Are you motivated to reach your goals and dreams? If you’re not, you might want to reevaluate what you’re working towards. The best dreams could inspire you and be filled with purpose, passion, and a sense of possibility. Might be something to consider if your dreams are making you feel anxious, stuck, or just plan blah.
Ryan Quinn joins me on the podcast this week to discuss how we can find intrinsic motivation and a sense of hope by finding and focusing on our purpose. He shares some great insight on subtle changes we can make in our mindset that will lead to inspiration and concrete action. We also talk about how purpose and virtues can be used to improve leadership and the benefits of positive leadership.
If you want to learn how you can get out of your comfort zone, envision new opportunities for yourself, and create an action plan to reach your dreams and goals, listen in!
About Ryan Quinn:
Ryan Quinn is the Academic Director of the Project on Positive Leadership at the University of Louisville, and a professor in the Management and Entrepreneurship department of the college of business. He teaches and consults on the topics of leadership and change management, and researches topics such as courage, learning, flow, and communication.
To learn more, connect with Ryan on LinkedIn.
Mentioned In This Episode:
- The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz
- Project on Positive Leadership on LinkedIn
- Wellness Webinar
- Expert in Hope
people, virtues, hope, leadership, situation, question, courage, problem, positive, burnout, episodes, person, traits, purpose, truisms, optimism, ryan, positive psychology, intrinsic motivation, guests
Lindsay Recknell, Ryan Quinn
Lindsay Recknell 00:03
Hello, and welcome to season 10 of the hope motivates action podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Recknell. And workplace mental health professional speaker podcaster, and an expert in hope. Bringing you these episodes with these incredible guests is my absolute favorite. I am so grateful for the privilege to share stories of transformation, and to help you move through your own transformation with our one on one work together. And with the help of the professionals who come on the show, the signs of hope and positive psychology has had such a huge impact on me and my work. So I love that I also get to share knowledge, research and stories from the evidence based science as well. It is my sincere wish that you hear something that resonates with you in these episodes, that you feel that contagious power of hope, and you are motivated to take action over what you can control all towards creating a future better than today. I have such a passion for this work. And I love connecting with my clients, with you, my listeners and with the guests on this show to help create transformation.
Lindsay Recknell 00:59
I had a real connection with this week’s guest Ryan Quinn. Ryan is the Academic Director of the project on positive leadership at the University of Louisville and a professor in the management and entrepreneurship department of the College of Business. He teaches and consults on the topics of leadership and change management and researches topics such as courage, learning, flow and communication. We geek out on positive psychology values versus virtues, and of course, the signs of hope. It’s a really fun conversation. So let’s get to it. Hello, Ryan, welcome to the show.
Ryan Quinn 01:30
Thank you, I’m glad to be here.
Lindsay Recknell 01:32
I’m super glad that you are here, we had the best kind of pre conversation and I’m very excited to continue that conversation here on the podcast.
Ryan Quinn 01:41
Me too. This is gonna be fun.
Lindsay Recknell 01:43
So I will start the same way I started all of these episodes. And that will be to ask you to share your story with us of how you use hope to motivate action in your life.
Ryan Quinn 01:54
All right, well, I’m gonna start answering that question by giving credit to someone else if that’s okay, absolutely. So there’s a book that I think is a pretty strong seller, if not a best seller, but that has informed some of my thinking on this. And it was written by Robert Fritz, and it’s called the road less traveled, or sorry, no, that’s Robert Frost, Robert Fritz wrote the path of least resistance sorry, off to a great start. But I anyway, the idea of his book is something that, you know, we’ve included in our own book, as well as that the idea of getting out of our comfort zone requires us to focus on purpose. And he has this beautiful question that he presents in his book, and it’s what result do I want to create? And his argument is that most people, especially managers, think they’re purpose centered when they’re not. And the reason they think they’re purpose centered is because they have goals, and they try to solve problems. But he actually and he’s a little more strong on his opinion about this than I am. But he’s kind of anti problem, and thinks that the very notion of problems is a bad idea. I wouldn’t go quite so far as that but and you can read his book if you want to see all of his arguments that for yourself, but his argument is basically that problems come in two ways. Either somebody hands a problem to us, like my boss says, Hey, go figure this out, we got to get this done, or something goes wrong. And we try to get back to the status quo the way it was before. And he argues that as a result, most people don’t ask what results we want to do I want to create, they ask, How do I get what I want. And so they assume that the outcome is already known, and try to figure out how to accomplish the already given outcome either because somebody gave it to them or because of the problem that was created. And they want to get back to the way things were before. The thing is, if there’s a problem, or a some situation that’s been created, that we don’t like, that wasn’t under our control, than getting back to the way things were before may not be a productive or a useful way to handle things. And it’s certainly not a creative way. And so if I stop and ask what I should do, instead of how I should do it, then it changes our whole frame. And in fact, he argues that we should be specifically ambitious.
Ryan Quinn 04:34
Sorry, no, this is a long winded answer, but that he basically the first thing is by focusing on what instead of how we change our questionnaire, he says what results we’re focused on on an outcome. But then there’s two other keywords in that question, what is the word want? If it’s not intrinsically motivated, if it’s not something that I want of my own volition that I would choose to do, then it’s not a purpose and So my boss may say, you know, go figure this out and get it done for me. And if that’s not something that I would have chosen to do on my own anyways, I don’t have a purpose, I may have a goal, but it’s an externally directed goal. And then finally, the last part is create. And the idea is, I can just achieve goals that other people created for me, or I can achieve goals of getting back to the way things were but to be truly creative means to envision new possibilities and new realities and new exciting opportunities. And so, one of the ways hope motivates action now I’ll bring it back to your question is that when I asked myself that question, What results do I want to create in this situation, then one of the things that happens is that I come up with goals that I’m excited to pursue, and that I really want to see happen. And so I’m full of hope, and I’m motivated to do what I want to do. And so I do this all the time, I do it with like, for example, raising my children, you know, and there’ll be some issue that they have that creates a conflict. And instead, you know, and I’ll want to solve the conflict, and instead, I’ll ask, What results do I want to create, and I’ll focus on, you know, how I want to raise my kids and what kind of person I want them to be. And that changes my whole approach to dealing with it or at work, you know, there’ll be somebody who has a conflict and or a problem that they bring to me. And I’ll instead come back with something more ambitious and exciting and say, Well, what if we accomplish this instead? And a lot of times, not only does that make me more excited, but it even dissolves some of the problems so that it’s not about problem solving. It’s about pursuing entirely new and exciting things, when I do it. And so for me, that question brings me hope and motivates action.
Lindsay Recknell 06:52
Go, oh, so good. Yes, it feels opportunistic. Yeah, well, and so my definition of hope is that the future will be better than today by taking action over the things we can control. And your question really speaks to that definition. Because it’s got agency in it. It’s, you know, that’s the the want piece, you know, what, what intrinsically motivates me? What, you know, what, what kind of agency do I have over it? And then the creation piece implies also kind of overcoming barriers and looking for those opportunities, and the expansive possibility of that.
Ryan Quinn 07:40
Absolutely. In fact, it’s funny, you mentioned the word agency, because in some of the research that examines the effect of, of hope on outcomes, such as, you know, life satisfaction, or productivity at work or things like that, they’ve actually studied and compared the difference between hope and optimism. And for at least some scholars, the difference in the definition between hope and optimism is they define hope as a agentic. Optimism is the expectation that things might go better, but they might go better having nothing to do with me. Whereas they find hope in terms of an agency that it’s What can I do to make this situation better? And that explains different things than optimism does?
Lindsay Recknell 08:25
Yeah. Yeah. I couldn’t be more aligned with you there. I have a quote that says hope without action is just a wish. If you want to win the lotto, you can’t just wish to win the lotto. You actually have to buy a ticket.
Ryan Quinn 08:40
Yeah, we use this stuff I learned from my colleague, Jim Clawson at Darden, he used to always write on students exams, that hope is not a strategy. Because so often, when students would write their answers of how they would address a particular case study, they would, you know, they’d write some things that they had learned. And then they say, I hope that this works out and he’s like, don’t tell me what you hope works out. Tell me what your strategy is.
Lindsay Recknell 09:05
Yeah, tell me what actions you’re gonna take towards that. That’s amazing. So what do you know so much about hope?
Ryan Quinn 09:12
Why do I know so I don’t know. There’s a lot of people who know more about hope than me, but I am an organizational behavior professor. And I focused my PhD studies and also much of my research, probably all of my research since I got my PhD on what you would call positive organizational scholarship. So I got my PhD at the University of Michigan. And I started it in 1997. And that was about the time when Marty Seligman was kicking off the positive psychology movement in psychology. And around that same time, people at the University of Michigan were trying to make similar changes and so they were starting to talk about it. And then in 2001, they launched the first conference on positive organizational scholarship. And I was a doctoral student, and they asked me to help manage the logistics of the first conference. And so I started getting into all of those kinds of questions that they talk about in positive organizational scholarship, everything from, you know, thriving in work and pursuing purpose and positive leadership and how those questions move forward. My own research has focused my dissertation research was on the topic of flow, that notion of high performance experience when you’re in the zone, and I looked at nuclear scientists and engineers who, what their experience with flow was, and what the causes and consequences were. And then since then, I’ve studied topics such as learning and courage and how virtues matter in leadership. And so that’s just kind of been my, my approach to scholarship throughout my entire career.
Lindsay Recknell 11:07
So it’s so so neat, because it’s the application of positive psychology and in organizations, I think, yeah, I mean, you’ve heard me say, and people have heard me say all the time, I think hope has a PR problem. You know, this work that we do in, in positive psychology is slowly but surely gaining traction as an actual practical way to go about the world to bring about thriving and to bring about, you know, positive organizational change and, and really, positively influential leadership. But I think it’s taken a long time because of the, I don’t know, is it the stigma around the positivity of it the, you know, perceived, light and fluffy, cosmic woo-woo of it?
Ryan Quinn 11:57
That’s a good question. And I don’t know if I can give all accurate answers, I can only give my experience and hypotheses about it. And I think the hypothesis that you just gave is a legitimate one. In fact, as you asked it, it reminded me I was interviewed on another podcast not too long ago. And I would be at the University of Louisville, I run, I help run the project on positive leadership. And so the person who was interviewing me kind of, you know, asked was a little bit skeptical about the idea of positive leadership, and is it just Pollyanna ish and whatever else? And so as they asked me about it, I first explained to you Well, my definition of positive leadership is that it is a social influence process. And the reason why that first part of the definition is important is because if I try to lead and no one follows, and there’s no leadership, so leadership is a relational phenomenon. But then I argue that leadership is episodic, and it involves so you iterate episodes of leading or following or managing or other types of, of social influence. And that when you lead, it begins with exhibiting at least one virtue with more excellence than you would have if you would just conform to the social norms or normal behavior for our situation.
Ryan Quinn 13:24
And so, the reason why I’m mentioning this in regards to your question, is that virtues, which are standards of moral excellence, such as courage, or compassion, or honesty, and so forth, that virtues often if not always, don’t make sense, unless there’s some kind of negative experience or opposition involved. So for example, compassion is an empathic response to suffering. There is no such thing as compassion if there’s no suffering, or courage is a constructive response to risk or duress or danger. And so there’s no courage if there’s no risk or duress or danger. And so if we’re really if positive leadership or positive organizational experiences in generally are grounded in some way, in virtues like these, then they’re the kind of things we only accomplish with work. And so even actually, if we go back to, you know, the idea of of positivity being about like optimism and positive emotion, well, optimism itself has no meaning. If you’re not if there’s not something that you in order to be optimistic that things will get better. You have to believe that there’s something that’s not ideal or maybe even bad now. And so as a result, you know, a lot of times when people hear positive they actually exclude the negative that is actually implicit in the word positive and to understand Positive, you can’t understand it without understanding negative. And so people one thing that happens to your point is people simplify what positive means. And I would say even oversimplify. And as a result, there’s a PR problem. So that’s definitely part of it. And I like talking about virtues, because virtues are just values that have moral content to them. But I like that, because that makes it that that brings in that more rich content. Now the problem is, is people even, will take virtues like hope or courage or, you know, whatever else, and they will, they will turn them into truisms.
Ryan Quinn 15:48
And so Oh, of course, you should be honest, of course, you should be kind. In fact, there’s actually psychological research on that that not only provides evidence that people treat virtues, like truisms, but they also it also shows that people are more likely to live the virtues that they believe in, if they’ve actually taken the time to figure out why they should believe in them and why it matters and what benefits they’re going to get out of practicing virtues in a given situation. So I feel like a lot of my work in the project on positive leadership is trying to make virtues concrete, instead of abstract and truisms. And so we spend a lot of time like helping people think through what does courage look like in this situation? What does hope really look like in this situation? What would it take for you to experience it? What are the questions, you’d have to ask yourself? What are the actions you’d have to take? And just constantly that ever never ending push towards concreteness, which may be another hypothesis to answer your question there about why it hasn’t taken on? One reason is because people live in truisms. And so they don’t, they don’t ever actually apply it. In fact, I was talking to some people about this earlier today. A lot of times, if you go into organizations, one thing that people will get is their annual 360 degree feedback where people tell them, you know, what they did well, and what they did poorly, huge problem with feedback is people don’t give details and they’re not specific. They just say, oh, this person was x, or this person was y. So they don’t know what to change. And then when they use it, they often will treat virtues or values like platitudes, like this person should be more direct with somebody or should be more considerate of the people around them. Well, that’s fine. But that’s still abstract. So what exactly does that mean? And how do you execute on that? And so that’s also you know, a lot of times what happens when people do these assessments, so in the world of HR, and in psychology, and psychology, in general, people love assessments, and all the times they do these assessments. And then they come out and they say, Well, I’m, you know, I have these strengths, or I have this personality profile, or I have whatever it is. And I’m like, so what, tell me what you’re going to do with that. Because you know, that you may feel like that has enlightened you in some way. But the Enlightenment is pretty limited. If it don’t, you don’t know what you’re going to do with it.
Lindsay Recknell 18:12
And how it’s going to relate to the people around you.
Ryan Quinn 18:15
And Exactly, yeah. Perfect prevents the movement from going on is because actually, I would even say I take that one step further, is that one of the things I’m always pushing on, and I probably annoy people with it, but I don’t like traits, like when people say, Oh, I’m extroverted, or oh, I’m courageous, or oh, I’m bad at that, or, you know, whatever it is. One of the things that I’m always pushing on is to focus on actions and states and episodes. Because I think people just kind of move into a fixed mindset whenever we talk about traits, and they don’t think about like, what are the concrete action oriented, meaningful episode things we can do to actually change things?
Lindsay Recknell 19:06
I’m a bit flabbergasted here. Oh, there’s so much what you just said there because it’s, there’s so much going around in my mind around it listen, even just the traits piece right there. Because people often say, Well, that is that’s just who I am. That’s, you know, that’s how I operate. Or it’s not. It’s just how you’re operating in this moment in this season, in this episode, to use your language. And to encourage people to embrace that growth mindset of what does the next season look like for me? What does How can I respond in the next episode to this situation? That feels very hopeful as well.
Ryan Quinn 19:47
Can I tell you have a story about that very thing?
Lindsay Recknell 19:50
Ryan Quinn 19:51
So this one actually is about my dad, who we talked about before who’s also a professor and he was planning a he was designed In an executive education course with a colleague of his, and as they were designing the course, they came to one session that they were supposed to teach. And I don’t remember if it was something like the finances of change, or the the legal aspects of change or something like that. And his colleagues said, you’re going to have to teach that I can’t. And he said, why is that? And he says, because the finances of change is a hugely detailed thing, and I am not a detail person or big picture person. Now, if you had asked his wife, should you let this guy do the detail? She would have said, no, please keep him away from all details, you know, no matter what. And if you had asked his administrative assistants, you could say please don’t let him touch the details. Like he’ll destroy everything if you’re interested detail. So what he was saying was accepted as universal truth by most people you would talk to, right? Like, he’s a big pitch, and he was great at the big picture. He was like a futurist and an innovator. And, you know, so he really was great at the big picture stuff. However, my father, as he told me, the story later, basically said, when he said that I said to him, now come on, I have seen you compose music. And when you compose music, there is not a more detail oriented person on the face of this earth. And when he said that there’s this kind of pregnant pause. And then finally, the response was, I hate it when you do that. I love that story. Because even though he is good at at the big picture, and in a lot of things had historically messed up the detailed kind of aspects of life. The fact is, is he was perfectly capable of it. And he had turned it into a crutch to get out of doing things he didn’t want to do.
Ryan Quinn 21:51
And, sorry, we just say, reinforced by those around him, that validation that he couldn’t do it. And what was using to do that he was using trait labels. I’m not a detailed person, I’m a big picture person, right? And so I’ve seen this so many times in so many ways that people do that either to deliberately limit themselves or deliberately limit others, or to sometimes unintentionally and unconsciously limit themselves or others.
Lindsay Recknell 22:23
And is there something to be said for purpose in that? So if I think about this gentleman, and he’s, you know, a music composer that feels very purposeful. So do you think he was, had developed a skill in detailed thinking because he felt so purposeful about that particular endeavor?
Ryan Quinn 22:45
Absolutely. Especially if you use the definition of purpose that we started with, right, which includes Part of what’s necessary for purpose is some kind of intrinsic or internalized motivation. If you look at the research on intrinsic motivation, the self determination theory says that there are basic needs that increase our intrinsic motivation, belongingness, competence and autonomy. Well, if you spent time getting good at composing music, you’re going to be more intrinsically motivated to compose music. If people have praised you for it and brought you into their into their community of people who are interested in music, you will be more intrinsically motivated and composing music. If you’ve chosen it of your own volition to do these things, you’ll be more intrinsically motivated. Right? And so if that’s part of what purpose is, then yeah, absolutely 100%
Lindsay Recknell 23:40
I love the idea of using it as an excuse using it as a crutch. Because I think we definitely you come across this at work, where we don’t take personal responsibility, because our boss says, We have to go do this thing. And but it’s so it’s even more applicable in our lives. If we think about continuous growth and personal development, and kind of thinking differently about our skills and abilities. Yeah, which comes back, sorry, please continue.
Ryan Quinn 24:16
Sorry, I go on. I had another story that popped in my head well, and
Lindsay Recknell 24:19
so hold that thought, because it makes me it just makes me think about thinking differently about the traits and and values and thinking deeper about the virtues and how you use the example of courage. If somebody says to you, you must have more courage. Well says who? Like us, you get to figure out what have more courage means to you. And then once you figure out that and you have your own, I don’t know moral compass against it. Therefore, you’re going to get more intrinsic motivation to want to be more courageous, according to your own definition?
Ryan Quinn 25:05
Lindsay Recknell 25:10
Very, very, it’s very thought provoking, very thought provoking. Because, you know, you had mentioned that we sort of all have these traits that are no good for us in society, nor are socially driven traits that we all think all the proverbial all the think are really, really great for us.
Ryan Quinn 25:35
Yeah, well, and I think that I mean, to your point, I don’t think there’s very many people out there gonna say, oh, courage is a bad thing, or Oh, hope is about well, some, some people might say more about hope, because of the PR problem than most people will think hope is a good thing. But, you know, the one of the things that I think is really important, if you look at virtue ethics, people like McIntyre, who have written very deeply about it in terms of philosophy, and so forth, one thing that they’ve incorporated into that is practice theory. And the idea of a practice is that it’s what researchers would call a Situ a practices a situated recurring activity. So for example, a surgical practice is where a surgeon performs surgeries, an activity over and over again. So it’s a recurring activity. And that activity has repeated steps, right? So if it’s a coronary artery bypass graft, I hope I got that, right. I’m not a doctor, right. And what they do is they, you know, put you on the anesthesia, they cut you open, they break your ribcage, they go in, and you know, and then there’s just steps 1234. That’s what you do. However, what practice theorists would point out, is that if you treat ever even though the steps of us cabbage surgery is the same no matter what every time you do it, if you treat every patient exactly the same, you’re going to have horrible outcomes, right, and you should have good outcomes. The best surgeons treat every surgery as unique. Even if it’s the same steps that you perform. Every time, this person has a larger heart, this person has more muscle, or more fat or more, or whatever else this person has, you know, different conditions that we’re trying to address or you know, whatever it is. And so the most excellent and artful performers will will expect each one to be different, even though it’s a recurring activity, and therefore will be more mindful as they perform their practice. And the reason I say that is think virtues work the same way. So what does it mean for me to be courageous, when I’m telling my boss that I think this is not something we should do in terms of launching this product? Well, is that the same way I’m going to exhibit courage when I’m running into a fire to save a baby from a house, courage is different, right in different situations, and to be excellent encouraged to be excellent and hope, to what it means to be hopeful. In a situation where, you know, I want my product to launch well, is different from being hopeful when we’re stuck indoors during a pandemic, we’re having mental health problems, because we’ve been stuck indoors so long. That hope is different in those situations. And if I try to make cope the same, then I’m going to make things worse for some people.
Lindsay Recknell 28:32
Yes, it’s all perspective and mindset. And truly critically thinking about these things. In context, in situation in episodes, I had this really cool conversation with a client like yesterday, where I’m going to do the keynote for them. And we were talking exactly, about exactly that, you know, these this, these fine folks are in a super high stress, fast moving startup culture. And they’re bought in like, they’re super excited to be there. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t also feel the stress of it, and the anxiety around it and the exhaustion from it, that it but how they get to show up in that moment. That’s where the, that’s where their virtues can shine, that’s where their their own intrinsic motivation can shine, because of the different situations and they can leverage their, their whether it’s their values, or they’ve gone all the way to virtues but they can leverage that power that that those characteristics in those moments to, to thrive, to change the situation to grow through resilience, whatever that looks like for them. Yeah, absolutely. Lovely. Cool. Oh, my heavens, Ryan, we could talk forever. We We could talk forever, but we’re getting close to the end of our time together, and you’ve given me so much to think about, I’m going to ask you one more thing. And that is the same thing I asked all of my guests. And that is, Ryan, what gives you hope?
Ryan Quinn 30:13
I love that question too. And, and I have one, I guess, a cheat code on this one that just because of my profession, and that is, you know, as a professor, I get to teach. And so I have students and I, our students give me hope, right, and not just our students, but even other ones that I’ll teach at church or in other places, right. But our students in the university or students, other places I encounter working with young people, those who especially, you know, have gone through this pandemic, and, you know, had such a hard time of, you know, some of the missing two years of in person school, and you know, whatever else. And yet, in spite of these problems, just some of them are so amazing. It’s just how they persevere, how they come up with new ideas, how they move forward in spite of it, and then inspires you if they can continue to, as we talked earlier, exercise that agency to try to create a better future. And then how can I not do the same?
Lindsay Recknell 31:13
Yeah, how can you not do the same? That’s amazing. Ryan, it has been such a pleasure to have a conversation with you, honestly, you’ve given me so much to think about, I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface. So we’re going to follow along and learn everything I can learn about the work that you’re doing. And hopefully have you come on the show some other time, because I think we’ve really tapped into some pretty cool, cool topics here. Thank you so much for joining me.
Ryan Quinn 31:37
That would be ideal. Thank you.
Lindsay Recknell 31:40
Yet another incredible story. I mean, I literally say that after every episode, but I wouldn’t publish episodes I didn’t think were incredible. Now what I mentioned in the introduction, that it’s my sincere privilege to share space with these guests to bring their stories and their expertise to the podcast airwaves. And honestly, I learned so much from their wisdom at the same time. That’s the thing about this work. It’s in the storytelling, the language we use to express our innermost narratives. That’s what has the most power of transformation. Sometimes when we don’t know the words to use, we just won’t say anything at all. And that can lead to negative rumination and the stressors in our lives can lead to burnout. The topic of burnout stress and why the differences between the two matter is something we talk a lot about in my most popular training workshop titled from burnout to hope. In this 60 minute workshop, you’ll learn to apply evidence based strategies and tactics to reverse your feelings of overwhelm and languishing and activate the hope circuit in your brain for a future better than today. It’s transformational, personal, and dare I say, guaranteed to increase your hope levels. You’ve heard me say it 100 times. But I believe that fear is louder in the dark. And talking about loud about the fears, aspirations, and the anxiety inducing situations we find ourselves in is an amazing way to move towards the transformation of a future better than today. If you’d like to learn more about language, and how you can leverage the science of hope in your life, I’d love to share from burnout to hope training workshop with you. You can find more information about it on my website at expertinhope.com/burnouttohope. I truly believe that the future will be better than today by taking action over the things we can control and conversations like this really reinforced that hope. Looking forward to keeping the conversation going. So reach out anytime. As always. I’m here when you need me.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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