It’s what’s on the inside that counts with motivation

Do you get this feeling?…It’s a beautiful day and I know I should go for a walk in order to stay fit…but I don’t really want to.

I don’t know about you but staying fit is just not enough motivation to get me out for a walk. However, I am looking forward to playing basketball tomorrow—I do it because it’s fun and not because I want to stay fit.

Do you get the same feeling when it comes to your job? It’s another weekday and you know you should get out of bed to make some money and pay your bills…but you don’t really want to. Paying your bills is just not enough motivation to get you going.

You’re not alone. Up to 70% of us report feeling dis-engaged from our jobs, work, or employers. And one of the reasons that we feel that way is because our jobs do not motivate us intrinsically, that is inside us as opposed to working only for extrinsic rewards (like money).

Intrinsic Motivation

Research clearly shows that you’re more likely to enjoy job satisfaction if you focus on the work itself, and less likely to enjoy it if you’re focused on money. This finding holds true even at low salary levels. This means that employees who are intrinsically motivated are three times more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated (such as by money).

Intrinsic motivation is not only a better indicator of job satisfaction but also job performance. The more people focus on their salaries, the less they focus on satisfying their intellectual curiosity, learning new skills, or having fun, and those are the very things that make people perform best.

However, it is difficult to cultivate higher job satisfaction and better job performance if we don’t know our motivational pattern. I have written elsewhere about the key success factors that make up our motivational pattern. I call them rocket launchers. When are natural talents, inclinations and skills align with the tasks we’re given at work, then are job satisfaction and performance work together to produce amazing results!

Motivational Pattern

Each of us can learn what launches us into a state of flow that integrates with certain tasks at work. When we are clear about the positive intrinsic aspects of such work, the research shows that we enjoy our work more than if we are just focused on the extrinsic rewards of performing such tasks. What is it we most enjoy doing and do best when it comes to our work? My JobJoy Report is an evidence-based approach to giving individuals the answer to this question with clarity and confidence. If we can’t answer this question, we default to focusing on extrinsic rewards.

While studies show consistently that most people are, in fact, more intrinsically motivated, they still tend to choose a raise over more meaningful work. They might want more interesting work but feel they can’t get it from their current job, or career, or employer, so they go for the money. As negative work experiences pile up, individuals tune out, settle for a paycheck and report feeling dis-engaged from their work.

Now, a sceptic might say that such reseach simply reflects an innate mindset — some people happen to be more focused on extrinsic rewards, while others are more focused on the task itself. That’s certainly possible because it’s hard to test for such a distinction. Similarly, a cynic might say that people who focus too much on money are preventing themselves from enjoying their jobs. That’s possible too…we don’t know for sure.

What we do know is that there is little evidence to show that money motivates us, and a great deal of evidence to suggest that it actually demotivates us. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we should work for free. We all need to pay our bills and provide for our families — but once these basic needs are covered the psychological benefits of money are questionable.

Working only for wages

The meaning of money is largely subjective. For example, there are marked individual differences in people’s tendency to think or worry about money, and different people value money for different reasons (e.g., as a means to power, freedom, security, or love). Our relationship to money is highly idiosyncratic.

Some research shows that employees’ personalities are much better predictors of engagement than their salaries. The more emotionally stable, extraverted, agreeable or conscientious people are, the more they tend to like their jobs (irrespective of their salaries). But, an even more important determinant of an employee’s engagement at work is the personality of their boss. In fact, the biggest organizational cause of disengagement is incompetent leadership.

How we relate to others, especially our superiors, is a part of our motivational pattern. When we know what motivates us intrinsically, when we can communicate to our bosses and others how we work best, then we have a better chance of achieving job satisfaction.

If you are feeling dis-engaged from work…if you want work that taps in to your motivational pattern…if you want to make a social impact…if you want your personal goals/values to align with your work…if you want a sense of personal accomplishment…then let’s discuss how you can get engaged with your job quickly and easily.

How our lazy brains block career goals & what to do about it

We are creatures of habit because our brains make us that way!

Neuroscience shows that we are motivated to achieve and maintain a comfort zone because our brains equate that state of equilibrium with survival.

It’s only natural to resist change because the brain is hard-wired to respond to any stimuli or situation that disturbs our equilibrium. That’s why every news broadcast starts off with a “bad news” story—to get our attention! Our brains become alert to this news of danger, crisis, or threat at a personal level.

Earthquake in Nepal! Should I take shelter? Tornado in Texas! Should I batten down the hatches? Murderous rampage in Colorado! Should I lock my doors? Unless you or a loved one is in close proximity to these events (very unlikely) then these stories do not really effect you in any practical way.

But we can’t help listening, our brains automatically tune it. Broadcasters know it, and they use it. Why do they want us to be alert for the news broadcast? Not because the news items really matter to us but because they want us to be alert for the advertising messages that pay for the news broadcasts! The news is not a public service but a commercial one. It is a very effective way to collect ears or eyes and sell them to advertisers.

For some of us, this is Communications 101. But, even knowing this, we still listen. So, think about how many tens of thousands of hours of conditioning we have been subject to through such messaging! Our brains, broadcasters, advertising messages—these are all powerful forces to contend with and should not be underestimated.

Is it any wonder then that the prospect of losing a job, or having to look for a job, or making a career change strikes fear into the heart of anyone? Talk about crisis! Alarm bells go off when that state of affairs is disturbed—our jobs and careers go to the very heart of personal safety and stability.

The psychology of motivation

Our brains are naturally lazy and default to operations that require less energy. You’ve probably noticed this when driving a car: learning to drive takes a lot of concentration and energy but once learned we drive without really thinking about it.

While neuroscience research proves that we are meant to get in a groove and stay there, life does not cooperate. We now live in a ‘risk’ society characterized by high unemployment and a steady increase in contingent labour in volatile workplaces. Whether we like it not, more of us will have to change our jobs, our careers, our lives more often. Choosing or being forced to make a career change activates a fear response because the brain knows it’s going to have to expend a lot of energy to survive.

So, what’s the best way to deal with all this? Neuroscience and the psychology of motivation tell us to undo what we’ve learned and build a new habit. But, left on our own, we individually default back to our habits. Did you know, for example, that only 1 of 9 coronary bypass patients adopts healthier day-to-day habits after their surgery?

Changing our lives is not easy but it’s always easier when we do it with others. I focus on helping my clients build new career habits because our brains are also hard-wired to build new skills (aren’t we amazing!).

The Zeigarnik Effect

There is a concept in psychology called the Zeigarnik effect which is the ability of humans to finish a task once they’ve started—our brains resolve the tension between the present and a desired future of completion. That’s why somebody can learn to walk again after a stroke with months of rehab in small steps…literally!

Same thing with job search or career change, we can build new habits, new skills, that move us closer to a goal. It’s not rocket science, anyone can do it! The key is motivation, i.e. the desire to walk again.

That is the purpose of a JobJoy Report: to give you the desire to make a career change, to see with clarity the specific jobs and work settings that will recognize, reward and motivate you for what comes naturally and effortlessly.

Turning that desire into reality means working three major components to motivation: activation, persistence, and intensity. Once a new career is identified, we move into that space with deliberate, intentional, systematic and effective actions.
But start small, take an action, evaluate the result to see if it moves you closer to your goal or not. If it doesn’t move you closer, then look to see what is to be learned from that action, if anything, and adjust. If it does move you closer to your goal then what is the next action to take?

Unlearning old habits, learning new skills, this is the rhythm of successful change.

We persist through inevitable challenges and setbacks that are just part of life. Anyone who has ever had a goal (like wanting to lose ten pounds or run a marathon) probably immediately realizes that simply having the desire to accomplish something is not enough. Achieving such a goal requires the ability to persist through obstacles and endurance, to keep going in spite of difficulties. But there are certain times during the process where you turn up the heat, bear down on your goal, do your utmost to accomplish your goal.

Of course, finding another job or career is more complicated than that and depends on a lot of other things but the point is this: anyone can do it if they want to. The key is in your motivation.