"Always pursue what you love and be passionate about it" - Dr. Alexander Imich, NYC, World's Oldest Man at 111 years old
The famous polling company Gallup, says that people will take a pay cut in order to do jobs they love.
Identifying your passionate interests is one of the keys to motivation. It works like this:
Your High Interest Level > Leads to a Flow State > Productivity and Value > Provides Satisfaction > Motivation to Go Higher
Peter Drucker said the same: "There is no greater motivation for working hard than success." As always, "success" is defined by achieving what is meaningful to you. Others may call someone a success, but it will still feel hollow if the person doesn't feel the same way.
Motivation comes from the Latin word "motus, which means "to move." The idea is to create the conditions necessary to transport someone from a current state to another desired one. We've often heard it mentioned that someone is "a good motivator". While we all understand what that means broadly, in a purer sense no one can really motivate anyone else. It is an internal process. All "a motivator" can really do is to identify the desired end state and create the conditions or environment that's necessary to make it more likely to happen.
In that context, there are many noteworthy motivators that are worthy of emulation from all walks of life: famous writers like Marcus Aurelius, those who motivate by their actions such as Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela, athletic coaches like Vince Lombardi, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson ("The Zen Master"), and any number of political figures, past and present. The main thing to realize is that motivators can come from all walks of life. So can the motivated too - like you!
Give yourself a lift!
Some Motivational Theories
Keep in mind that these are theories, and while widely adopted and publicized over the years, they have also been subject to criticism for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, they will serve nicely for our purposes.
One of the great names in motivational research and literature is Harvard psychologist Abraham Maslow, who espoused what have come to be called "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs." Maslow said that we are motivated by a pyramid or stair steps of needs, each reliant on the ones below them for support. These needs, with some examples, are:
- Physiological Needs: freedom from hunger and thirst
- Safety and Security Needs: freedom from danger and threats to our health
- Social Needs: needs to interact with others
- Ego or Esteem Needs: the need to be well thought of by others
- Self-Actualization Needs: to become the best that we can be
Maslow indicated that we are only motivated by unsatisfied needs, not satisfied ones. It was also necessary, he said, that each level of need be reasonably, but not necessarily fully, satisfied before someone can move on to a "higher order" need. It is virtually impossible for any student of psychology, business and other disciplines to go through their education without learning about Maslow's theory on multiple occasions. His work created a basis for other motivational researchers who followed. (Dr. Wayne Dyer, the well-known self-help writer of over 40 books, was a great proponent of Maslow. He noted in one of his books that he received his doctorate on the same day that Maslow died, so he said he felt almost as if the torch were being passed to him to keep Maslow's motivational flame alive. Dyer died on August 29,2015.)
Dr. Frederick Herzberg developed his well-known "Motivator-Hygiene Theory" based on a study he did of over 1700 subjects who were questioned about what made them happy, and unhappy, in the many diverse jobs they had. The power to motivate over the long term, he said can only be found in the motivators, among which are:
- The Work Itself
On the other hand, hygiene or maintenance factors, include among others:
- Company Policy and Administration
- Working Conditions
- Relationships with Co-Workers
Herzberg says hygiene factors do not have the power to motivate over the long term. All they can do is cause perhaps a temporary bump in motivation, but they quickly return to a level of indifference.
Does that mean that hygiene factors are not important? "No", says Herzberg. He says effectively that they are the underlying foundation that the motivators rest on. So if salary and working conditions are poor, the conditions are not going to be proper for the motivators to have the desired effect in the workplace - any more than good seed wouldn't do well in poor soil. So Herzberg says that to begin with, an organization "must have good hygiene", that is, organizations must make sure that they are reasonably meeting hygiene needs, if they want the motivators to work.
Herzberg's calling salary a hygiene factor, instead of a motivator, caused his theory to come under a lot of criticism. He was accused of saying that salary wasn't important. He responded by saying that it was the most important hygiene factor, but that if someone were given a salary increase, it would not serve as a long term motivator. His thought was that as soon as someone got an increase, once they got used to it, they would want more money again, and that any increase in motivational level as a result would dissipate. As he once put it, "I had a wonderful meal in Atlanta last night, but I'm sorry, there is no food that will keep me from wanting to eat again."
What does all this have to do with you? By understanding the basics of Motivator-Hygiene Theory, it can help you seek what is most likely to be motivating for you. While all of the motivators are considered to be important, it doesn't mean that each one is equally as important for each person.
Take a look at the motivators. Rank them in order of importance to you. Depending upon your stage in life, and other factors, there are clearly going to be differences in the selections that are made and also of the intensity of feeling for each. For example, at one time, I may have given some thought to advancement, recognition and increased responsibility. Now, what kind of work I do and what I am able to achieve that's personally meaningful to me is a whole lot more important. What counts though is what's important to you now. Re-quiz yourself on this as you go through life. You may find that it will help you re-orient your goals as you go along.
Once you've identified what motivators are most important to you, whenever you have an opportunity to consider a new position, or to consider how to utilize your time, compare how well it matches up with what your motivational goals are.
If you're an employer or a manager, you can apply this in a different way. Speak with each employee. Get to know what's most important to them. Then, as much as is possible, fill their jobs with as many motivators that are meaningful to them as you can. This approach of putting the square pegs in the square holes can contribute toward having a more productive organization. Remember that you need to provide good, basic hygiene to support it all too.
Peter Drucker agrees: "A company that builds on each individual's potential is far more likely to succeed, than one that inches people forward in dull tasks" - often ones that management micro-manages, that sucks the life out of being able to control one's own methods. Self-control of methods can lead to increased creativity.
Motivation: Being In Control
Dessert choices can be difficult sometimes, but using our attuned decision making skills, we can usually pull it off. Decisions in our business and personal lives aren't often as easy though. But as Charles Duhigg says in Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, motivation is one of the key elements we need in becoming our best self. He lists seven additional factors: Teams, Focus, Goal Setting, Managing Others, Decision Making, Innovation, and Absorbing Data. This article will focus on motivation.
Allowing people to make choices transformed a game, set up as part of an experiment. Instead of being a chore to play against a computer, it became a challenge. Participants were more motivated to play the game when they were given more control. In the new economy, more than one-third of American workers are freelancers, contractors, or in otherwise transitory positions. The workers who have succeeded in this new economy are those who know how to decide for themselves how to spend their time and allocate their energy. (What co-workers need in any situation is trust in them, permission to make mistakes, and available mentoring.)
Researchers say that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have the authority over our actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control. When people believe they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more. (Some managers may view this as giving away the store, but it's what can create a stronger, more resilient and more vibrant organization, which can benefit managers as well as co-workers. Naturally, this must be balanced by everyone's recognizing that he/she is part of an organization that has policies which usually have to be observed and goals that need to be met. It's not all about us.)
A theory of motivation has emerged: give people the opportunity to make choices that provide them with a sense of autonomy and self-determination. Experiments have shown that people are more motivated to complete difficult tasks when those chores are based as decisions they've made, rather than as commands from above. (Give people the slack they need and let them find their own way. Tell them to ask when they need help, advice, or someone to run interference for them.)
Find a choice, almost any choice, that allows someone to exert control. Motivation is triggered by making choices that demonstrate that we are in control. The specific choice made matters less than the assertion of control.
Charles Krulik was promoted to Marine Corps Commandant, the Marines' top position. He believed basic training needed a change. (Just as it probably needs in many other organizations.) Their research showed that the most successful Marines were those with a strong "internal locus of control " - a belief they could influence their destiny through the choices they made.
An experiment with fifth grade students showed complimenting students who worked hard activated their internal locus of control because hard work is something we decide to do. Students who were praised for their intelligence were less motivated to push themselves.
Carol Dweck, author of the best seller Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, and Professor of Psychology at Stanford, helped conduct a study that found that internal locus of control is a learned skill. "Most of us learn it early in life. But some people's sense of self-determination gets suppressed by how they grow up, or by experiences they've had (maybe some in the workplace too), and they forget how much influence they can have on their own lives.
Similarly, Commandant Krulak hoped that if he could redesign basic training to force trainees to take control over their choices, that the impulse might become more automatic. He said they call it teaching "a bias toward action". (The same term was used decades ago in the Peters and Waterman classic, In Search of Excellence as one of the seven elemental factors found in the successful companies of the day.) Krulak said that "they pushed recruits to experience that thrill of taking control, of feeling the rush of being in charge. Once they got them addicted to that, they're hooked." (How could you give your team members the same thrill and hook them on themselves and wanting to excel? Through increased delegation and letting go, creating more empowered team members.)
A sergeant said that he handed out a number of compliments, all of them designed to be unexpected. "We praise for doing things that are hard. That's how they learn to believe they can do them." (Compliments have to be deserved though. Just setting out to start "complimenting people more" isn't going to work if the recipients don't perceive it to be honest.)
Try to create conditions that will allow employees to move willingly to do something that is going to benefit the organization. We often hear how someone "motivated someone" or that a boss or a coach is a "good motivator". But the truth of it is that motivation is an internal process. It has to spring from the hearts and minds of women and men. It a manager's job to create the fertile ground that will help those seeds flourish.
Once people know how to make self-directed choices into a habit, that form of internally generated motivation becomes a habit. (Duhigg's previous book, The Power of Habit would be a great aid in learning more about habit formation, in this case, for the formation of more productive habits.)
We need to see our choices not just as expressions of control, but also as affirmations of our values and goal. (The idea is to link smaller tasks to larger aspirations, ones that the individual sees as important. That's an elemental part of our feeling successful. The 'success' doesn't have to be important to you. It needs to be important to them. They can't see better wearing your glasses.) The choices that are the most powerful in generating motivation are decisions that do two things:
- they convince us we're in control
-they endow our actions with larger meanings.
An internal locus of control emerges when we develop a mental habit of transforming chores into meaningful choices, when we assert that we have authority over our lives. (Can it be a meaningful choice to help a customer as a customer service representative, as a financial advisor, or simply as a human being? It can be a powerful answer to "the why" of what motivates us to act.)
Our capacity for self-motivation can fade unless we practice self-determination and give ourselves rewards for subversive assertiveness. ( What a great term. Some seniors in a nursing home laden with rules decided to rebel against the place. It got a whole lot better for them as a result. Naturally, there are limits. There's a difference between residents deciding that they're not going to put up with regimented seating at lunchtime any more and deciding to start a bonfire in their room. Obviously, limits can be necessary. In an organization though, what limits might be removed to allow for workers to be more themselves? Try asking. The same applies to employee placement and work assignments. As much as possible, put square pegs into square holes and round pegs into round ones. That requires getting to know your people better. But the motivational and productivity payoff can be large.)
Once we start asking why those small tasks become pieces of a larger constellation of meaningful projects, goals and values, we start to recognize how small chores can have outsized emotional rewards, because they can prove to us that we are making meaningful choices; that we genuinely are in control of our own lives. That's when self-motivation flourishes. (The most meaningful question of all is how can this type of training, employee development, thinking, and motivation be made part of our own organization?)
Motivation: Getting Off The Dime
Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter, Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business discussed how difficult it was to get work done on his book about how to apply discoveries in productivity in our lives. He said his motivation seemed to flag at the wrong times. He was inspired by the ideas that General Charles Krulak used to redesign Marine Corps boot camp by strengthening recruits' internal locus of control: Motivation becomes easier when we transform a chore into a choice. Duhigg said something that the General said stuck with him: "Most recruits don't know how to force themselves to start something hard. But if we train them to take the first step by doing something hard that makes them feel in charge, it's easier to keep going.
So if you're trying to motivate yourself to get something done, keep the end in mind. Ask yourself first: Why is it worthwhile to do this at all? Then take a step to getting started on reaching your goal. I believe any step can contribute to moving forward. The added benefit of following General Krulak's advice though is that the step should be a hard step. That inspires the confidence that you can handle lesser and equivalent steps as you progress.
Sometimes we can become our own worst enemies. When students, and authors too, try to get started writing something, they sometimes get hung up on developing a title and can't get going until they have one. A far better approach is just to create a working title that can be changed later and to get going on the project. Don't get hung up on one thing. Just move past it, do something else and bring it all together later.
It's often sage advice when working on a project "To begin with the end in mind" (One of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ). But if you can't envision what the end is going to be, recognize that by the doing, it can often show what needs to be done next. Eventually, the end will become apparent.
Duhigg says that "Self-motivation becomes easier when we see our choices as affirmations of our deeper value and goals... It's that feeling of self-determination that gets us going."
Meaningful Goals Are Necessary To Motivate
In Happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar says, "we must have a self-generated purpose that possesses personal significance, rather than one dictated by society's standards and expectations...The important thing is that we choose our purpose in accordance with our values and passions, rather than conforming to other's expectations....As George Bernard Shaw said, 'This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one' " This puts a fine point on goal determination. It's important that you do what's necessary to determine what goals you can develop that will meet these definitions. As Montaigne noted, "The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to live with purpose." You need to determine what yours is going to be.
Ben-Shahar says we also have to ask, "What pursuits would challenge you and fulfill your potential?" Carl Jung said, "The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest things without them." You may not be able to accomplish everything you want, but the more things that you can accomplish that have meaning for you, the happier you'll be and the more successful you'll feel.
Goal Attainment and Focusing on The Right Goals
It's not just all about goal attainment either. Many researchers have shown that what is also important is having goals - and striving to accomplish them. Like planning vacations. There can be a great deal of satisfaction found in planning a vacation, not just in actually taking it.
Ben-Shahar also reports in Happiness, research on goals and happiness by Kennon Sheldon, "people seeking greater well-being would be well-advised to focus on the pursuit of:
- goals involving growth, connection and contribution, rather than goals involving money, beauty and popularity
- goals that are interesting and personally important to them, rather than goals they feel forced or pressured to pursue
Samuel Johnson said, "Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance." President Calvin Coolidge also noted that there is nothing more common than people with uncommon talent, but unused ability. It's far more important to make good use of the talents you have, than to be talented and not to do much with them. If you are willing to work and have worthwhile goals, over time you will see good results.
Louis Pasteur said that perseverance is what caused him to be successful: "My strength lies only in my tenacity." Others may be more talented than you are. Using the talents you do have is within your control. How talented someone else is doesn't buy your groceries. Just do your best, improve whenever possible, and stick with it.
To this has to be added a measure of patience, as Ben Franklin tells us:
"Tis true there is much to be done,
and perhaps you are weak-handed;
but stick to it steadily and you will see great effects;
for "constant dropping wears away stones;
and by diligence and patience, the mouse ate in two the cable;
and "little strokes fell great oaks," as Poor Richard says in his almanac."
Tom Butler-Bowdon in Never Too Late To Be Great provides important advice about perseverance:
"Every motivational book crows about the power of persistence, but the attribute only has power if you are persisting along the right path."
Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code, spent many years pursuing a music career. It was only when he turned to writing that he made his mark.
"Persist as you did when you learned to walk", says television evangelist, Dr. Charles Stanley. Very similar to the famous Japanese expression, "Fall down seven times, get up eight." When you read enough of these self-help maxims, you will see similarities through the ages, and across countries. All of that helps the basic guiding messages to stick with us and to keep us on the right path.
Having a coach or advisor can be very helpful to you. This could be one or both of your parents, a friend, an older relative, neighbor, experienced co-worker, someone who is knowledgeable in a particular field, a businessperson or other professional, or professional counselors. You can avoid many rookie mistakes, and get yourself on the right road a lot sooner, by listening to advice from experienced people who are farther down the track of life, or the track of a particular field, than you are.
The Seven Habits of Highly ffective People - Stephen Covey
Becoming More Effective In All That You Do
I end each management course I teach with a review of: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Stephen Covey. It's sold in excess of 25 million copies and was on the New York Times best seller list for over four years. I recommend that everyone get a copy and highlight it as they go through it. It provides the principles for laying out a plan for accomplishing personal and business goals, such as trying to manage a personal transformation to a better and more fulfilling life. The "Seven Habits" are shown below
1. Be Proactive
Take the initiative. Be responsible for your own development. Don't wait for things to happen. Make them happen. "it takes initiative to develop the seven habits... Each puts a responsibility on you to act. If you wait to be acted upon, you will be acted upon." (If that happens, you probably won't like it and it will make it more difficult to initiate a correction, far more difficult than it would have been than staying on top of things, and in control, in the first place. Think proactive, not reactive. A proactive person gets a worthwhile education or training in an area that's in demand. A reactive person waits until they can't find a decent job, then tries to do something about it, after perhaps wasting years working low, paying dead-end jobs. No matter what, it's never too late to make a change for the better.)
2. Begin With The End In Mind
"Start any endeavor with a mental image (a vision) of an outcome conforming to values that are important to you - just as an organization would.... It is incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder climbing the ladder of success, only to discover that as philosopher Joseph Campbell said, "it's leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy,very busy, without being effective."
How can you develop what this vision consistent with your values is? Covey says to visualize your own funeral and to write your own eulogy. Then aim to live up to it. At your funeral, would you want someone to eulogize you by saying how much money you made, how you were always a shrewd investor or successful businessperson, or how nice your cars and boat were? Not that there's anything wrong with any of those things, but most people would probably prefer to have it said about them that they were a kind person who was admired by all who knew her/him and who was known as someone who was always willing to help, and similar attributes. Once you've hit on what characteristics about yourself you'd like to be emphasized, use those values to guide your life and the decisions that you make.
Covey suggests writing a personal mission statement. Think "goals, rules and guidelines I want to live by." What's important to me? "You are the programmer. Write the program" - then live it.
3. Put First Things First
"Things that matter most should never be put at the mercy of things that matter least." - Goethe
"The successful person has the habit of doing those things failures (people who have failed) don't like to do."
In order to move the ball down the field, Covey says you don't have to do it all yourself: "Effectively delegating to others is perhaps the single, most powerful activity there is." He recommends "stewardship delegation" - giving responsibility and focusing on results instead of methods. By delegating, you free up your own time to engage in higher level activities.
4. Think Win-Win
In working with others, value must be provided for both sides. "It's not your way or my way, it's a better way." "If you want results, you have to water the flowers, if you want them to grow." You can't say, "I want the flowers first, then I'll water them." If you want results, you've got to do what needs to be done first.
5. Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
"Listen with the intent to empathize, not with the intent to reply." (Sympathy means feeling sorry for someone. Empathy means trying to put yourself in the other person's place. Someone goes to a friend's mother's viewing and naturally feels sorry for their friend's loss. That's sympathy. Looking into the casket and imaging how it would feel if it were your own mother there, takes it to a whole different level. Trying to put ourselves in the other person's shoes can be a great aid to effective communication.
Covey says that "people constantly project their own home movies on to other people's behavior. They prescribe their own glasses for everyone with whom they interact." He implies that it's a lot more effective when you put their glasses on instead and see things from their perspective.
"When you listen, you learn. And you give people who work for you, and with you (and anyone else), psychological air. You inspire loyalty that goes well beyond (the norm)".
"Create wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts. (1+1= 3). Working together creates successes." Think "interdependence", not independence or dependence.
7. Sharpen The Saw
"Take time to develop the four essential dimensions of your character:
Physical : proper nutrition, exercise and rest
Mental: proper thinking, reading, mental simulation and mental growth
Social/Emotional: good people interactions, meditation, stress reduction, service to others. "As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do less well.")
Spiritual: organized religion, belief in a supreme being, belief in "the universe". "Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way... Real change comes from the inside out."
To neglect any one area impacts the others.
"Sharpening the saw" means renewing ourselves in all four areas. When we don't, it affects the whole. The process should be an "Upward Spiral" that requires us to learn. commit to doing what needs to be done, then doing it, and repeating the same process onward and upward. As the Romans said, "Virtue stands in the middle." Keep yourself in balance.