Spend enough time around competition and you’re bound to hear hundreds of different reasons people claim to be motivated. The business world is no different, the motivating factors vary drastically from one professional to the next.
As a general rule, we don’t really care too much about motivation as long as it leads to the result we are looking for. Whatever works for you, works for us: to prove others wrong, to elevate your status, to receive recognition, for fear of failing, for fear of being embarrassed, because others are counting on you, because it’s your job, or to demonstrate your love for those on your team
What I think we fail to understand is that motivation is just sport code for purpose. And, far too many people rely on unhealthy motivation to obtain short-term results.
Why Should We Care?
Why you do things matters. Even if the results look the same, the purpose - motivation - behind why we do them isn’t necessarily the same. And, I don’t believe the results are truly the same.
I’ll use the example of a student preparing to take a big test since it’s in the world I live in and something virtually everyone has a firsthand account of.
If the student is motivated by a fear of failure, she may commit an inordinate amount of time to preparing for the test. In order to have this time for studying, she had to compromise time spent somewhere else. The stress she experiences and anxiety suffers as a result of her motivation, most would agree, are not positive for her. Of course, motivation from fear could also lead her to shutting down and doing nothing to prepare since she expects the worst.
If the student is motivated by the desire to elevate her status by appearing smart to her peers, she may cheat. The process of preparing is almost viewed as a negative, detracting from her true genius. Cheating seems logical, which clearly robs her of the growth and experience of gaining new information and challenging herself. But, if elevating status and the opinions of others is paramount, then the very best result is all that matters.
If the student is motivated by the duty to be the best she can because she is grateful for the opportunity that she has to learn and grow, she will likely prepare extensively. She would probably maintain a healthy balance however since she likely carries this same feeling of responsibility into other areas of her life. She would fully embrace the process of doing her best on the test.
If the student is motivated by the love of learning as a means to help others she would also likely dive head first into the preparation and process necessary to do her very best. She may also find herself expanding her understanding beyond the test, realizing that her ability to help others likely wouldn’t be relegated to only the material on the test. She would be searching for understanding so that what she was learning could be applied to help others.
A good grade on the test could happen for all four motivations. The same short-term outcome.
But, the motivation clearly changes the process, which changes the long-term result.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
In his book, Think Like A Monk, Jay Shetty shares Hindu philosopher Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s description of the four fundamental motivations. As Jay explains, ‘these four motivations drive everything we do.’
If you consider your purpose for doing anything - from taking out the trash to loving your spouse - one of these motivations is driving the action. Clearly we want to live in duty and love, but we all will find ourselves in fear and duty from time to time. Be aware. Be intentional - as much with your motivation as you are with your desired outcome.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.