Applying Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Motivate yourself

Emotionally intelligent workers are self-starters. Their motivation isn’t at the mercy of circumstances or other people because they generate motivation within themselves. Because of this, they can persist at a task long after most people would have become discouraged and quit.

To stoke the fire of motivation within yourself, you need to:

  • Find meaning in your work
  • Cultivate flow

Find Meaning in Your Work

People who believe their work is meaningful usually feel more positive about it and motivated to do it than do those who see it as unimportant. A strong sense of purpose can enable you to achieve even in the face of substantial challenges.

To explore the meaning of your work in the context of your organization’s structure, mission, and goals, do the exercises in the Understanding the Meaning of Your Work Tool #8.

There are many ways to find meaning or purpose in your work. You may find it in helping others, providing means for your family, creating something—a product, an idea, a team—stimulating your mind, or learning new skills. Focus on the aspect of your work that is most meaningful to you, and try to do more of what you gives you a sense of purpose.

Cultivate Flow

There are moments in life when time seems to fly and we find ourselves completely lost in work, play, or conversation. At these times we experience a sense of mastery mingled with a surge of motivation, and we are able to achieve peak performance. We later recall these moments as some of the best of our lives. These ideal experiences, moments of what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow,” are so enjoyable that once we experience them in an activity, we are powerfully motivated to try the activity again and again.

Fortunately, we can cultivate flow in order to bring this motivation, enjoyment, and high achievement into the activities of everyday life.

To transform your ordinary experiences into flow experiences:

1. Make what you do as much like a game as possible.
2. Choose the right level of play.
3. Keep your goal in mind.
4. Focus only on the task at hand.

Make It a Game

Approach your task as a game. Spell out the game’s rules, objectives, and challenges. Nearly any task can be approached this way, and the game can be anything that will motivate you to perform better. You can be energized even in carrying out mundane responsibilities if you turn it into a game of racing the clock or trying to beat your previous personal best.

Choose the Right Level of Play

Flow is usually to be found where your skills and the level of challenge of your task are evenly matched. Too daunting a challenge will overwhelm you. Too little challenge will leave you bored and disengaged. As with any game, you will play your best and enjoy the game most if you make sure you’re playing in the right league first.

Keep Your Goal in Mind

As you perform your task, keep in mind your overriding spiritual, social, or intellectual purpose. What is the game all about? What is your purpose in playing?

Focus on the Task at Hand

Like a champion athlete, you will not achieve peak performance unless you block out the distractions and lose yourself in the game. Don’t over-think or worry about how well you’ll do—just enjoy the process of working toward your goal.