The Secret to Finding Motivation at Work
Many companies hire motivational speakers to come in and motivate their troops. But does it work? Does sitting in a room and listening to an enthused keynote speaker motivate a person to take charge of her career? And what is motivation exactly?
Dictionary.com defines motivation as "the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior."
The key words seem to be "goal" and "reason" and "purpose."
However, is it realistic to expect employees to have goals? What if most people don't have career goals? For instance, think about your friends, relatives or coworkers: do you know their goals? Do they seem to be motivated by their job?
Here's a summary of an article in the March 2006 issue of Harvard Business Review on "Managing Middlescence." It may shed some factual light on this issue of motivation:
Mid-career employees – those between 35 and 54 – make up more than half the workforce. One in 4 has managerial or supervisory responsibility.
In June 2004, Concours Group conducted a survey with Harris Interactive of more than 7,700 U.S. Workers, and found that people in this age group...
- Work longer hours than their older and younger counterparts, with 30% saying they put in 50 or more hours per week
- Only 43% are passionate about their jobs
- 33% feel energized by their work
- 36% say they feel they are in dead-end jobs
- More than 40% report feelings of burnout
- Mid-career employees are the least likely to say that their workplace is congenial and fun or that it offers ample opportunity to try new things.
- As a group, they have the lowest satisfaction rates with their immediate
managers and the least confidence in top executives.
We can see that self-motivation is a significant problem. But how to solve that problem?
If having a clear goal seems to be the key to self-motivation, how does one go about defining such a goal?
Before getting into a discussion about goal setting, it may be useful to understand the critical distinction between "work" and "Work" (with a big "W").
"Work" is what you do because you believe that's what you were meant to do. Picasso found his "Work", and so did Einstein, Mother Teresa, Oprah and many others.
On the other hand, "work" is what hundreds of millions of people are doing every day while furtively watching the clock and wishing it would move faster toward 5 PM.
The question to ask is, "Are you currently involved in doing "Work" -- which is based on your passion, talent and values, or are you just doing "work" in order to get a pay check and pay the bills?
This kind of question is not superficial and, in fact, goes way beyond motivation at work. It probes deep into what makes a person tick. It's about what a person really wants out of life, and we all get only one chance in life (unless you believe in reincarnation).
Because this is such a complex subject, the overwhelming majority of motivational speakers and authors fail to address it properly.
Employers, for their part, focus more on external motivation like salary, benefits, scheduling flexibility, etc. Of course, there is also the dark kind of motivation such as the fear of losing one's job.
Ultimately, motivation is the business of every working person and he/she alone is responsible for maintaining the "inner fire." The employer can provide certain resources and some guidance, but it's up to each person to do the serious self-introspection required in order to find out what she is really passionate about, what her talent is, and then to write a detailed plan so as to realize her dream career.
Only then can true motivation emerge, and drive forward a career so that the person can achieve self-actualization, one day at a time.
In the end, Leonardo Da Vinci, arguably the greatest genius of all time, revealed the secret behind his gigantic self-motivation. One writer asked him what he considered to be his greatest achievement, and he replied: Leonardo Da Vinci.
Perhaps the Renaissance virtuoso was right. Perhaps the goal of every great career is to enable us to become the best person we can be.
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