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Motivational Intelligence: Behaviour’s Engine

The enemy of motivation is not doing.

Key points

  • The beauty of MQ is that it is not only about how we motivate ourselves but also how we motivate others.
  • We can normalize many situations that we might potentially overreact to.
  • If we embrace the changes in our life, they will enhance our own new directions.

What unlocks our potential? What opens up our minds? What allows each of us to achieve and accomplish more? One’s IQ is no guarantee. One’s EQ, emotional intelligence, is no guarantee. The engine that drives our behaviour is motivational intelligence (MQ).

The beauty of MQ is that it is not only about how you motivate yourself but also how you motivate others. Research suggests we motivate others not by what we say to them but, rather, by how we think. Much like Bandura’s social learning theory, we motivate others through modeling motivated behaviour.

The Triune Model of the brain proposed by Dr. Paul McLean of Yale, with supporting research from Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford; Dr. Anders Ericsson and Dr. Yu-Hao Lee of University of Florida; and Dr. David McClelland and Dr. Hans Schroder of Harvard, among others, suggests the brain evolved in three phases.

  1. The neocortex is where IQ lives—it’s our thinking brain, which is responsible for logic, reasoning, and solving complex problems.
  2. The limbic brain is where EQ lives—it’s our feeling brain, which is responsible for our emotions.
  3. The reptilian brain is where MQ lives—it’s our survival brain, which triggers our fight (do) or flight (not do) mechanism, which is ultimately what drives/motivates our behaviour.

Success derived from MQ is multifaceted. When delineated, not in any specific order, MQ is about discovering your purpose, conquering your self-limiting beliefs and fears, a persistence and willingness to overcome adversity and discomfort, a willingness to accept and embrace change, and building your confidence.

Discovering Your Purpose

Where does one start to discover one’s purpose? Maybe look to the end instead of the beginning. Where do you want to end up? Determine your destination. Next, believe in yourself. You have the capacity to make it happen. Stay dedicated and inspired along the journey of challenges that are inevitable. Be adaptable, not rigid.

Self-Limiting Beliefs and Fears

Most self-limiting beliefs evolve from feelings of being not good enough, not worthy, or not deserving. One of the main goals of MQ is to displace these feelings of inadequacy with confidence and positivity toward the self and others. Usually, these self-limiting thoughts and feelings are conditioned through reinforcement over time. To change the negative to positive requires a new reinforcement schedule that focuses more on what you can do and less on what you cannot do.

When we continue to reinforce the negative, fear of failure may settle in and establish avoidance patterns of behaviour. Motivational intelligence is about having the confidence to not avoid issues but, rather, to approach them and overcome them. Each time we approach and do not avoid, confidence increases.

Overcoming Adversity

To deal with adversity in life is actually quite normal. We can normalize many situations that we might potentially overreact to. This is a reframing exercise and is just one example of reframing. Perhaps finding out that something does not work gets us to what may work. We have eliminated some of the multiple possibilities by finding this out early.

Positive self-talk can be very important when frustrated or tired. It is another example of being kind to yourself when you are most vulnerable. And it is OK to be vulnerable. We all are!

Accepting Change

The old will always be replaced by the new. This fact is inevitable. Change when accepted allows for adaptation. Adaptation expands who we are. Change thus becomes a vital part of all growth processes, including our own personal growth.

Change also creates new directions, which you may not have considered. Embrace the changes in your life, and they will enhance your own new directions. Change creating a new and novel necessity can be the breeding ground for new invention.

Building Your Confidence

The realization that MQ leads naturally toward more confidence has a synergistic impact. The capacity to achieve what you set out to achieve builds greater and greater confidence like a massive Lego toy. Once you are on this pathway to MQ you will not only be able to achieve more, you will also have the ability to help others do the same. Organizational performance can be super-enhanced with just a handful of individuals with high MQ. The synergy of MQ is derived from a freedom to share and collaborate skills that create growth within the organization.

Behaviour’s Engine

The research findings of Daniel Kahneman and Carol Dweck do suggest that MQ is the DNA of a growth mindset and is crucial for developing the characteristics of a great leader. After all, behaviour is about doing. Not just doing, but doing with purpose, without fear, by overcoming adversity, embracing change, and with confidence.

The enemy of motivation is not doing. Behaviour’s engine is motivational intelligence. Putting this type of intelligence to work means turning on your engine. Finding your keys to your ignition is your challenge.


Dweck. C. (2016). What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means. January 13, 2016, Harvard Business Review

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