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Strategies to experience a positive difference in the new year

Creating an optimal sense of motivation for yourself in the new year can help you navigate changes to become more resilient, writes Susan Fowler.

6 min read


new year

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If you’re exhausted heading into the new year, join the crowd. Ask most people what’s to blame for their depleted energy, physically and mentally, and they point to one major category of ills: profound change.

susan fowler

This is where I ask you to depart from the crowd. Change isn’t the culprit zapping your energy — change is constant, inevitable and usually welcomed. I know that if things hadn’t changed in my life over the past 25 years, I’d be terribly disappointed. An entire generation of young people who missed their senior year of high school or college, suffered isolation, or worse, moved back to their parent’s house, then entered a world drastically different than what they’d expected might argue with my interpretation of change. I’m sure they’d scoff at the classic example about babies not only welcoming change but demanding it when they cry from dirty diapers.

What we really resist

But despite our proclamations, I don’t believe people resist change. We resist being controlled, living without meaning and having limited learning and growth opportunities. The real problem with blaming change for feeling dismal is that it relegates you to victimhood — opening the door to diminishing your three psychological needs for: 

  • Choice (victim’s stance: I’m helpless; I can’t control anything), 
  • Connection (victim’s stance: It’s everyone else’s fault, including my organization’s unethical leadership, my inept boss, my stupid relatives, the government, the left, the right…)
  • Competence (victim’s stance: I can’t deal with all the changes at work; I hate wearing a mask that always fogs up my glasses).

Human beings simply cannot experience resilience, vitality and well-being without experiencing choice, connection and competence. We’ve just lived through a perfect storm eroding the three foundational needs required for optimal motivation and thriving.

Try this if you want to move through the doom, gloom and burdensome energy of the past and generate vitality in the new year. Develop psychological sense.

Psychological sense is your emotional and cognitive ability to fulfill psychological needs and experience optimal motivation, thriving, and sustained high performance.

In my book, Master Your Motivation, I describe an empirically sound, evolutionary idea — motivation is a skill. More specifically, motivation is the skill of developing psychological sense. Equipped with the ability to create optimal motivation, you can navigate the changes and challenges the world throws at you.

3 steps to begin a robust and positive new year

  1. Take a mindful moment when your energy is flagging. Notice what your body and heart are telling you. Are you physically tired from lack of sleep, proper nutrition or exercise? Or are you psychologically depleted from a lack of choice, connection and competence? Note that when you don’t experience optimal motivation, it takes its toll physically, too! (You know what I mean if you’ve ever had to drag yourself from bed even after a good night’s sleep.)
  2. Appreciate that our collective lack of energy is our lack of skill to create choice, connection and competence for ourselves under external pressure. 
  3. Proactively create choice, connection and competence. Ask yourself three simple but profound questions to shift your energy for a goal, task or situation:
    • What choices have I made; how do I feel about my choices (why); what choices do I have?
    • Which choices deepen my connection to the people involved; how can I align with my values and a sense of purpose; will my choices contribute to the greater good and welfare of others?
    • Which choices will help me grow and learn; what skills can I gain; how will this help me demonstrate skill over time?

A story of psychological sense in action

In Rocio’s own words…

I was new to the company — less than a year in — when I had my first performance review. I had delivered more training sessions than anyone in the history of the company. I had great comments from my internal and outside clients. Yet, my boss didn’t congratulate me at all. Just the opposite: he gave me a very low review. I felt terrible, unappreciated and even bullied by his feedback. I felt so bad, I began working just so my boss would see value in me. I caught myself working for his attention and praise — motivated by external motivation. It was exhausting!

After learning the skill of motivation, I decided to shift my focus. I started being mindful of why I was doing my work and how I wanted to feel about it. I decided I wanted to work and feel good without depending on external recognition. I started to see the purpose behind the training session I was delivering (I was helping others learn and understand things more easily), and I felt good about it! I decided that any time I felt the need for external motivation, I would self-regulate by remembering how good I feel when I am mindful of the purpose behind my work.

After I made this decision, I started to enjoy my work and stopped needing or expecting external motivation. This took off so much pressure. I got more efficient in my deliveries, and people even told me I was smiling more!

Ironically, a few months after my shift in motivation, my boss started to recognize my work — even publicly. I appreciated it, but I didn’t need it.

Rocio discovered the power of psychological sense. I hope you give it a chance yourself in the new year.

Remember, when you proactively create choice, connection and competence, you are more likely to experience sustained high performance and reduced strain and fatigue. Then you will have the wherewithal to devote quality time to health, family and friends and all those dreams you’d pursue, inside and outside of work, if you only had the energy. 


Susan Fowler, CEO of Mojo Moments, is the bestselling author of “Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … And What Does: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing.” Her latest book, “Master Your Motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals,” presents an evolutionary idea: motivation is a skill. Providing real-world examples and empirical evidence, Fowler teaches you how to achieve your goals and flourish as you succeed. She is also the author of bylined articles, peer-reviewed research, and eight books, including the best-selling “Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager” with Ken Blanchard. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs. For more information and the free What’s Your MO? survey for exploring your motivational outlook, visit or

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