Individual Leadership

Make your heart sing by finding your "micro-motives"

Written by Megan Davis

3 Min Read

I think it’s safe to say that we all want to enjoy our lives. We want to feel passionate, inspired, and we want our hearts to sing. Well, guess what? You can find out just what makes your heart sing by judging others.

Yup, you read that correctly. According to social scientists Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas, the key to finding fulfillment and success at work rests on your ability to uncover your micro-motives — those super particular activities that make you feel happy. And the best way to reveal your micro-motives is to judge others. (I guess I’m in luck. I could probably make a career out of judging people.)

What is a micro-motive?

Micro-motives are the ideas and concepts that we most desire for ourselves. Those small things, like working with our hands, participating in large groups, creating order out of chaos, form our most potent micro-motives.

And when we know what we most desire (and what we absolutely don’t desire), we can define who we are and put more attention and intention on doing activities that line up with our micro-motives. Because it’s when we’re doing these activities that we find the journey more relevant and compelling.

So, how do we unearth our micro-motives? We start with other people.

Finding your micro-motives

I learn by example, so this article was an excellent read for me.

From the article: “How many times over the past week have you judged someone — a colleague, a talking head on cable TV, a stranger in the checkout line? Well, you’re going to use these unfiltered reactions to learn something about you. Your micro-motives are composed of deeply rooted feelings, which include subtle preferences, frank desires, and private longings. Your goal in playing the game of judgment is to use your instinctive reactions to others to zero in on these live wires and attempt to trace them to their source.”

According to Rose and Ogas, there are three steps to the judgment game:

  1. Become aware of the moments when you’re judging someone.
  2. Identify the feelings that emerge.
  3. Ask yourself why you’re experiencing those feelings.

Applying the three steps

When I used these steps to consider a recent reaction (judgment) I had to a woman sitting near me in a restaurant, I discovered the following:

  1. She prepared to sit down, asking the server to attend to her two dogs, and I felt myself looking at her and making a judgment. When her husband came, she immediately started talking about the dinner party they were throwing that weekend.
  2. I felt jealous that she was meeting her husband (I assume) for a late breakfast on a Wednesday morning. I only had the luxury of because I had just flown from the east coast to LA.
  3. Much later, I focused on what I would want if I had her life (or what I assumed was her life). The freedom to make my own schedule, unafraid to ask for what I want from strangers, desire to make others feel at home. So, based on that, being courageous and providing comfort are two potentially powerful motivators for me.

I can just think about this once, though. If I want to find my true micro-motives, I need to reflect much more frequently about what I see and feel when it comes to various interactions. I need to dig deeper and get as far as I can. Keep asking myself “why” until I can’t ask anymore.

After all, the judgment game isn’t really about decoding the personality and merits of another person. Instead, it means decoding what you really want and what you really enjoy doing.

Making your heart sing

The most important concept about micro-motives is that you need to own it! Don’t fear that yours isn’t something that’s generally considered a popular motive (e.g., wealth, fame, notoriety). Maybe it’s solving puzzles, or being outdoors, or being cozy. Or maybe it’s not working on teams, managing others, or following instructions.

Whatever it is, the most critical consideration remains that you need to KNOW what your micro-motives are before you can find fulfillment. And the most successful people? Well, they’re the most fulfilled.

This article was originally posted on November 15, 2018.

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