How to Stop Your Shoulding From Making You Musty

Even my most idealistic executive coaching clients can become frustrated and angry at other people they interact with. As they passionately vent their feelings to me, I quickly hear the voice of their values, cluing me into their underlying values-system, values judgments, and expectations. Three red flag words mark a values judgment: SHOULD, OUGHT, and MUST. Changing one’s self-talk by replacing these three words can greatly reduce one’s anger and frustration. Practicing self-control allows motivationally intelligent executives to choose the most beneficial response and to avoid regrettable overreacting.

One’s values-system consists of 16 different needs which we each give different priorities and experience in different intensities.  Our values-system creates the rules we use to maintain our consistent worldview and underlying values judgments.  Unfortunately, our rules for life also can create our expectations for how other people SHOULD behave and MUST treat us. 

The Science of Motivation® teaches that we passionately believe our values-system is best and that other people will be happier if they change to our ways of doing and thinking.  That’s why we “SHOULD” all over the people we love and work with.  It’s also why we get so frustrated and angry when people violate our rules and expectations and do their own things.  

“She OUGHT to know that would tick me off!”.

“He MUST apologize for treating me that way!”

“She really SHOULD have known better!”  

Motivationally intelligent people understand their values-system and how it creates their SHOULDS, OUGHTS, and MUSTS, hot buttons.  They can learn to exchange SHOULDS with COULDS and MUSTS with WISHES.  These simple mental self-talk upgrades can effectively create more self-control and more appropriate responses to others’ behaviors.

To help keep my executive coaching clients’ SHOULDS from making them MUSTY, I start by having them complete a Reiss Motivation Profile®. This gives us scientific insights into their unique values-system. Next, I often recommend “Learning to Tell Myself the Truth,” by Dr. William Backus, Ph.d. This is an excellent workbook to improve one’s self-talk and provides practical practices for replacing one’s SHOULDS with COULDS. Working together as your accountability partner, I can help you ensure you strengthen your self-control and interpersonal effectiveness.

Could you be more effective if you stop SHOULDING on people? If so, I am happy to help you be your best at doing your good! Together we can keep you from being MUSTY!

Want to discuss what working together might look like?

Visits: 42

Why We Are Naturally Label Makers and Name Callers

Children learn very quickly to label everything in their world. It’s the human way to categorize and make sense of what is good and bad, tasty and yucky, friendly or frightening. You get the idea. Parents reward and encourage accurate labeling.

Spend any time on a playground and you will likely hear some very derogatory, demeaning, degrading, and downright mean labels being thrown around in the form of name-calling. You doodie-head grows-up to be you idiot or worse as we adults have years of experience perfecting name-calling, even if it just stays in our internal dialogue.

Perhaps we adults can benefit from accepting our natural and masterful label making tendencies and better understand what motivates us to do this. It is not a character defect. Labeling is most likely the result of our normal values-system at work.

Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D., the father of The Science of Motivation®, once said:

We are an intolerant species because we are motivated to assert our own values. We have a tendency to think that something must be wrong with people whose values are significantly different from our own.  We cannot comprehend how anybody can freely choose to pursue goals we intrinsically devalue because all of our experiences with those goals have been unpleasant.

Advocates of tolerance are almost always talking about political or racial tolerance. Except for a few personality experts and motivation analysts, there are almost no advocates for tolerating diverse personalities.

When one has a natural intense value for an extreme amount of order, for example, they think orderly people like them are normal, tidy, precise, detail-oriented, perfectionists. The orderly might naturally label someone with a very low need for order as messy, unorganized, tardy, a slob, and inconsiderate of how they treat shared space with the orderly person. The once-popular “Odd Couple,” play and TV series optimizes these values differences between Felix (orderly) and Oscar (unstructured).

The problem with our values-based labeling is that it is usually not only hurtful, but it is inaccurately based on misbeliefs and misunderstandings of why someone else behaves as they do as determined by one’s own worldview. Felix yells at Oscar for leaving his dirty dishes in the sink and for just assuming Felix will clean up after him. Oscar becomes offended that Felix is so up-tight and a clean freak that he can’t let Oscar live the way he feels most comfortable. They are both arguing and yelling in-defense of their strongly held values and their equally strongly held labeling. Here’s the takeaway…the argument is almost never really about the dirty dishes. The argument is about the value judgment and ascribed label that the dirty dishes generate.

As an executive coach, I work with my clients using the Reiss Motivation Profile® to help them accurately label and understand their individual values-system. Once we understand what matters most to us, we can better anticipate where we will naturally misjudge and mislabel others. Tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and mutual respect can result from one’s self-awareness of one’s unique values-system and natural mislabeling tendencies. When it comes to interpersonal relationships and our values as Professor Reiss used to say, “Opposites do not attract. They are highly motivated to argue in defense of their strongest values.”

Are their relationships you find very difficult to maintain or people you find it incredibly difficult to work with? Do you have a ready supply of labels to tag people with? What could become possible if you understand yourself and others more accurately? Perhaps it will result in more accurate and positive labels such as friends and teammates.

Relationships begin with your contribution to them. Learn what motivates your labels by getting your Reiss Motivation Profile®. Then we can create your ABC (Attitudes, Behaviors, and Competencies) Growth Plan together and help you to be your best at doing your good!

Visits: 17

How to Be Your Best at Doing Your Good!

It’s not easy staying an idealist in business. Whether you call yourself a social entrepreneur, conscious capitalist, b-corper, or a sustainability warrior, you are trying to build and sustain an organization that does good profitably. Doing good is good for business, but it can take a severe toll on leaders who believe they must do it all on their own. The price of failure is the loss of money and the lost benefits to society. This dual burden can easily weigh on leaders like you. Fortunately, I help idealists be their best at doing their good every day!

Many of my executive coaching clients come to me, hoping I can fix their people or processes. They are often surprised to learn that their path and fix-it strategy begins with them. Not that they need fixing, but that they need to grow into the leader and manager that their new situation requires of them. Executive coaching is about utilizing untapped potential and mastering already acquired knowledge and skills in new ways. Coaching is a highly efficient and impactful collaborative process where clients rapidly realize the benefits of professional and personal development in sustainable ways. After all, isn’t unutilized potential and ineffectively deployed talents a waste?

The foundation of a do-gooder who is excellent at doing their good is strengthening their mindset and cleaning out any misbeliefs and self-sabotaging self-talk that sparks irrational fears, doubts, and counterproductive behaviors from an executive. A coach uses powerful questions and truthful observations to allow clients to see potential blind spots and pitfalls.

My clients regularly report greater satisfaction and reduced frustrations at work and at home. They master developing and sustaining effective interpersonal relationships and alliances. Executive coaching clients who chose to work with me learn to be trustworthy, outwardly emotionally stable, demonstrably compassionate, and creators of hope. These are the high-demand qualities people look for in their leaders, according to on-going research.

“I can no longer work with my boss” continues to be the number one reason people give for changing jobs. What is undesired turnover costing your organization? What if you could quickly improve teamwork, collaboration, reduce interpersonal conflicts, and improve performance by working with me as your coach? According to recent research, the typical executive coaching client realizes a return of between $4 to $8 for every dollar invested in receiving coaching from an experienced executive coach.

Could you be better at doing your good? Take the following quick self-survey.

  1. I often feel overwhelmed by having so many things to do.
  2. I feel like I am always putting out other people’s fires and can’t focus on my plans.
  3. I constantly have to be a referee of my own people’s arguments.
  4. We lack teamwork and collaboration.
  5. My best people keep leaving.
  6. Nobody seems to care around here but me.
  7. My board wants me to be a better leader and more professional.
  8. I must be a more effective communicator.
  9. We must be more agile in our ability to change.
  10. I have got to develop my people.
  11. We have great plans and awful execution.
  12. I need to hold people more accountable.
  13. My perfectionism is getting in the way.
  14. Revenue must go up, and expenses must come down.
  15. I have got to be able to tell the story of my vision for the future better.
  16. I can’t allow myself to burnout or become discouraged and lose hope.
  17. I feel like an imposter and worry people will find out I am faking it and not making it.
  18. Our quality could be much better.
  19. I really need to delegate more.
  20. I need to develop systems and processes that can accommodate our growth goals.
  21. I need to motivate people to want to work harder.

If you can relate to any of the above statements, then there is only one more question that only you can honestly answer. Are you coachable?

If you would like to experience a free, no-obligation executive coaching session to get some clarity on a challenge or issue you are struggling with, then let’s explore what it might be like to work together. My goal is to quickly help you to be your best at doing your good! The only thing you have to lose is whatever you think is holding you back.

Visits: 29

Executive Coaching is Change Management

“The change of one simple behavior can affect other behaviors and thus change many things.” ~ Jean Baer

Coaching is Change Management. According to the world’s leading change management experts at Prosci, all change happens at the individual level, one person at a time. Executive business coaching is also an individual change process.

Change follows a process Prosci calls ADKAR®. Prosci’s ADKAR® stands for:

  • Awareness of the need for change.
  • Desire to make the change.
  • Knowledge of how to do whatever is required by the change.
  • Ability to make the change.
  • Reinforcement to stick with the change and not revert back to the old behavior.

ADKAR® is most commonly used to explain how individuals adapt to organization-wide change. It is the same process executives must each travel to benefit from coaching, which is a change process to bring about their desired changes in behaviors or thought processes.


Someone who works with a coach, must first become aware of the need to make changes. We often use 360 degree feedback from peers and employees to help identify areas and opportunities for positive change. Perhaps an annual performance review did not go as expected. Missing a promotion or job can also spark awareness for a change. Not feeling on-purpose or like any of the executive’s contributions are meaningful or significant, can reach the level of awareness of a need to make a change.


Desire is finding the internal motivation to want to make a change in one’s behaviors or thought process. Does the executive want the goal or result of the change more than the comfort and predictability of the status quo? Sometimes a situation provides a “burning platform” where one is forced to make a change, because staying in-place is no longer an option. For coaching to achieve results, a client must desire the end-goal or results enough to actually make the required changes. Coaches are skilled in helping people find the right motives and to reframe thinking to encourage clients to desire to change.


What new skills or mastery of existing skills and knowledge is required for the client to be able to make their desired change? Coaches often help clients to craft learning and development plans and can serve as safe practice partners for executives as well as provide observation and candid feedback on client’s behaviors. One cannot successfully change a behavior, if one does not know how to do the new behavior and feel confident in how well they do the new behavior.


There can be a performance gap between knowledge and ability. A coaching client may know how to do a different behavior in theory, but be incapable of execution for some valid reason. A coach can help a client determine if a barrier to change is truly a “can’t” or “not willing to” situation. Often practice and creativity taps into a client’s previously unknown capabilities and enables them to do the new behaviors.


Is the change trip worth taking for the client? Is the gain worth the pain of learning and practicing a new behavior and the inevitable shot to one’s ego and pride? A coach helps hold clients accountable for sticking with the clients’ desired changes and acknowledges progress and improvements as well as points out backsliding. Going back to the old habit, is an old and highly effective habit. Coaches accompany clients until the new habit becomes the only way to do the new thing.

Don’t Go It Alone

Adapting to a change in one’s professional life is always a struggle and often leads to discouragement and frustration due to setbacks and backsliding. A coach is your personal resource to help you get inspired to make the change and also to find the traction to make the change stick. A coach can save you time, by helping you see what you cannot see and offer feedback and encouragement for improved performance. If you desire to make a change for the better in your effectiveness as a strategic leader, I would love to help you up! Let’s talk putting about ADKAR® in-action for a change.

For more information on change management, see “Change Management: The People Side of Change,” by Jeffrey M. Hiatt and Timothy J. Creasey. Available at Amazon.

© Prosci 2018. All rights reserved. ADKAR and ADKAR terms are registered trademarks of Prosci, Inc. Used with permission.

Visits: 44

How do I motivate my team during COVID-19?

I was recently giving a virtual presentation on motivation to the members of Indy SHRM and was asked:

How do you motivate your team in this COVID-fearing-socially distanced-masked-working remotely-Zoom-weary world?

Unfortunately, you cannot motivate a team or any other person. Science has proven that motivation is a psychological construct that is uniquely intrinsic to each person.

You can make individual connections with each person and if you understand what motivates them (a Reiss Motivation Profile®️ is super valuable data) you can inspire and stimulate their personal motives.

It’s not time to motivate your team. It’s time to listen to understand each contributor and get them what they each need to fuel their own motivation! Don’t assume you know what they need. Ask them!

Frederick Herzberg, Ph.D., wrote “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” in the Harvard Business Review, Sept.-Oct. 1987 issue. Herzberg speaks to extensive research showing what “hygiene” factors can contribute to job dissatisfaction. The reduction of negative work environment hygiene factors can reduce job dissatisfaction but not increase motivation and performance. Careful consideration of COVID-induced virtual workplace hygiene factors is well worth the time investment. Here’s some areas to consider given the new-abnormal environment:

Workplace Hygiene Factors to Consider to Decrease Job Dissatisfaction

  • Company Policies
  • Supervision
  • Interpersonal contact between employees
  • Working conditions
  • Salary
  • Peer collaboration
  • Work impact on personal life
  • Impact on status
  • Sense of security

Herzberg found several factors within management’s control could increase job satisfaction and encourage a worker’s intrinsic motivation.

Workplace Factors to Consider to Increase Job Satisfaction

  • Achievement opportunities (even small wins matter)
  • Recognition
  • Job enrichment
  • Workplace responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Professional development/growth

Vertical Job Enrichment

Perhaps the new reality offers an opportunity to redefine roles in-collaboration with your workers. Herzberg offered some excellent thought starters on what he termed, “Vertical Job Loading.”

  • Removing some controls while maintaining accountability for performance.
  • Increasing the accountability for individual worker contributions and quality.
  • Allowing a worker the opportunity to complete an entire natural work unit.
  • Encouraging individual autonomy and decision-making authority to workers.
  • Increase access to information regarding company performance and progress.
  • Allow employees to try more challenging tasks.
  • Allow employees to specialize and master a specific crucial task.

As COVID protocols drag on into fall and winter, it is important to acknowledge the challenges and changes as well as the opportunities and progress made during these uncertain times. Open dialogue and consensus building are two sure ways to help your team members feel heard, appreciated, respected and valued. Give your team members each a meaningful reason to care about their contribution and then watch their motivation show up to work!

Visits: 34

How to Stop Sabotaging Your Success

Most of us struggle with an invisible insurgent character in our epic life’s adventure story.  This meddlesome character is the Saboteur.  Our Saboteur is speaking half-truths, exaggerations, and outright lies into our minds.  Saboteur’s often disguise their mental mischief by impersonating the trusted voices of respected people from our pasts.  Perhaps you think you hear an overprotective parent whispering, “you are bad,” or a judgmental teach saying, “you are not as smart as the really good kids,” or a distant cold father who sits in silence, proving you don’t deserve his attention, praise, or love because you are lazy and ”haven’t worked hard enough to be the winner.”

Once you begin to recognize the Saboteur’s voice, you have the power to evict them from living rent free in your mind.  I encourage my clients to visualize an actual character behind their Saboteur’s voice and then imagine having a powerful remote control with a big red mute button.  When you become aware of your Saboteur’s trash talking, simply press mute and get on with your journey in peace.

You are not an imposter! If you believe you are an imposter, find and mute your Saboteur.

Coaches offer counter self-espionage to help you shine the light of truth and expose your Saboteur for the fraud they are.

Let’s talk about imprisoning your Saboteur so you can be your best at doing your good!

Visits: 30

How to Change a Bad Attitude

Do you work with someone who has a “bad” attitude?

What we observe as a “bad attitude” is a RESULT of a fairly complex cognitive process. Attitudes about work such as “I don’t care about the CX score,” stem from an individual’s beliefs. “Asking one stupid question to customers does not really measure their true experience with our company,” might be an example of a belief that leads to an attitude of not caring about a CX score.

Beliefs are built to support, validate, and align with an individual’s most important values. If someone has a very weak value for curiosity for example, s/he may not be naturally motivated to understand research or data. Theoretical thinking is exhausting to people who have a very weak value for curiosity.

To change an attitude, one must find a supporting strong value to reframe a new belief to create a new attitude. Each person must have a meaningful reason to him/her to believe in a new way which results in a new attitude.

According to the Science of Motivation®, humans around the world all share 16 basic needs. The sixteen basic needs are psycho-genetic in origin and are prioritized differently by each person. These 16 basic desires, according to psychological researcher, Professor Steven Reiss, create a total of 32 opposite values in human beings.

For the example above, we all desire curiosity, but we each have a certain amount of curiosity hard-wired into us that we seek to satisfy. Someone with a strong value for curiosity is probably very intellectual and values research and understanding data. As I mentioned earlier, someone with a low value for curiosity is more “hands on” and prefers doing something to theoretical thinking. Doing versus thinking are opposite values created by the need for curiosity. Different beliefs and attitudes flow from the individual’s natural value judgments.

What is motivating your attitudes? Would you believe a Reiss Motivation Profile® can tell you?

Visits: 29

A Challenging Tale

One day Idealist witnessed a thing that ought not to be. Idealist ranted to Friend about what ought not to be for days. At night Idealist wrestled in unceasing dreams of what ought not to be. Idealist sent a message to Someone who should do something about what ought not to be, but the message was returned as undeliverable, addressee unknown.

Tired and frustrated Idealist appeared before the village elders, Chairman Apathy presided. Idealist pleaded for the elders to resolve what ought not to be. Member Indifference dozed peacefully while Member Status Quo checked the agenda for the next item. They assigned No One to research it more.

Discouraged, Idealist sought out Wisdom who lives by the Pool of Reflection. Idealist asked Wisdom to reveal who should champion and fix what ought not to be. Wisdom challenged Idealist to be brave enough to seek an answer by peering into the Pool of Reflection. In the mirrored still water, Idealist saw whom Fate had chosen to create what ought to be. Idealist said, “It must be me!”

What problem has chosen you to solve? It would be my privilege to help you get your ought to be out of your heart and head and put it to work doing profitable good for our village!

Let’s talk about a coaching plan for you to will ensure you are your best at doing your good! -Coach Andy

Visits: 33

SOO-SOO-SOO! I’m Afraid My SOODA Loop Is Broken and I’m Stuck, But I Can’t Decide!

Living the VUCA Life

Coronavirus has unexpectedly disrupted our lives.  The daily events that create our sense of normalcy have been quarantined until an unknown future date.  Our world is suddenly even more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).  We are lacking in our two keys to confidence in our decision making:

  1. How much do you know about the actual situation? What’s really happening?
  2. How accurately can you predict the outcomes of your actions in the actual situation?

OODA Loop to SOODA Loop

Col. John Boyd, USAF, developed what he termed the OODA Loop decision-making model to describe gaining clarity of thinking during the fog of war.  Boyd envisioned the decision cycle consisting of Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action.  In working with my clients, I add Sensing to Boyd’s model to make the SOODA model. 

Here’s how the SOODA model works:


We sense and feel in our gut and emotions something is about to happen, change, is different, or possible.


We observe available real-time information about the situation.


We orient ourselves to the new reality as it is presented by making sense out of our observations using our individual values-system, experiences, knowledge base, culture, biases, and beliefs.


We reach a decision as to what is our best course of action to take in the situation to gain our desired outcomes.


We act in our best interest.

We then to the beginning and sense then observe is our actions have had their desired effect.

SOODA Keeps Us In-Control

Effectively using our SOODA Loop to make decisions in VUCA situations allows us to remain in as much control as possible of our attitudes and behaviors.  It prevents us from becoming stuck or frozen in uncertainty and fear, thus missing an opportunity to make a favorable time-sensitive decision.

Stuck in SOO-SOO-SOO

Unfortunately, we often get stuck in the SOO part of the SOODA Loop. Suffering from analysis paralysis, we fail to make a timely decision. “We don’t have enough information.” “Let’s run another simulation.” “I need to review the data again.” “What if I’ve got this wrong?” are all symptoms of a potentially fatal case of the SOODA Loop virus infecting one’s thinking and making clarity and confidence nearly impossible.  One cannot afford to hyper focus on familiar or favorable indications at the expense of unfamiliar or unfavorable data.

What can you do to break free of a stuck SOO?

Don’t ignore your feelings and gut.  Take time to sort out what you are sensing and what is triggering these senses.

Rate your observations.  Are other people you respect observing the situation in the same ways you are?  Is what you are observing first-hand or from a reliable source? Are you able to observe the whole picture? How confident on a scale of 10 to 1 with 10 being rock solid, bet your life on it, are you in the accuracy of your observations?  Can you have an outsider evaluate your interpretations?

Orient toward something that makes the most sense.  Remember, the simplest explanation to what you are observing is likely the most accurate and truthful.  Who is available with expert knowledge or experience to guide you?  Ask for different sense making stories from trusted people also dealing with the situation.  What are you most certain and uncertain about in the situation? Is it possible to become more certain or is there not enough time/resources to do so?  How can you manage around the uncertainty to minimize negative impacts of the unknown or uncertain elements of the situation?  What’s the worst that can happen? What is the probability the worst will happen? How can you deal with the worst-case scenario if it does happen?

Decide on what action you can take now and then next. Making even a small decision to act can break you free from the SOO loop and moving forward. You action will have some observable outcome and allows you to begin the SOODA Loop with additional insight and experience. This can make you more confident in making your next decisions to act based on your new learning.

Act in your best interest with your best effort and consistent with your orientation and desired outcomes.

Need Help Getting Unstuck?

If you are SOO stuck, perhaps come executive coaching can help you get moving forward like it has helped other clients of mine.  I’d be happy to talk with you to see we can get you some clarity and confidence back in these VUCA times we live in.  You can contact me at [email protected] or call or text for an appointment at 317-538-3231.

“We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of the paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? Be strong and of good courage. Act for the best, hope for the best and take what comes. If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.”

William James
About the Author

Andy Dix, MS, BCC, CPT is President of AD Growth Advisers Inc. an Indianapolis, Indiana Executive Business Coaching and Training firm. Andy is a Board-Certified Executive Business Coach, Certified Performance Improvement Technologist and Change Manager.  He is a Certified Reiss Motivation Profile® Master and Certified Trainer for the Reiss Motivation Profile®. You can contact Andy at [email protected] or call/text him at 317-538-3231.

©Copyright 2020 AD Growth Advisers Inc. All rights reserved.

Visits: 29

What’s Motivating Displays of Extreme Behavior in this Crisis?

Special Guest Article By Jody Simpson, Ph.D.

[email protected]

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

As the impact of the coronavirus unfolds, people are dealing with high levels of stress, learning new ways to cope with changes in everyday life, and trying to find a new “normal.”  News accounts have described displays of extreme behaviors such as the hoarding of food, paper products, and cleaning supplies.  Some people fight over the last package of toilet paper, while others hoard cases of cleaning products which they then attempt to resell at high prices.  Psychologically, how can we understand the extreme behaviors we are witnessing during this crisis?

Prof. Steven Reiss, Ph.D.
Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D.

Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D. conducted ground-breaking research that led to the development of his “16 Basic Desires Theory of Human Motivation.”  Reiss’s theory, which has been scientifically validated by independent researchers, can explain the extremes in human behavior that occur during a crisis.  

According to Reiss, each of us is motivated by 16 basic human needs.  This is the universal in human nature.  What makes us individuals is the priority we place on each of the 16 needs.  One need, for example, is the desire for social contact.  Some individuals (e.g., extroverts) place a high value on social contact, while others (e.g., introverts) place a low value on spending time with peers.  Reiss developed a psychological test called the Reiss Motivation Profile® (RMP) to measure individual differences in how we prioritize the 16 basic desires.  The information provided by the RMP can give us insights into why people behave the way they do.

Here is a real-time example of the different ways in which people attempt to satisfy their basic desires.  During a family’s recent visit to a ski resort, the slopes unexpectedly closed on the third day of the eight-day trip, turning the vacation into a voluntary quarantine in a small condo.  Two of the family members have a strong need for physical activity, which is one of the 16 basic desires identified by Reiss’s research.  Not surprisingly, these two individuals disliked just sitting around the condo, prompting them to hike solitary trails each day.  Two other family members with a weak need for physical activity were completely content to sit on the couch while watching endless television shows.  “I can’t sit around any longer; I’m going for a walk,” said one of the hikers, when his frustration at the lack of muscle exercise peaked, to which the sedentary television watchers replied, “Okay, have fun and be safe.”

Tranquility, or the need for personal safety, is another basic desire identified by Reiss.  While confined in the condo, the family members who place a high value on this need anxiously monitored the evolving pandemic and frequently expressed approval when government officials enacted measures to flatten the curve of the virus.  Luckily for the rest of the group, one family member with a strong need for saving, another of Reiss’s basic desires, had brought extra supplies of food and paper products including that most precious of current commodities – toilet paper.  A strong need for idealism, defined by Reiss as the desire for social justice, motivated some family members to consider donating money to their hairdresser, who was likely to suffer disproportionately from the economic downturn, given her already marginal income.

The family members in this example were motivated by the natural desire to satisfy their most intense needs – to engage in behavior consistent with the values that matter most to them.  Each person’s behavior was “normal” when viewed in this light. 

Since we feel best when our needs are satisfied by our behavior, we believe that other people would be happier if they would do what we do.  Reiss coined the term “self-hugging” to refer to the tendency to think that our values – the way we prioritize the basic desires – is best, not just for us but for everyone.  He labeled as “everyday tyranny” our tendency to try to change the values of others.  We think, “If you would do what I know works, then you would be happy just like me.” 

Reiss’s theory of motivation addresses what happens when people are under stress.  According to Reiss, stressful events are likely to exacerbate an individual’s most intense needs.  A collector, for example, becomes a hoarder.  Here is how Reiss’s theory explains some of the extremes of behavior we are witnessing during the current crisis.  During times of stress:

  • An individual with a strong need for saving who typically keeps a well-stocked pantry may begin buying and hoarding excessive supplies of food and other products. 
  • A person with a weak need for honor, defined by Reiss as an expedient person who acts out of self-interest, may engage in price gouging.
  • Confrontational people (those with a strong need for vengeance on the RMP) may push ahead of someone who has cut in front of them in a checkout line.
  • An individual with a strong need for family may initiate daily communications with extended family members with whom they normally talk only on a weekly basis.
  • A person with a strong need for order, defined by Reiss as a desire for structure and stability, may become even more rigid in following daily routines.
  • Those with a strong need for idealism may respond to just about every charity’s appeal for donations and may encourage others to do the same.
  • A risk-taker (someone with a weak need for tranquility on the RMP) may completely ignore advice to engage in social distancing despite being vulnerable due to age or an underlying health condition.
  • An individual with a strong need for understanding (Reiss’s curiosity motive) may spend many hours analyzing the pandemic.
  • A person with a weak need for physical activity may become even more sedentary.

Our tendencies to self-hug and to engage in everyday tyranny lead to conflicts based on differences in values.  Reiss emphasized the importance of understanding that our values may be different from those of others.  He also encouraged tolerance, and hopefully acceptance, of people whose values differ from our own.  This may be particularly important during times of stress.         

The extreme behaviors on display during the current crisis are not only understandable but also predictable.  As usual, people are attempting to satisfy their most important desires.  Due to the stress caused by the pandemic, the ways in which they do this may be more extreme.

For more information about human motivation, read Steven Reiss’s book, Who Am I: The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personalities.

© Copyright 2020.  Jody Simpson, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Visits: 47