ones. Similarly, Baldoni as
well as leadership theorists James Macgregor Burns agree, “[leadership] is about creating conditions where followers
want to follow the leader because they have the same set of values.  Leaders must show that their outcomes are what
the followers want for themselves.”

Johnson and Rawlins argued that real motivation comes from within. The authors maintained that our level of
motivation is driven by “self-talk,” which are the spoken and internal messages we communicate to ourselves about our
feelings and attitudes toward life.  These messages can be both negative and positive. The negative messages thwart
risk taking and the positive ones provide support for accomplishing set goals.     


During the current economic downturn in which jobs are in short supply, employers are encouraged to “seek and value
high performing, emotionally intelligent talent” as Putzler opined. Further, Catlin advised employers who are facing
downsizing to retain those employees who are self-motivated. Hence, self-motivation is a required competency in
workers today because it benefits employees and employers alike. Parachin elucidated, "It is self-motivation which
transforms ‘impossible’ dreams into realities.  Likewise it is self-motivation which empowers us to act while others
hesitate, flounder and fall.  Regardless of one’s background, education and training, when a person is self-motivated
obstacles are overcome, challenges are creatively faced and discouragement is derailed."

Arguably there is no “one size fits all” technique to enhance self-motivation. This article covers several approaches. A
keyword search of the term “self motivation” on Yahoo produced a number of sites offering hypnosis programs for
enhancing one’s self-motivation. Certainly that approach is not for everyone. Also, this lecture addresses self-
motivation relative to work life. However, the discipline is necessary in other areas such as weight management and
sports. Consequently, individuals must identify and practice the technique they find most effective relative to their
desired goals and achievements.  


Baldoni, J. (2002 August). Motivation in tough times.
Executive Excellence, 19, 14.

Catlin, K. (2003 March). Downsizing Right. Executive Excellence, 20, 10.

Dahl, D. & Sykes, R. (1989 August). Life Goals= Self motivation = Business Success.

DuBrin, A. J. (2004). Applying psychology: Individual & organizational effectiveness (6th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Prentice Hall.

Goleman, D. (1997).
Emotional Intelligence: How it can matter more than IQ. New  York: Bantam Books.

Johnson P. & Rawlins, C. (1991 January). Daydreams and dialogues: Keys to motivation.
Supervisory Management,

Parachin, V. M. (2003 January). Seven secrets for self-motivation.
The American Salesman.

Pollock, T. (1999 September). Attitudes that can harm performance. Automotive  Manufacturing & Production, 111, 13.

Putzler, J. (2002 August). Tough times test character.
Executive Excellence, 19, 14.