Motivation has always been a difficult thing for me to pin down. I’ve always enjoyed watching TED talks or browsing through r/getmotivated to gain just a splash of energy, but the surge never lasts long. In search of a method to gain motivation that held for a while, I stumbled upon Daniel Pink’s work on motivation…
How is motivation driven by your purpose? Lasting motivation is largely driven by a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. When we find purpose in what we want to achieve, we become self-motivated instead of relying on people, money, status to energize us.
When we think of motivation, we mostly think about bold speeches and polished phrases that get us up and ready to go. But, have you ever noticed how short lived most motivation is?
This is because most motivation taught or provided to us is external motivation. And it’s caused us to become greedy and self-serving with what we expect from motivation.
External Versus Internal Motivation
External motivation: drive to action that (as opposed to [internal] motivation) springs from outside influences instead of from one’s own feelings.
Internal motivation: behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you.
External motivation is all about getting. You do something because you’ll get a reward: increased pay, less workload, a scholarship, approval, a sense of worth.
Often, it’s the easiest motivation to put in place because it’s tangible. But, it’s also a very reductionistic way to look at people.
Because even though money is nice to have, it’s not going to motivate you while helping you feel sustained and supported over a long period of time.
External motivation absolutely has its merit though. Without external motivation to get us started in a direction, we might have difficulty starting something to begin with…
When I started working in sales, the first thing that drew me in was the freedom and income I could create with the job. But that allure did not last long. I had to switch my motivation to something deeper.
Internal motivation is all about a sense of wellbeing. You do something because it feels fulfilling.
It’s the moment when you’re compelled to do good because you know that’s how the world works. And that by doing good you grow and find peace and joy.
Internal motivation is the perfect driver for long-term energy, but it’s terrible at helping get a kickstart on the things we want to do.
As much as we’d like to be altruistic and good-hearted, it’s honestly difficult to gain momentum on internal motivation alone. It takes extensive personal exploration to study to discover the core reason we do the things we do.
And when we can tap into meanings the resonate deeply with us, we can find motivation that will last for an extensive amount of time.
The Main Difference
External and internal motivation are so different because external motivation is like a staircase. At first, we have a goal of the bottom stair. Maybe it’s to take on a big project in the company. But as soon as we accomplish that, there’s no where left to get but to the next step: increased pay.
And as soon as we get that, we’re not satisfied and have to get to the next level. This is an idea called “fictional finalism” by Alfred Adler. Fictional finalism is the fixation on the mindset that “when I achieve _____, I will finally be happy”.
When I get the promotion, then I’ll be content.
When I become a father, then I’ll finally feel like life is meaningful.
When I earn this degree, then people will respect me.
External motivation never provides a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment because it always promises that there’s more to be gotten.
Internal motivation, on the other hand, suggests that life is always growing towards more joy, happiness, fulfillment when you’re continually engaged with what you’re doing.
Internal motivation doesn’t focus itself on goals or tasks, but a way of seeing the world that challenges you to touch it in the most sincere way possible.
What Is The Purpose Of Motivation?
So, what really is the need for motivation anyway? Some people preach it like it’s as necessary as breath, and others, like Gary Vaynerchuk, think it’s worthless.
I think people like Gary Vaynerchuk are onto something… because motivation can very easily get in the way. Gary V, more than anything else, preaches discipline, consistency, discipline, showing up, consistency, etc.
He views motivation as a fleeting energy that always needs to be tended to and filled up. And instead of coddling our sensitive motivation, we could have been using our energy to be disciplined.
We need to shift our perspective on motivation. Instead of motivation being the springboard and source of our energy, it needs to be guide that lets us know our energy is going in the right direction.
Is Motivation Or Discipline Better?
Motivation is widely viewed as the source of our energy, but it does a pretty terrible job at executing tasks well. Motivation makes bad writers. It makes bad workers and bad designers.
Any time I’ve studied people who are successful, the common theme is that they always showed up and chose to be disciplined. It’s not that they felt their work all the time or would become impassioned with what they were doing…
The found their motivation, and that set the stage for the discipline they wanted to create.
Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one.F. Scott Fitzgerald
When writing to a close family friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald reinforced how desire and motivation are not in themselves creative acts.
Motivation and drive is a great place to start, but it will never help us live the story that the motivation paints. Only discipline and habits of showing up will.
Motivation helps us know that our discipline is in line. Discipline on its own can be cold and careless.
Tapping into what drives us internally can help us connect with the warmth and groundedness that ties us into the larger picture of what’s happening in the world around us.
It helps us create disciplines that are in line with we’re were headed while constantly being a map to understand if we’re still on course.
How To Become Motivated Without Money
Finding motivation without money is a double-sided coin 😉
On one hand, it’s very difficult to find energy and focus if you find yourself in need to pay bills, feed family members, and pay for adequate housing and healthcare. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs illustrates this brilliantly. Maslow theorized that we have basic needs that must be met before we can reach higher levels of awareness and actualization.
e.g. food and shelter needs must be met before social needs are met
So, let’s consider that our basic needs are met.. how do we find motivation outside of financial gain?
First, the question in itself is interesting and mainly arises because it’s the motivational tool so widely used by companies to instill drive in their employees.
But, let’s say you’re capped out at the company, or they don’t offer raises, or you’re working on a personal project… what’s the best way to find motivation without just focusing on how it increases your wealth?
Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose…
Daniel Pink has an incredible study on motivation in the workplace that extends incredibly well into all other areas of life.
He talks about how management is geared to created compliance, but what everyone is really in search of is engagement.
He suggested 3 modes that create a self-directed, motivated environment based on outcomes that focus on a better life for everyone involved: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselvesDaniel Pink
Pink’s main message is how purpose creates life inside of the tasks we do. It revitalizes discipline and work by showing us the bigger picture.
Purpose helps us connect with what we’re working on and who we’re working with. And shows us the grander scale at play.
The deeper core of who we are is constantly in exploration of how we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Something more inclusive and dynamic. Something that pushes all of us to become better, to love more, and to find more peace.
It Starts By Finding A Purpose You Want To Be A Part Of
The best way to start is to begin exploring the purpose of what you do. Maybe you in a line of work you don’t enjoy. Is there a broader purpose that you’re missing out on?
Or, maybe, it’s a purpose you don’t align with and you need to find something else.
Motivation is a great guide to make sure that you’re on track with the energy you’re using. And motivation works best when you’re exploring the purpose behind what you do.
What is purpose mastery? Purpose mastery is the continued growth and practice of purpose in our daily life. It’s the pursuit of new ways of thinking and challenging ourselves to connect with the bigger picture of what’s going on around us in the world.
Why do we need autonomy? Autonomy grants us the freedom to be creative, to try new things, and to explore what matters most to us. Without autonomy, we’re boxed inside the goals and desires of someone else. Autonomy gives you permission to become and grow.
Does money really motivate employee performance? Money can be a powerful motivator, but studies are conflicted on how potent it is. Some employees are motivated by money, while others are not. Patterns indicate that money is the most powerful motivator when work environments tend to be cold and hostile.