What Motivates You?

I’ve been meditating on this topic for a while but I was trying to find a way to write about it in a way that wouldn’t put my readers on the defensive–nobody likes having their motives questioned. Still, I think it’s important to be honest (at least with yourself) about why you do the work that you do. Read on for more.

Translating Motivation into Actions

“Your focus determines your reality.”
–Qui-Gon Jinn, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

I am not a fan of the Star Wars prequels. However, the quotation above resonated with me when much of the rest of the script did not. We all have different motivations on the job, and those motivations can change by the day, depending on our mood. Generally, however, we choose jobs that match a specific set of criteria that we can live with:

  • Pay/benefits
  • Content
  • Advancement
  • Helping others
  • Personal  excellence/development

Any or all of these will determine how we do our work and what we pay attention to when we perform our individual tasks. For example, if you’re someone who’s motivated primarily by the money, you might put in extra hours to acquire overtime pay.

If you’re motivated by the content, you might spend extra time learning more about it just because it interests you and because you want to be more fluent in the topic(s). You might also try to broaden the number of customers you serve. You could try to learn more deeply on one or two specific topics or more broadly across the entire industry.

If you’re interested in advancement, you might focus on learning what you need to do to move “up the pyramid,” including acquiring specific training; learning what higher-ranked individuals know so you can help them or move into their position when they move up or out; cultivating relationships with specific individuals; or working in departments with more influence on the organization.

If helping others drives you, you will probably focus on working on teams to be a good collaborator. It might also motivate you to work for a nonprofit organization that produces results in the lives of others in need.

If you’re motivated by personal excellence or development, you might be more concerned about doing a good job regardless of what the content is, who the people are, or what the pay is.

For me, money and benefits are the weakest motivators while being interested in the content and doing a good job are the strongest. It’s also been my experience that if I demonstrate interest in my work and do a good job with it, the advancement and better pay will come eventually anyway. If you’re on the hunt for money, my suggestion would be to pursue a job with great pay until you reach whatever goal you had in mind, then leave because at that point, the money is no longer a motivator, and if you’re not fond of the work, that makes showing up every day much more challenging.

My two cents for the day. Go out there and do what motivates you.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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