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  • Writer's pictureRobert Norton

Disrupting Intensity

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

I have the kind of clients who are going places. Some are trying to figure out where to take their career next. Others are working to make a more significant impact where they are. Regardless, these are impressive folks: capable, creative, and driven.

Yet, often, my clients come to coaching sessions beating themselves up about their inconsistent motivation.

When they do, I share a graphic I first encountered in a workshop on resiliency. It plots our emotional states across two dimensions: energy (high or low) and mood (positive or negative).

High strivers tend to toggle between the top two zones, sometimes thriving in the ideal performance state and sometimes white-knuckling it through fight or flight. When they spend too much time in the high-energy zones, the roller coaster of winning and worrying will tip them into burnout.

In the long run, it is more effective to disrupt intense patterns intentionally, periodically shifting into low-energy activities to generate renewal.

The tricky bit is to anticipate the need to renew before you get spun up or worn out. Over time, I've identified a few of my warning signs:

Top Signs I’m Overdue for Renewal

  • I drive my daughter halfway to school before remembering I’m supposed to be heading to ballet.

  • I self-soothe by playing calendar Tetris with my blocked time.

  • I pick up my phone three times for every one email response I write.

  • I refresh the worst of social media rather than pick up the best of books.

  • I say, “I just gotta finish this one thing…” (for two more hours).

  • I misplace my phone, my purse, and my sense of humor.

Inconsistent motivation is a perfectly normal function of the ebb and flow of energy and mood. Putting additional pressure on yourself to power through can make it worse. So next time, try mixing it up and downshift into renewal instead.


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