Motivation: Whose Job is it and How Do I Get it?

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What Do I Want and How Do I Get It?

It’s no accident that the clearer we are about what we want, the higher the likelihood that we’ll get it, or at least, the more likely we are to recognise when we’ve got it. Knowing what you want needs clarity of thought, which in turn leads to good decision-making and results; and results, after all, are what we’re all really after. Knowing what you want also drives motivation to get it; at least that’s the theory.

We’ve all come across people who are driven from an early age to achieve something they truly believe in and who work singly and tirelessly towards that goal. We can see that it’s hard for them and it’s hard for those around them, but they’re unwavering in their pursuit of what they ultimately achieve.

Then the most successful of all write books about how anyone can do the same and get rich in the bargain.

What About the Rest of Us?

But the truth is that we aren’t all like that; we just aren’t. Either we don’t have that flash of vision that kicks off a lifelong passion in the first place. Or we set off at a blistering pace in pursuit of it, only to slow down all too quickly as real-life returns to spoil it all. Or we never get started.

Whose Job Is Motivation Anyway?

There’s plenty of coverage about motivation in management books and leadership training but it’s most often from the point of view of leaders and managers motivating the people they lead. This is important, of course. We all need to know that our leaders are on our side and our efforts are appreciated.

But surely we also have a responsibility to motivate ourselves… but how? The answer is thinking, planning, practising and monitoring.

A Self-Motivating Plan

Consider, what is a source of motivation for you. Start by thinking about what would motivate you in an ideal world (OK, maybe you wouldn’t be at work in a truly ideal world, but I’m sure you’d be doing good in some capacity).

Here are some examples based on my personal views:

  1. Having the freedom to act
  2. Being an expert in my field
  3. Having respect from my peer group
  4. Having a good appraisal (or performance review or whatever you call it)
  5. Getting tasks finished
  6. Being part of a great team
  7. Making customers happy (you decide who your customers are)
  8. Getting praise from people above my line manager
  9. People seeking my opinion sought and listening to my ideas – not having this is truly demotivating
  10. Feeling part of something bigger

Ten is a nice round number, but there are no wrongs and rights here. List as many as you like. Think about what makes you happy, what makes you laugh, what makes you feel proud, what fires you up and what gives you energy.

I suggest you keep to somewhere around this number. It’s fine if you stop short, but any more might be a little too many to handle for what happens next.

Your factors might look a little out of place in your job, to begin with, but go with it for a while and come back to them after a day or two. Modify if you like, and temper them if you’ve really gone overboard.

Where Do I Go From Here?

The very act of creating such a list can be motivating in itself. What am I looking for? What do I already have? Where might small changes make a difference? Who can help me?

Silhouette of street signs during sunset
How do you find your motivation?


Of course, having such a list doesn’t guarantee anything; but it does give you some structure and some clarity of what a simple phrase like ‘I want to be motivated’ means.

So write your list. Copy mine, mix the two, or whatever works best.  What matters is to think hard about how and why your points motivate you. If you write money, promotion or self-development that’s fine but be sure you really, really know why they are motivators and how they motivate you on a day-to-day basis. More money comes from a higher-paid job, but a higher-paid job only comes if you are doing well in someone else’s eyes, so you need the motivation to do a great job – how do you get that – revisit your list

When you’re happy, look for evidence of items on your list that are already happening. Maybe it’s a particular type of work, maybe a particular individual. But most likely it’ll be about the behaviours that you exhibit. Plan and concentrate on repeating those behaviours. You’re helping yourself here; you’re motivating yourself by acting in ways that make you feel good.

A Motivation Reality Check

Perhaps it all sounds too good to be true? Most of us aren’t in jobs that give us total freedom to do whatever makes us happy. Sometimes it’s a chore, sometimes things go wrong, sometimes the boss is a pain in the …

So do two things: First, recognise that the way you act, and the way you behave drives those factors more than anything else. So you can still do that when things are not going to plan. Good behaviours get noticed. Second, take a long-term view.

Accept that you can’t tackle everything on your entire list in one go and that even one or two items will take some time to bear fruit. Live life statistically – if things go right most of the time, that’s OK. Just keep working at it.

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