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The Motivational Triad Ep:046


The Motivational Triad Ep:046

Hey Friends, How are you? I’m so glad you’re here and welcome to my world.

Today we’re talking about The Motivational Triad. This theory was originally put forward by Dr. Douglas J. Lisle and Dr. Alan Goldhamer. I think it was in 2007

Before we dive in – I wanted to share a little something you probably don’t know about me….because well why not. You’re here listening and I think it’s a good time for us to get to know each other a little bit better. You know how this works “coach goes first”.  

So here goes, I’m a huge introvert. I know that might seem strange because here I am speaking to you each week, and you might have seen me on social media or one of my videos. And none of that matters, because being an introvert isn’t about being shy or outgoing. It’s about how we recharge our batteries. I love people and I love my clients and I still need quiet time to recharge after lots of conversation and coaching. 

I usually recharge by going to bed early or walking my dog Tofino out in the farmlands around my house. Plus, I have a morning routine where I meditate, journal and do a combination of EFT tapping and visualization before my day starts.…. I’m curious to know more about you too. You can always DM me @candymotzek or click through to the episode notes and leave a comment on this post.

So now on to today’s topic. The Motivational Triad It’s a concept I learned, and I share with all my clients and because it’s so helpful and I’m sharing it with you too.

Of course, I use this for myself too. When I’m procrastinating or just not keeping my word to myself this concept reminds me of what’s going on

What is the motivational triad?

It’s a theory that says we have three preferred methods of doing things

It’s a triad so there are three parts – makes sense right?

 As humans we: 

  1. Seek pleasure at the moment. 
  2. Avoid pain and discomfort.
  3. Conserve energy.

1. Seek pleasure at the moment. 

This is about seeking pleasure at the moment. It’s the immediate gratification of junk food that’s laced with sugar and salt vs the long-term satisfaction and vitality and health of healthy eating.

2. Avoid pain and discomfort.

Pain or discomfort means something is wrong and we want to stop or avoid this. Consider when you want to avoid burning yourself on a campfire but what about the discomfort of learning something new for the first time.

3. Conserve energy

Always take the easiest road. Do what’s easy. It’s the easy button. Instead of burning energy, learning and working harder to improve your performance.

How did it get here?

It’s a product of evolution to ensure survival. so it’s located in a more primitive area of our brain and physiology.

Consider what life was like in the early days of humans.

1. Pleasure was not an everyday occurrence. There was very little pleasure, right? Who knows what we ate, roots and shoots, and meat. Anything we could get our hands on that gave us energy. So if we had something yummy 

- we enjoyed anything we could at that moment because it was probably going to be gone soon. We craved that dopamine hit right?

2. Pain and discomfort spelt danger. Of course, we wanted to avoid those who wanted to be chased by a lion, fall off a cliff or get burned by a cooking fire. It meant there was a threat to our survival.

3. Of course we wanted to conserve energy. There was no fridge or grocery stores. If we burned more energy than we could consume through whatever food sources we had it might mean death. This drive sparked tools….to make it easier to cut wood, skin animals, fish, build things….

Why do we experience it? What purpose does it serve?

At the heart of it, we evolved to keep ourselves alive as a species. Our bodies and brains evolved to survive. The motivational triad eventually developed and grew to support us in survival in the world thousands of years ago.

We will always be motivated to do things that won’t hurt us, feels good and is easy.

This is how our ancestors survived back then. They were motivated to hunt, have sex and seek warm shelter by the desire for immediate gratification. We stayed alert and avoided discomfort to avoid danger. We didn’t go to the gym to burn energy and stay in shape. We created tools to make our life easier and we conserved our energy.

The motivational triad was key in our survival. 

Here’s the problem with the motivational triad today.

It’s outdated for most of our needs.

It was a good thing then but it’s mostly redundant now. 

It helped us survive then…but life is different for us. 

Yet here we are still living by the motivational triad.

Think about it. 

If we only satisfied our need for immediate pleasure – we’d never exercise, we’d be eating all the packaged and unhealthy high fructose sugar foods because they taste good. We’d sit on the couch and watch Netflix because it’s easy, doesn’t take any energy and is fun. We’d buy anything we want when we want it, who cares if our credit cards are maxed out? We’d never go to school and learn anything because it takes energy and might be uncomfortable. We’d rarely try a new experience, or grow or reach a goal because it’s not easy, or fun every moment, plus it takes energy.

Do you see what I mean?

Most of our areas of growth learning something new, striving to reach a goal are directly in conflict with that motivational triad.

So is it any wonder your motivation drops when you’re mid-way through a project and you’ve run into some hurdles? It’s hard and it feels uncomfortable

Doesn’t it make sense now, you decide to lose weight and yet the smell of grease and salt is so tempting as you drive by McDonald's and the French Fries tempt you. The potential for quick and easy pleasure is hard to resist.

So what do you do?

How to take back control and challenge the triad

As time passed, another part of our biology was added to the mix. It also evolved to help us. it’s our logical brain. The pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that allows us to think about what we’re doing, override the more primitive instincts and plan, commit, decide what would serve us best.

This allows us to choose, to decide what we will and won’t do. But it’s not always easy Our primitive motivational triad still wants what it wants.

But we don’t have to automatically obey it.

You can 

Decide ahead of time what you want to do

Learn to keep your word to yourself


So instead of giving in to seeking pleasure at the moment. We can choose our long-term satisfaction. We can delay gratification. Instead of eating junk food at the moment, we think about the pleasure of eating nourishing food and improving our health.

Instead of automatically avoiding pain and discomfort. We can invite risks. Realize that most of the pain and discomfort we might experience is not a real danger, our primitive brain just thinks it is. So we can reassure our inner child and physical body and learn to welcome discomfort because it means we’re growing. 

Instead of always pushing the easy button and conserving energy. Learn new things. Choose to expend more energy so you can create your desires. Our brain is one of the biggest consumers of energy. Thinking takes energy. The brain can rewire itself and create completely new habits, behaviours and results. Mindset work and focus on our emotions. Thinking about our thinking and beliefs and then consciously deciding if they support us or if they are just old programming, running on auto-pilot. 

So that’s it for today. I’ve explained the motivational triad, our tendency to seek immediate gratification, avoid discomfort and minimize energy and I’ve given you some ways to override the motivational triad so you can grow into the next version of yourself. You 2.0!

Hey, If you’re listening to these episodes, I can help you. Maybe you want to be a coach or you’re new and you’re not quite sure where to start or exactly what to do next. You might be feeling overwhelmed stuck or confused about how to start getting your first (or your next) clients. If you’re thinking of hiring a coach, we should chat. Let’s see if it’s time for us to work together.

There’s a link in the episode notes about how to schedule a consult with me. I’d love to hear from you.

Oh, and one more thing before you leave! I want to tell you about a gift I offer to all my listeners. It’s my free resource library, and it’s filled with content I created to help you grow and become a coach. I call it The Coaches Online Business Academy and here’s how it works. 

Sign up for your free account and you get immediate access to all my free resources and yeah there’s a lot of them, 

All you have to do is go to the episode description or the show notes and click on the link to sign up today. And that’s it.

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Correction: This episode refers to "The Model." I'd like to rectify any errors or omissions by giving proper attribution and credit to the originators, Dr. Albert Ellis, who formulated REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), and Dr. Aaron Beck, who incorporated it into CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). "The Model" and references to CTFAR should be more accurately referred to as "The CBT Model." CBT is a widely recognized and effective approach that helps individuals understand how their thought processes impact their daily lives.

1 comment

  • Ginger Bolick

    Hello administrator, You always provide clear explanations and step-by-step instructions.

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