People / Stories

What motivates you?

How many times did you hear this word? Motivation.

We hear it in school, at work, even at home, in your group of friends, in other people’s conversations, in books, on blogs and social media, on TV.

People speak about it constantly. You will probably be asked about it in a form or another at every job interview.

There are a lot of motivational theories out there, and most of them speak about the external environment and factors contributing to our motivation. I am not going to play smart now and say they are all wrong. They are not. Extrinsic motivation does matter, but let’s take a closer look!

I will now bring Maslow into the picture, because he is the one you have most probably heard of, and his theory also relates best to what I am going to tell you further.

It makes sense we all have needs as human beings. Abraham Maslow split them into 5 large groups of needs, and hierarchized them as it follows:

At the base of the pyramid there’s the physiological needs. We all need to eat, drink, breath, pee and so on. But so do animals, right? These are basic needs, which I am not sure are necessarily related to motivation, but more with the capacity of doing reasonable things when these are not being satisfied.

Then, there’s the security needs. Working in a warm, safe place, with minimal risks to take, with a roof on top of our heads and, obviously, a good enough pay. Now, let me ask you one thing: we are aware of the work conditions and all these needs we might have, before starting working, right?

Here comes the third one, which is the need of affiliation, love, belonging or whatever you want to call it. To be fair, this can really put you off if you and the people you are working with are not in very good relations.

You can’t know from the beginning who you’re going to work with and how you are going to get along with them long term.

We are humans, so we have different personalities and beliefs, which sometimes can get in the way of healthy relationships. But what if I told you that could change as well? Anyway, that is a different topic I will touch some other time.

I hope I didn’t lose you yet.

The fourth need in Maslow’s Theory is the Self-Esteem. The need of Success. It’s when your good work is being valued and appreciated. When you have got a good grade in school. When people praise you for what you have achieved. It feels damn good, isn’t it? Now, this sounds like something that could motivate you to be better, right? But what if you don’t succeed?

The fifth and last need in this hierarchy, the pick of the pyramid, the foam on the cappuccino… Self-Actualization. This is you being promoted to that role you’ve always wanted. Or even better, opening your own business. Being able to build something great on what you have achieved so far in your career. Speaking at a conference where you have only been a participant before. This sounds like a dream came true, right?

Satisfying all these needs is really important, and I believe we all agree. But are they really what motivates us? Are they really what keep us doing an amazing work? And, to go even further, who is responsible of satisfying them?

When you are really hungry, but you choose to stay and finish your task before going to eat, ask yourself “Why?”

Am I staying to work because I am going to get in trouble if I don’t? Or because I am really committed to my work and I want to accomplish every task I set before lunch? Because it’s for the company’s best interest? Why?

If your salary is covering for your bills but nothing else, what is the reason of it? Is it your boss that doesn’t want to give you more money because you’re ginger and have freckles? Or is it because you’re not exactly performing at your job?

I could take this post very far, but I think I’ve made my point. If not, let me put this straight: It’s you! You are the only person that can motivate yourself. It’s you and the choices you make. Or the ones you don’t.

We hear this so often in every company we’re working for. If you search employee motivation on Google, you will find thousands of results of how to keep your team motivated. That’s what I think is wrong.

If we are good enough for our jobs, we will be praised. If we are not, we’ll get feedback. It’s on us how we take it. Do we work on it to become the best at what we do? Or we’ll just say our boss is crazy? Now, if you are really good at your job, you genuinely are, but no one appreciates it, what keeps you there?

Here’s an exercise I have for you, that might help you find out how you can be motivated at work, in a relationship, at school and so on, without needing anyone to motivate you.

Take a piece of paper, a notebook, anything, and first write down what part of your life is not really keeping you motivated? Then, start writing down the factors that could motivate you to be better at whatever is what you wrote first.

Let’s take for example losing weight.

I want to lose weight, but I cannot let go of the sweets and junk food. I cannot go to gym every week. I am not motivated enough.

Now, why do I want to lose weight? Because I will look better. Because I will feel better? Because I will be able to wear that dress, I bought last summer. Because I will  be able to go to the beach with my friends. Because my boyfriend will love me more. Because the sky will be bluer, and the birds will start singing love songs.

Whatever it is, we just need to try understanding why exactly did we set this goal in the first place and who is in charge with motivating us achieving it? Is it that dress? Is it our boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, boss, best friend or our cat?

You have all the reasons. You know what is possibly going to happen if you achieve this goal. Only good things, right?

Then, what stops you?

If you’ll pay attention to that math class, the time will go quicker. If you hate the fact that you’re not being paid enough, it’s you that needs to do something about it. No one will give you what you lack if you don’t ask for it and if you don’t work for it.

We are the best motivators of ourselves. We are the ones who need to set our own minds towards success in any goal we’re aiming. As much as our employer, our mom, our boyfriend, wife or child will try to motivate us do things, we need to have a positive attitude about it.

Don’t wait for someone else to motivate you! You are the only one in charge of that 😊

While I was searching for a Featured image for this post (eventually I found one in my Lightroom), I found another article talking about the same topic, but on a higher level. Have a look!

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