Reflections on Motivation and How we May Lose it
(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)
Welcome to the sixth edition of Career Tips in 2014. Earlier in the year, we talked about your work goals for 2014, we discussed your blind spots and how they can prevent you from making the progress you seek against your professional objectives, we reviewed techniques for working efficiently and finally we explored identifying and therefore being in a position to better play to your strengths. We then took a break and I shared with you a webinar on career transition which I trust was informative. If you missed it, you can catch it up here.
Indeed, achieving goals – in a professional context: performance at work – is about the capacity to keep doing what is required in order to progress and eventually achieve your goals. We have discussed how your blind spots will interfere, just as lacking in personal effectiveness is also likely to slow you down, while being unaware of your strengths will mean more hard work than is strictly necessary. But what we haven’t yet discussed and that which underpins any achievement is motivation. It is therefore time for an article which unpacks the components of motivation and helps us understand how we get demotivated.
The articles on goals, strengths, blind spots, etc. are available here.
What is motivation anyway?
Let me suggest that motivation can be viewed as the power to muster:
1. the energy which fuels kicking off work on a business project or personal goal;
2. the directive force which is fed by the vision of a specific goal and its benefits;
3. the drive to persevere until the goal is reached despite setbacks; and
4. the strength to maintain a particular behaviour once a goal has been achieved in order to avoid slipping back. This is when the goal involves a change process (e.g. losing weight) as opposed to a goal consisting of a finite deliverable (e.g. a work or school report).
Would you agree? And when you consider your own struggles to stay motivated, what is it that has been hardest? For some of us, it’s getting started which is tough but, once on our way, we persevere quite well. In contrast, for some of us, we get going quite rapidly but then find ourselves floundering, lacking in either direction – “what next?” we wonder – or energy or both. Lastly, many among us achieve our goal only to lose it because we cannot seem to maintain the requisite behaviour.
Connecting to your kind of motivation difficulties will be helpful in handling any future trial. So take time to reflect on past experiences and make a note of which phase challenges you more.
Similarly, if motivation is an issue for some of your colleagues or team members, observe them and discuss with them what they are struggling with so that you may identify their challenging phase.
Motivation as a journey:
If motivation consists of four components, then let me further propose that it could be viewed as a four-stage journey. Each of the four phases of the motivational continuum may present challenges.
Further, in each of its phases, motivation may have an internal and an external dimension. For example, a woman could decide to embark on a weight loss program because she is concerned over the risk to her health (internal) but also because her boyfriend has remarked that she is putting on weight (external). In that sense, this lady’s motivation to kick-off a weight-loss programme could be either solely internal, or predominantly external or, as is often the case, a mixture of both.
What about you? Is your motivation more internally-driven, or rather externally-prompted, or indeed, a mix of both internal reflections and of external influences? Take a second look at your experiences of struggling with motivation and this time, it is not the phase of the motivational continuum which I would like you to think about but, rather, examine your drivers: do these tend to be mostly personally-arrived at or do you in fact detect the influence of others?
Again, when it comes to colleagues or team members, let me encourage you to review their drivers: spot those folks who are internally-motivated relative to those who are more externally-driven.
What is demotivation then?
Let me propose that demotivation stems from the following three reasons:
1. resource depletion;
2. goal conflict; or
3. inadequate tracking.
If this is correct, then we can look at motivation issues through the prism of these three reasons. The matrix below brings together the four phases of motivation and these three motivation issues to create an inventory of the several kinds of problems individuals can encounter with motivation.
Shall we practice with two examples?
Example 1: one of your team member is struggling to get started on a particular piece of work you’ve delegated to them. Clearly, the motivational phase in play here is the kick-off – that’s easy enough to figure out, isn’t it? But we must now decide whether it is a case of resource depletion, goal conflict or inadequate tracking which is holding that person back. To some extent, their behaviour can give you indications. Are they procrastinating? Are they showing signs that they don’t know where to start. But a conversation will be needed to fully clarify matters because the remedy will differ substantially depending on the root cause of the problem. For instance, if someone is stalled because they fundamentally disagree with the mission they’ve been given (goal conflict), this is a vastly different issue than if they feel over-whelmed by the need to write an outline for a report (skills gap) or they don’t understand how to plan for their work (inadequate tracking).
Example 2: you are finding yourself struggling to stick to your quit-smoking project. Here the matter is more complex because we could be looking at either a direction or a perseverance problem. While this may seem a lot, my recommendation is that you make time for a self-examination and ask yourself the questions being hinted at in the table above. Do not dismiss any possible reason without consideration. For example, on the surface, it might seem that your goal to stop smoking is not at odds with another one but how about if smoking were very calming? Then it could be that you have in a fact an issue of goal conflict which is preventing you from persevering as you wish. The solution must fit the problem: you will need to find a calming alternative before you can quit smoking.
There you have it: a few thoughts on what motivation is, how it works and what could be going on when it fades. I hope this will equip you with a method to combat your motivation challenges!
As always, I’d like to invite you to share your motivation challenges and remedies. Do feel free to comment in the box below. Conversely, if you have any question or comment, you are welcome to email me by clicking here.
If this article resonated with you, don’t hesitate to contact me for a chat where we would explore what is going on for you and what you would like to have happen. To contact me, click here.
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