Motivation is essential, required, and positive. It allows you to make progress toward meaningful goals. However, complacency sets in when you are void of motivation, and apathy draws near. It’s as if you see life happening before your eyes, but you don’t want to join the party.
Even the highest-performing people have had periods where their motivation is lacking, and many low to medium-performing people struggle to tap into motivation at all. The reality is that many professionals care about improving their current situation but are unwilling to motivate themselves continuously.
Many professionals care about improving their current situation but are unwilling to motivate themselves continuously.
Before you judge yourself for how motivated you are or how motivated you are supposed to be, let’s get aligned on what it is.
What is Motivation?
There are different definitions of motivation, but for the sake of alignment in this column, here is our common definition.
Motivation is the condition inside us that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors.
The word is derived from the Latin word motivus, “a moving cause,” and the root word is motive, which describes why someone is doing something. The key is that motivation ultimately comes from within, and sustaining it requires a moving cause.
Motivation comes from within, and sustaining it requires a moving cause.
As simple as the definition, the reality is that there is always something that comes before motivation.
The Paradox of Motivation
Since motivation comes from within and initiates goal-oriented behaviors, assuming that performance and achievement begin with motivation would be a reasonable assumption. However, it’s not correct. The truth is;
Inspiration precedes motivation.
The paradox of motivation: You must be inspired first before being motivated because inspiration precedes motivation. Highly motivated individuals and teams were inspired by someone or something that catalyzed their motivation.
There are many ways someone can be inspired in their life. Often a parent, circumstance, or story sparks an internal motivation to work toward achievement. This is precisely why leaders shouldn’t focus on motivating their teams, they should instead lean into inspiring them.
Leaders shouldn’t focus on motivating their teams, they should instead lean into inspiring them.
We will hold how leaders can breathe life into their people for another column, back to the task at hand.
P x E x S3
The formula stands for Purpose x Energy x Small Simple Steps = Motivation.
The author James Allen has a great line in his book, As Man Thinkith, which I think gets to the core of why sustained motivation requires purpose “Until thought is linked with purpose, there is no intelligence accomplishment.”
In other words, if void of purpose, the accomplishments in our lives will be shallow, lonely, and meaningless. This isn’t to say a purpose that includes money or financial gain is powerless, but it’s more powerful if you know how acquiring money will be used.
Finding or discovering the deeper purpose behind your work can be challenging. It’s often learned through failure or struggle. However, what I have found in my work coaching leaders from different industries is we are most inspired by our impact on other people. We will work harder and longer and better—and feel happier about the work we are doing—when we know that someone else is benefiting from our efforts.
So the fastest and most effective path to helping motivate people on a daily basis is by connecting them to the deeper cause behind their work. Even the most repetitive jobs and tasks, when tied to a deeper purpose, can be incredibly rewarding.
Albert Greenfield had this great quote, “A man doesn’t need brilliance or genius, all he needs is energy.” The daily energy to feel strong, fresh, and focused are essential to motivation.
I would be lying if I didn’t think energy has some genetics in play. Some people seem to wake up with energy flowing from their pores, while others wake up tired. However, the key is to know that energy doesn’t happen to you; it’s something you create. You create it by sleep, diet, exercise, the people you surround yourself with, and the kind of work or hobbies you choose.
What’s mindboggling about energy is how many managers and companies refuse to put more time, energy, and resources into life-giving things to provide energy to their employees. There is so much focus on productivity and squeezing every punch of optimization out of each day, we forget people need to recharge.
High-performing employees need community, culture, sun, exercise, time off, and flexibility. No one said finding this balance is easy, but it’s essential.
3. Small Simple Steps
Last but certainly not least to the motivation equation is S3, which stands for “Small Simple Steps.” Instead of thinking of big hairy audacious goals, what if you looked at small simple steps to help you get closer to achieving a goal. Most people need help with this because they think of a large goal that seems so far away and so unattainable. The key is to shorten the shift, to shrink the change.
Early in my career, I marveled at a few senior team members’ knowledge and the wisdom that could roll off their tongues. I distinctly remember saying, “How did they memorize that golden nugget?” Over a decade later, I now know it came from hard work, study, experience, and curiousity. It was developed through small simple, consistent steps, not one giant, intense step.
Competence is developed through small simple, consistent steps, not one giant intense step.
Identifying the small simple steps that help make progress towards a goal versus being so focused on the outcome itself.
When you put them all together, purpose x energy x S3, you will have a consistent condition inside of you to initiate goal-oriented behaviors.
Lacking motivation is a lot like a teenager driving a car. It’s not if a wreck is going to happen; it’s when it’s going to happen. It’s not if you will have a time where you lack motivation or even discipline; it’s when.
However, in moments of weakness, it is essential to remember that inspiration precedes motivation and the motivation formula.
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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.