What Motivates Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done

The Role of Procrastination, Emotions, and Success

Anxiety may cause health problems in one person, but it may be the key motivator of another.

The fear of failure may paralyze one individual and for another be fuel in the tank on the way to success.

Negative emotions propel many people to success.

Mary Lamia, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, a professor at the Wright Institute at Berkeley, and the author of numerous books. Her latest is What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions, and Success. In this book, she highlights the role of emotions and how our innate biological systems motivate us to achieve.

I recently talked with her about her considerable research and experience into the role of emotions and motivation.


Successful people often use their negative emotions to achieve their goals.


Understand Negative Emotion

Motivation. Most people talk about positive motivation, but you carefully talk about negative emotions. Why are negative emotions often overlooked or discounted in the motivational literature?

Labeling emotions as positive or negative has little to do with their value, but instead involves how they motivate us through the ways they make us feel. Negative emotions like distress, fear, anger, disgust, and shame motivate us to do something to avoid experiencing them, or they urge us to behave in ways that will relieve their effects. Although we can be motivated by anticipating the positive emotions associated with pride, such as enjoyment or excitement, often what motivates us to get something done has to do with our response to negative emotions, such as in the avoidance of shame or in an attempt to seek relief from anxiety about an uncompleted task. People who are successful in their endeavors have learned to make excellent use of the negative emotions they experience. Erroneously, my own profession has promoted the notion that only positive emotions motivate us. This is possibly a misconception based on the positive psychology movement which focuses on positive human functioning rather than mental illness, and has more to do with resilience than motivation.


“Professionally successful people are emotionally attached to their goals.” -Mary Lamia


It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Albert Einstein

Why Values and a Purpose are Vital for Leaders Today


Matthew Snider is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets, a blog to help you achieve your goals. For more tips like these, I encourage you to visit his site.

Have you worked under someone who was so assured and stood their ground that no matter what happened, he or she knew what mattered? Then you’ve probably worked with a leader who has strong, unshakeable values. It’s not about the money, recognition or power. These values that drive them are something bigger. Finding your purpose is one thing. Finding it as a leader is an entirely different subject. It’s not about emulating other successful leaders or key figures in the industry; it’s about identifying your real values in life, knowing that this gives you a definite purpose for making the tough decisions as a leader. Let’s go about finding out how these things can be so vital to being a better leader.


The Making Of A Better Leader

Making decisions is what leaders do. They get paid to make the tough calls. But what’s more important are the values of a leader. It gives the team consistency and stability. What I mean by that is this: having a set of values will give a team a direction, a company culture, and adds some meaning to the work that is being done. All these start from the top, the leader, and flows down to every level. Now every leader has their values, and they can differ from one to another. Two good leaders can have completely different values. So what exactly is a value and how does it help one become a better leader?


“Great people have great values and great ethics.” -Jeffrey Gitomer


What Are Values?

Values are what is important to us—in other words, what we value, or the thing that drives us. People will have certain core values which help shape them into who they are today. The same values can also be different for everyone. For example, if two people value love, they can show it in very different ways through their actions or vocally. It’s sad to think that even though we all have values, when it comes to working, we tend to adopt the values we were taught to follow. Unfortunately, these values can hurt us, and it’s not something we would like to associate with our real values.


The Purpose Of A Leader

Harvard Business Review states that based on the author’s understanding, less than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of individual purpose. These same leaders can tell us the mission statement of the company, but they lack the sole purpose that makes them stand out as a leader. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or told to lead a small team of three, your purpose is what makes you, you. It’s your why: why you’re working, why you want to lead the team and more. That’s the difference between leaders, and a good leader has an ultimate purpose. This is why some leaders get remembered and acknowledged long after they’re gone.


How to Find Your Purpose?

How to Manage to Make a Difference

make a difference

Make a Difference

If you’re a new manager, you may find yourself in unfamiliar territory faster than you can imagine. How do you handle the gossiping employee? Or the top performer about to jump ship? How do you develop a high-performance team?

Larry Sternberg and Kim Turnage have literally packed numerous tips, strategies, tools and techniques for managers into the pages of their new book, Managing to Make a Difference: How to Engage, Retain, & Develop Talent for Maximum Performance. I recently spoke with Larry about their new work.


“We can change the world and make it a better place.” -Nelson Mandela


Why Employee Orientation is All Wrong

Your book starts out saying that we have employee orientation all wrong. We too often start with scare tactics and explaining what will result in termination. What does this do to new employees?

Frankly, the gratuitous negativity turns people off. The new employer is building the case for termination on day one! Also, it’s just plain boring. Negative and boring are not strategies to increase engagement and positivity about starting a new job.

You might say that these kinds of statements are necessary in our litigious society. We happen to disagree with that point of view. But even if we were to agree that they are necessary, they diminish your efforts to engage and retain people.

Imagine you’re dating someone, and you start a discussion about being exclusive and moving in together. The other person replies, “I’d love to do that! But first I want to make sure you understand the reasons I might decide to end this relationship.” How would that make you feel?


Go Ahead: Get Close to Your Team

I loved your advice on getting close to people. I’ve long advocated this. What are the benefits of getting close to people at work?

When you cultivate close, positive relationships with your employees (and among your employees), every employee spends his day with people he really likes and cares about. This increases job satisfaction, engagement and morale. Teamwork improves because employees are more likely to go the extra mile for people they care about. When problems occur, employees with good relationships will resolve them more easily. A leader who has close relationships with her employees can exert more influence on them without using her power. For instance, when she asks for extra effort, they’re more likely to give it.


Leadership Tip: the closer you are to someone, the easier it is to influence that person.


Talk about the importance of setting expectations.