Motivational Triad

When it comes to practicing law, our minds and our internal conversations will be our greatest assets. It won’t be the accolades and background that make or break your practice. It all comes down to your relationship with yourself and the internal discussions no one hears but you. Given this, it seems that the greatest tool we must understand and hone is that magical mind of ours. Specifically, why is it that our mind sometimes goes rogue and makes it seemingly impossible to move forward?

Our mind will analyze the data before us, we must decide what facts are unimportant and focus on the primary issues to maximize our efficiency. At the same time we must manage our emotional impulses associated with stress.

Practicing law is grueling. It challenges our self-worth, our values, and our ability to honor commitments both to ourselves and our clients but also to everyone around us. It is an emotional and mental boot camp of careers of sorts–it even comes with those fun “drill sergeant” type characters who seem to relish in screaming at you letting you know how pathetic you are.

Surviving these challenges not only requires a good amount of grit but a simple understanding of our basic impulses and how those impulses interact with our brains can be a complete game changer.

We are all familiar with “fight or flight” concepts but many of us are not attuned to our basic, biological instincts: the motivational triad. According to the motivational triad, we are wired to prioritize the following:

Seek pleasure.

Avoid pain.

Maintain efficiency.

Within the realm of a law firm environment, the triad can be found in the following tendencies:

Try every way imaginable to squeeze a compliment out of the difficult partner (seek pleasure) even if it means being on call at all hours of every day

Do not stand up for myself when I am being thrown under the bus to the client by a partner that dropped the ball (avoid pain) because I don’t want to get his wrath

Stay at the firm that I hate because this is what I know and I don’t want to rock the boat (maintain efficiency)

Understanding our basic instincts will help you sift through the BS your brain offers you at times. When you desperately want to leave your job and your brain offers you 1,000,000 reasons why that’s a terrible idea, we can recognize that your brain is responding as it was designed. It is trying to keep you safe. It is trying to keep you in the cave, lest you be eaten by cannibal litigators.

When you want to engage leadership in discussions about your work environment but you decide that it won’t be worth it and won’t make a difference. Those. Thoughts. Are. NOT. True. Those are biologically driven responses. Fear-driven, flight responses. Your brain is trying to keep you safe. On the hamster wheel.

When you are contemplating doing something uncomfortable, your brain will flood itself with all sorts of reasons not to act. They will seem reasonable. They will seem perfectly logical. But we mustn’t be persuaded by these biological responses. In those moments we foreclose our own innate knowing. We put blinders on to the other possibilities. Our brains get to work compiling evidence to support those biological responses and will ignore any evidence to the contrary.

Knowing this will allow you to recognize those thoughts just as they are: thoughts. They are not facts. They are not truths. They are not more important than any other thought. They alone are not reasons to act or not act.

In a world where our brains are going to fight us to keep us safe and cozy in the cave, we must become practiced at asking the right questions and evaluating all the options. We cannot allow our motivational triad to push us to act from fear. To seek safety and avoid challenges.

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of the work I do with my clients supports them to examine their beliefs and the source of those beliefs. We analyze beliefs and thoughts to ensure that in anything that we do, or don’t do, we aren’t acting from a place of fear and safety-seeking unless that is our CONSCIOUS decision. I love helping my clients observe the motivational triad at work in their lives, then dismantle it! Sign up today, to start your own journey and see where you biological brain is holding you back.


Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

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