By Andrea Knight, Copyright, 2022.
Motivation is something that is on everyone’s mind, from individual contributor to business owner. “Quietly quitting” isn’t really a new concept, but it puts a spotlight on the demotivated employee. How do we self motivate and how are we best motivated by others? This varies on a case by case basis, however to start the conversation we need to take a brief look at intrinsic vs extrinsic motivators.
Here is a short video that I believe explains extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in a thoughtful way:
- Extrinsic motivators are usually an external motivation, something coming from outside of us. Some examples include fear, money, sex and food.
- Intrinsic motivation is internal (honor, to find peace, curiosity, to make self or others’ better, caring)
- Those with a masters degree or PhD may not be as motivated by fear and money alone, as I noted working alongside about 5 PhD’s in one job. Instead highly educated individuals usually need a purpose, challenge or responsibility to feel motivated.
- Sometimes when all else fails obligation will get you through the day or at work.
Some examples of Extrinsic motivators (video: “follower of rules”):
- Earn an external reward
- Avoid punishment or negative consequences
- To please others
- To impress others
- To impress others is a strong motivator for some – ever been attracted to your boss? You’re a pretty good employee in that case aren’t you? However when applied to lifestyle creep it can put you into debt potentially, so be aware and careful. Use it when it serves you, not when it doesn’t.
- Competing with another person
- To be loved by another person
Some examples of Intrinsic motivators (video: “thinks independently”):
- To improve yourself
- To improve a process or something else
- It’s fun and enjoy it
- Inner Peace
- To feel accomplished
- Internal competition with yourself
- To be happy
- To feel good
- To feel euphoric or get a high (mental, not drugs)
In reality most people, including highly educated individuals, need both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators at some point. Some sources lean on intrinsic motivators, however you won’t always want to do the task, lift the weights, help out your boss, and do an hour of cardio, sometimes you have to just do it. Using a combo of any of the above, extrinsic or intrinsic, may help drive you to your next goal and succeed.
Example #2: Taking out the Trash
Another good example I read once was a father trying to motivate their kid to take out the trash. When the father asked, the child would mope, slowly make his way, and mumble the entire time. The child would rather watch tv or play video games. Eventually the father started paying his son $5 to take out the trash weekly. While that initially put spring in the child’s step, he eventually went back to taking it out slowly and mumbling the entire time by the end of the week. One lesson here is while extrinsic motivators such as money may cause some increased positive mood and spring in your step, eventually the child takes the money for granted. The chore still is undesirable and the child would still rather do something fun.
The second lesson is when an extrinsic motivator is applied, subconsciously the child may assume the chore or task is undesirable. Even as more money is applied, the same pattern resumes. If this subconscious thought of extrinsic motivation is applied to undesirable jobs, then as the adult gets paid increasingly more money, some may become more demotivated over time, equating more money meaning the job is even more undesirable or increased risk.
This is one of the reasons why an employer knows that increasing someone’s pay indefinitely won’t equate to more productivity (yes, it’s not all because of the CEO’s greed). It helps when the employee knows how to motivate themselves (intrinsic motivation) as money is not always an infinitely enduring motivation for everyone.
“I don’t feel appreciated”
Sorry to hear that Buttercup. From now on I want you to create a folder in your email labeled “appreciation”. Every time your manager or someone on your team emails you “thank you”, recognizes you for accomplishing a task, says “great job”, put it in that folder. If something is verbal or done in a meeting, write it down in an email, email it to yourself, and file in that folder. Include paid birthday parties to you or the team, verbal thanks, free Friday morning bagels, holiday bonuses, free tickets, and corporate paid for lunches. I promise you, besides your paycheck which is appreciation as well for your work, you are being appreciated in many ways. Set a calendar event to review that folder weekly or monthly. Let it sink in the 2nd time or third time. You’ll start to see the appreciation more and more around you, because it is there. Negative thinking and a victim mentality may prevent it from sinking in the first time. We have to retrain our mind sometimes to think more positively and notice our blessings.
“Why does it feel like salmon upstream sometimes? Why do I not want to work hard like I see other successful people do?” If you look at our most closely related living relatives, the great apes such as chimps and gorillas, what do they do all day? Sleep, eat, play, relax, climb, forage. Some other activities as well but you get the point. It isn’t “natural” to work a 9 to 5 for someone else, to do cardio on a treadmill without the reason being about food or sex, to drive your daughter to band practice, etc. We are going against what feels natural to us by being so driven to look good, be successful, make a lot of money, and have a ton of friends on instagram.
The Hard Truth
One thing to note, even if you are working your passion, or for yourself, sometimes you won’t be happy. Throw out the need to be happy all the time to increase your productivity! Sometimes you will be able to motivate yourself to get out of bed with the thought of coffee, to go to work for the money, to do a half hour of lifting weights, but sometimes you will be in a low mood and need to force yourself through it. Don’t expect every chore, work environment or meeting to be a blast, sometimes we just need to get it done. When all else fails just obligation, such as needing to just show up at work at 9am, works.
Having your expectations in the right place will help you feel less lost (why am I not happy at work?), and less disappointed. Remember, those advertising on social media about their great lives still work or worked hard, and they are just showing you the flashy bits. You’re not seeing the boring aspects of their lives in pictures, such as years in an office at a desk, you’re just seeing the best parts. You didn’t see the hours and hours of sweat and weight lifting to get those perfect glutes and abs. You didn’t see the years of late nights to build someone’s business so they could afford that vacation or lakeside home. You’re seeing the end happy result of hard work. Think of that when all the usual motivators aren’t driving you that day, and you feel like you are not “living your best life”. For moments where I know something needs to get done but I don’t feel like it, I have a phrase etched in wood I look to that says “Suck it up Buttercup!” It makes me laugh and away I go to task. Go get it done!
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