Motivation is what moves us
Swipe through any social feed or check out any movie or show and we'll find themes around motivation. How to be better, get stronger, and make our lives easier are just a few of the themes we come across in media every day. We're a society driven to strive—for better health, greater purpose, professional growth, status, belonging, and more.
Motivation speaks to what we value most and explains the reasons behind many of our actions. Which is why knowing what motivates us is like getting a secret key to help unlock our goals.
We share core motivators
As humans, we all share some core needs. If you're familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you know that we have to meet our lower needs before we can move up and pay attention to any needs above. Outside of the workplace, this means we need things like food and shelter before we can pay attention to things like friendships and self esteem. In the workplace, this can mean that we need core things like psychological safety, a livable wage, and reasonable hours before we're motivated by things like being part of a great team or getting exposure on an exciting project.
Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic
Intrinsic motivation is when we want to do something simply because it feels good, such as the feeling of pride from self-improvement or feeling connected when helping others. As a leader, you may be motivated by the common intrinsic factor of how it feels to positively affect the lives of people you manage.
Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is based on external rewards like a job title, compensation, or other more tangible incentives. For example, you may be motivated to lead a team because it comes with a pay raise or respected title.
Most people are motivated by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, sometimes even on the same goal.
Motivation drives success and inspires mastery
According to the popular research of cognitive psychologist Dr. Anders Ericsson, motivation is the most significant predictor of success. In his book, Peak, Ericsson and co-author Robert Pool reveal that motivation is what keeps us focused and able to deal with challenges when we're reaching for a goal.
Dr. Ericsson's theory of "deliberate practice" says that when we're motivated, we're driven to learn new things and are more open to coaching and feedback. This, he found, is the difference between staying a novice or becoming an expert.
Motivation makes us more resilient
The world is complex and constantly changing, and motivation is a powerful part of having the self- determination and resilience required to adapt and succeed.
Anyone who's ever focused on achieving a stretch goal (like participating in a triathlon, or getting an advanced degree) has probably realized that desire alone is not enough to cross the finish line. Achieving big goals also involves the ability to overcome obstacles and be resilient in the face of setbacks. When we know what motivates us, we can tap into it for an extra boost when things get challenging. This is especially helpful for long-term goals that require our sustained interest and effort. Positive Psychology says, "The essence of motivation is energized and persistent goal-directed behavior. When we are motivated, we move and take action."
Motivation is important in the workplace
Motivation applies to our personal as well as professional lives. Let's wrap up by exploring the role motivation plays when leading a team.
Motivation can be harnessed
Whether it's for ourselves or our team members, motivation is an underlying force that can be harnessed for self-improvement.
When we're aware of each other's core needs, we can use them to help achieve our goals. Whether trying to cross the finish line with a long-term project or simply get volunteers for a new initiative, motivation is a strategy to keep the team energized and thriving.
Motivation shifts over time
What motivates us can change throughout our lives. This is especially true when we experience life changes—like a new career or becoming a parent. Knowing that, it's important to regularly revisit and reconsider what motivates us as we make both near-term and long-term career decisions.
We all want to be successful. And no matter how we define that success, the key to achieving it is knowing what sparks and increases our motivation. Positive Psychology concludes that "finding ways to increase motivation is crucial because it allows us to change behavior, develop competencies, be creative, set goals, grow interests, make plans, develop talents, and boost engagement."