What Motivates You?

I like to learn. I like to read. I like to write. I like teaching people new things. I like the discussion that comes when people consider alternatives. When you combine all those things together, you can see I have just about a perfect career as a consultant who speaks, teaches, writes, and coaches. I don’t have to worry about dragging myself into work. It’s all I can do to stop working.

Motivation is internal. If you haven’t seen Dan Pink’s video or read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, you should. Here’s what motivates us:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

Do you have that in your work? If not, what would it take to get it?

When people say, “I’m not motivated,” they might be afraid to be successful. And, they might not have enough autonomy, mastery, or purpose in their work or life.

Sometimes, you do things that feel like drudge work. For me, posting already-published articles on my site can feel like drudgery. I do it because I want people to have easy access to my writing. That’s my “higher” purpose: to allow people to consider alternatives. Knowing “why” is important for me.

Maybe you are more motivated by “who am I working with?” In that case, you might make decisions based on belonging to a group. Who do you work with so you can identify with them? That might be your motivation.

Maybe you are more motivated by “what are we doing?” In that case, you might be motivated by belonging. What do you have to do to keep this group together and have it thrive?

Maybe you are motivated by “when do you need it?” If you know when you need to finish something, you might be motivated to do it.

We are all different. What motivates me might not matter to you. And, when I see people asking how to motivate others, I worry.

We need to explore our autonomy, our mastery, and our purpose to find meaning in our lives. We might each have different primary questions about where our motivation arises. And, discovering our motivation means we can do a great job.

If you are not motivated now by your job, what would it take for you to become motivated? Maybe all you need is a project charter. Charters discuss the purpose of the project, who will work on the project, who the team will be, a target completion date, or the interim milestones to get to done. Once you explain that, the people know enough to discover their autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

If you find yourself lacking motivation, examine why. Look inside yourself, to know if you are afraid you can’t do a good job. If you’re not afraid, maybe you need to answer some questions about the work.

If you examine common problems with motivation, you see:

  • Micromanagement, which does not allow autonomy
  • A feeling of “just do it already,” which does not allow people to feel mastery
  • No understanding of why we are doing this, which does not explain the purpose

People meet your expectations, including you. If you don’t expect them to succeed, they won’t. If you don’t expect to succeed, you won’t either. If you do expect them to succeed, they will find a way. Your motivation and the motivation of others depends on autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

That is the question for today, adaptable problem solvers: What motivates you?

2 thoughts on “What Motivates You?

  1. Joanne Wortman

    I’m not so sure I’m motivated by the goal of mastery as I am be the process of trying something new.
    I love hunting for new ideas, letting them roll around and “marinate” in my brain and synthesizing them into a new approach. I am easily bored by repeating the same approach over and over.

    1. johanna Post author

      Joanne, I have the “learning” gene, too. For me, that comes close to purpose.

      One of my FB friends suggested that motivation was a moot point; that what we want is (self-)discipline. I still have to know why the heck I want to do this thing :-)

      That’s what I love about this question. Everyone sees something different in themselves.

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