In my previous post, I gave a brief overview of conation, the impact that it has on our choices and how we can use it in the workplace to enhance productivity. Remember, according to ancient philosophers and modern psychologists, there are three parts to the mind: cognitive (thinking), affective (feelings) and conative (decisions).

The conative part of the mind dictates how people take action. It’s their modes of operation, their striving instincts. If you give me two people with similar intelligence, experiences, strengths, and preferences, I’ll likely uncover that conatively, despite their similarities, these two people will take action differently. This is why it’s important to measure the conative part of the mind ( not an easy thing to do).  A Kolbe assessment is the only validated tool that does this. It can be used as a hiring tool and it is non-discriminatory to age, sex, and socioeconomics. Once you understand your conative strengths, you are better able to avoid conative stresses that can negatively affect your performance.

First is the Fact Finder mode. On a scale of one to ten, it’s going to give you an indication of how much data or how many facts you need before you’re comfortable taking action. A higher fact finder is going to need more data. The next mode is Follow Through. This is how you systematize and how you organize. A follow through that’s a ten or a nine is going to need to design and improve systems and have structures and processes in place for them to feel comfortable taking action. The other two modes are Quick Start and Implementor.

I want to share my personal experience with conative stress to show how it impacts me, my team, and our ability to run our business effectively. In my primary business, financial planning and wealth management, I have a great team. I understand their strengths, cognitively, affectively, and conatively. Our team has a lot of autonomy to do their roles the way that they see best. The business is probably 80% self-managing. It doesn’t require me being there full-time and overseeing every part for it to grow. It still requires me to be involved in the business, but I’m not involved in the day-to-day details.

On the other hand, my coaching business is a newer business, so I’m wearing more hats, and due to the increase in opportunities, I’ve had to bring on a partner and an additional full-time employee. I don’t want to have to spend an additional 40 hours per week on the coaching business, so I’m working hard to build systems and processes that are repeatable. When I started the financial planning and wealth management practice 18 or 19 years ago, I did every job myself, and I’m not interested in doing that again. I want to build a team that has different strengths, and then leverage those strengths.

Due to the addition of these new and varied activities outside of my conative strengths, I’m experiencing what I call conative stress. Just recently, I was doing a presentation for one of our clients in front of their board of directors and their executive team, and I was just tired. The reason is that I’m having to act outside of my instinctive strengths. For example, I mentioned the Follow Through mode in the Kolbe. I am a seven follow through, which means I need to have systems and processes and I need to have closure on processes before I move on to something else. However,  my coaching business needs to launch quickly and move pretty fast, so I’m having to go out and present to prospects and clients. I haven’t done a lot of these activities, so it’s relatively new. I’m having to step into that uncertainty and those unknown situations without having closure on a lot of processes and systems. It’s stressing me out.

Some people might identify that as working too hard, but since the number of hours that I’m working per week is moderate compared to what I could be working, I know that it’s conative stress. I’m operating contrary to my natural strengths. It doesn’t mean I can’t operate outside of those strengths, it just means I can’t do it for an extended period without it really showing up in my performance. When I’m under conative stress,  I’m more tired. I have trouble getting good sleep. When I am working, I don’t have as much focus. I’m less efficient. I even noticed it in my posture.

I share this with you because you may misidentify your causes of stress if you don’t know your conative strengths. You may also be misdiagnosing your team member’s lack of productivity as laziness or apathy when in fact, they could be experiencing conative stress.

If you’re interested in learning more about conation and how knowing conative strengths can increase your team’s productivity, go to and take the Kolbe A™ Index to identify your instinctive strengths. It costs about $50, and you get the report instantly with an audio summary from Kathy Kolbe. Kolbe is going to tell you how you’re likely to take action, measured in four modes.  

If you do find that you or your team members are experiencing conative stress, there are a number of remedies to break the cycle and get you on the right path. Feel free to contact me for a free consultation. I’ll be happy to walk you through what this means for you and your team and how to align your activities with your strengths.