Life Changes

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Heart Before Head: The Legacy of Steve Jobs

How do you find your deep autonomous motivation to fuel your life?

This blog is co-authored with Michael V. Pantalon, Ph.D.

For quite a time we will mourn our collective loss of Steve Jobs as a visionary who transformed our interaction with technology from a rather boring and cerebral, task-focused mindset to a rich emotional experience which is fun, sexy and stylish. His greater legacy is what was behind the vision, which hopefully will never fade. It has more to do with why than how he transformed how we relate to technological devices.

Jobs' passion was for (in his own words) what was truly important, what he was passionate about, and what his heart wanted to do: this is the real magic behind the magical things he accomplished. He taught us that diving down to uncover the deepest whys, as the motivational fire powering our life's work, leads to transformational results.

Contrast that with the motivation for work adopted by many leaders, hyper-focused on short-term bottom lines, not heartfelt, lifelong passion for their products and services and how they will make the world a better place. That's why Jobs stands above many leaders today, whose legacies will not deliver such an outpouring of love and affection upon their deaths. And in the end, Jobs' "follow your heart" mantra led to enormous financial success.

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We are often advised, "Start with the end in mind" so that you make sure you get there. The limitation of this advice is that even though you may sometimes get there, or further than you would have without the end in mind, on arrival you may discover that it is not where you WANT to be. The reasons that drove you to get there may not be based upon what is most important to you, grounded in heartfelt passion.

The deeper "whys" are based upon what we call autonomous motivation, motivating you because you love to do it in the present moment, and/or you treasure the longer term higher purpose, the vision that it will deliver in the future. Decades of robust scientific research on self-determination theory by Ed Deci and Rich Ryan at the University of Rochester, have proven that the type of motivation that is durable and predicts success comes from within, emerging from our life force. Autonomy is our biological destiny, to follow the desire to march to our own drummer. We have also learned that external motivation (e.g., money, grades, accolades, market share) is unstable and unreliable as both a force for changing the world and a source of deep life satisfaction. (See www.danpink.com.)

Outside the business world, in medicine and education the tide is turning away from external motivation (doctor or teacher tells you what to do) and moving toward autonomous motivation (doctor or teacher helps you discover your own reasons), and the results are extremely positive (sirkenrobinson, mindsetonline, michaelpantalon).

When doctors and teachers spend just a little time asking patients and students to explore and share their personal reasons for why they want to do something (e.g., exercise regularly or study harder), the outcomes are far better than the alternative (i.e., teachers and doctors directly telling them what their reasons for being healthier or for studying harder should be). As Jobs taught us, your best motivation is about what lights YOU up, what makes your eyes shine or sparkle.

So how do you find your deep autonomous motivation to fuel your life? Here are some inspiring questions based upon words of wisdom from Steve Jobs:

Jobs: "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

You: What do my inner-voice and heart want most for me to do with my life?

Jobs: "Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference."

You: If I trusted that eventually the dots will connect when I follow my heart, what would be my vision and what would I do next?

Jobs: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life."

You: What big choices would I make if I only had a short while left to live?

This blog is co-authored with Michael V. Pantalon, Ph.D., Yale Psychologist, Motivation Expert, Executive Coach & Author of Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything--Fast (Little, Brown & Co., May, 2011)

Margaret Moore is the co-director of the McLean/Harvard Medical School Institute of Coaching.

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