12/02/2014 01:47 pm ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

Are You Full of Mojo or Nojo?

Sasha Bell via Getty Images

Last week, I shared with you how to get a handle on your identity. You should now have the answer to the question: "Who do you think you are?" If you don't, take a few minutes now to go back and review "Why You Should Get a Handle on Your Identity."

Why is understanding your identity so important? Because your Mojo depends on it. To understand how you are relating to any activity, person, place, or thing, you need to understand your identity -- who you are. To change your Mojo, you may need to either create a new identity for yourself or rediscover an identity you have lost.

What Is Mojo?

Your Mojo is "that positive spirit toward what you are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside." The most striking evidence of Mojo is to compare it to its opposite, what I call Nojo, which is "that negative spirit towards what you are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside."

The contrasts between Mojo and Nojo are so daunting that I wrote them down on a cheat sheet:

  • Take responsibility
  • Run the extra mile
  • Care about doing a great job
  • Love doing it
  • Appreciate the opportunities
  • Make the best of it
  • Be inspirational
  • Have a great attitude
  • Be determined
  • Have a zest for life
  • Feel like a victim
  • March in place
  • Just want to get by
  • Have to do it
  • Tolerate the requirements
  • Endure it
  • Painful to be around
  • Lethargic
  • Lazy
  • Zombie-like -- living dead

How's Your Mojo?

How can we recognize Mojo or Nojo in ourselves and in others? Start by evaluating yourself and the people you meet on their Mojo or Nojo qualities, using the table above. What is your attitude toward what you do? Is it positive or negative? What do you radiate to others? Think about this a bit.

When I think about the truly successful human beings that I have met in my journey through life -- the people who are succeeding at both what they do and how they feel about themselves -- I realize they all have MOJO. We see people with MOJO in every occupation and at every level of an organization. I was recently working at a health-care organization. I watched as their CEO gave awards to employees who best demonstrated their organization's values. I was amazed at the great attitude -- the Mojo -- shown by award-winners in such diverse occupations as cafeteria workers, technicians, nurses, and administrators. These people were all demonstrating Mojo.

While I enjoyed observing these exuberant and motivated people get their awards, I thought about the thousands of people in similar jobs around the world who don't demonstrate Mojo, the people who had a negative spirit toward what they were doing. That, too, starts from the inside and is apparent on the outside.

When There's No Mojo

When you get the chance, observe two different employees doing exactly the same job at the same time. One could be the embodiment of Mojo while the other is the poster child for Nojo. Case in point: flight attendants. For 32 years, my work has taken me around the world. On American Airlines alone, I just passed the dubious milestone of more than 10 million frequent flyer miles! All this flying has given me the chance to interact with thousands of flight attendants.

Most are dedicated, professional, and service-oriented. They demonstrate mojo. A few are grumpy and act like they would rather be anywhere else than on the plane. They demonstrate Nojo. I've seen two groups of attendants doing exactly the same activity, at the same time, for the same company, probably at around the same salary, yet the messages that each is sending to the world about their experience is completely different.

Mojo Living!

By increasing our understanding of our identity, we can increase our Mojo. We can learn how to get Mojo, how to keep it, and how we get it back if we lose it. We can let go of what does not create happiness and meaning in our lives, and strive for what really matters to us -- we can live a life full of Mojo, meaning, and purpose!

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Please view the Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog. The short video in the series Personal Advice: Creating Identity Part 2 accompanies this article. I'll post these blogs once a week for the next 50 weeks. The series will incorporate learnings from my 38 years of experience with top executives, as well as material from my previous research, articles and books, including What Got You Here Won't Get You There, MOJO, Coaching for Leadership, and Succession: Are You Ready? The blogs will also include material from my exciting new research on engagement and my upcoming book Triggers (to be published by Crown in 2015).