What is motivation?
According to Psychology Today, motivation is “Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals..”
How motivated are you?
Are you more motivated to meet personal or work goals? Do you become easily distracted or demoralised? Why is it that you can stick at some things when the going gets tough and yet not others?
There are many self help books, gurus and courses you can try to improve motivation and achievement and of course hypnotherapy, particularly using the GOAL protocol can help.
Motivation and business
For years businesses have striven to find the magic formula that will encourage staff to go the extra mile and work harder to achieve their personal and corporate targets.
However even after centuries of what one might call ‘management’ or performance improvement strategies… from slavery to serfdom to employeeism and more recently to the ‘gig economy’, it still seems to be by and large a mystery to most companies.
One thing that is clear however, is that in the context of career or work goals, motivation cannot be forced. In fact trying to make someone motivated is often counter-productive.
Motivation is in the mind of the person who has the goal.
In addition, for many motivation is easier in sports activities and hobbies than in business, work or school activities. The reason is to do with the brain.
In sport for example, there is a process of gaining fitness, developing balance, timing, flexibility and strength all of which cause the brain to release pleasure sensations as a result of exertion. This is what can cause sport or fitness training to become almost an addiction in some people.
In addition the desire to take up a sport is often sparked by the desire to improve self-esteem and one’s sense of identity or self actualisation – as well as to develop better health and fitness. These are key motivators for some people.
In the case of hobbies, there may not be so much in the way of physical exertion, however the challenge of developing a new skill and the sense of achievement and self worth will also spur people on and keep them motivated.
So whilst it is perhaps understandable that for many there is a limited enjoyment associated with work and career, why is it that people are often challenged with staying motivated for their jobs?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and motivation
Perhaps it is worth exploring this in the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
For example, for hundreds of years employers have striven to motivate workers through the variations of the “carrot and stick” approach. Early on it was probably more to do with the “stick” when employers, sometimes in the guise of slave owners, literally had the power of life or death over their workers.
At the time it was important to be able to provide security as well as, house, feed and cloth oneself and one’s family which meant that it was easy to motivate people to work. In addition there was the chance to have a sense of belonging to a community or to a working group.
As industry and society changed this was replaced with an increased dependence on the “carrot” method as employers realised that it was important to attract and retain staff in growing economies and so used financial or other incentives as to motivate them to work harder. In addition employees became increasingly interested in gaining self esteem and respect from others in the form of higher salaries, promotions and a range of incentives as for many the basic needs were already met or at least guaranteed by social support system.
Beyond that however, how do people who are looking for self-actualisation, for their work to have meaning and value remain motivated in organisations where the management style and compensation or incentive mechanisms do not fully help people to meet their needs?
This may perhaps be a generational issue with the Millenial and GenZ generations, many of whom want their endeavours at work to mean something. It will be interesting to see how companies are able to change to empower and enable staff to meet these higher needs.
It is not surprising that people who are high performers are often seen as having a strong drive to succeed whereas for others who are less accomplished they may be more concerned with avoiding personal or public failure.
Highly motivated people will have a strong desire to meet goals which are important to them regardless of their need. They will gain satisfaction from the achievement and if that has value and meaning in the mind of the individual the feelings of self actualisation will be stronger.
The stronger the motivation and the more powerful the desire to enjoy the feelings associated with success, the harder someone will work towards their goal and the greater the deprivations and hardships they will endure.
Those who seek to avoid failure may have consciously or unconcsiously lost sight of their goals and the feelings linked to success. As a result they may become anxious about failure, avoid difficult activities or find it difficult to decide what to do when faced with multiple potential tasks. They may focus on things which are not relevant to the main goal, not give of their best or indulge in self defeating activities.