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Finding Your Motivational Anchor

Motivation compels us to take action – to begin, continue, and complete a task with urgency or enthusiasm. It’s the fuel in our tank and a powerful contributor to our success. We encourage you to determine and then reflect on what motivates you. My personal belief is that we get the most out of motivation when we identify its source, understand how it works for us, clarify what it means for us, and THEN act to fulfill our needs. By understanding our motivation, we are better able to harness it to achieve our goals. Here are four intrinsic motivators that may serve as an anchor for your actions.

This encompasses the sense of belonging or connection you feel with other people on your team. Having a community to work within can be very motivational, and being confident that you and your work are accepted, appreciated, and valued within a group is important to creating and maintaining relatedness.

Inspired by the work of psychologists Harry Harlow and Edward Deci in 1971, author Daniel Pink began researching what cultivated workplace motivation. He determined that intrinsic motivation, behavior driven by internal rewards, is based on autonomy, mastery, and purpose. But what is autonomy? According to Pink, it’s “the need to direct your own life and work. To be fully motivated [in this way], you must be able to control what you do, when you do it, and who you do it with.” In other words, autonomy is a kind of independence.

Keep in mind that some people define or understand autonomy differently, as the interpretation of motivational drivers and needs are deeply personal. While some view it as complete freedom, others require more direction along with the ability to customize a process. Some individuals still feel autonomy when they’re given a clear guide or “rule book” in advance, which they can work freely according to.

Pink believes purpose-motivated individuals work best when they’re working toward something “larger and more important than themselves.” This may refer to altruistic work, like charity work or work with a non-profit, but that’s not the only way to define purpose. Purpose is when personal goals are lined up with an organization's goals. For example, I’m motivated by the insight and progress that comes from applying new ideas in practice, and Meddlers operates with the same goal: to share, teach, discover, and learn.

Pink says mastery is the desire to improve. “You’ll constantly seek to improve your skills through learning and practice. Someone who seeks mastery needs to attain it for its own sake.” These are people who generally don’t see limits. If they’re given the resources and tools to improve, they will. If they don’t have these resources, they’ll likely crave them.

Reflect and Figure Out Your Motivation
When do you recall being most motivated? These would be moments of high energy, engagement, or flow, which you can read more about in our blog. In the reverse, when do you remember a complete lack of urgency, even in the face of a deadline? You’ll likely see a correlation between these moments. For example, let’s say you were most motivated during projects that offered freedom and control, and you were least motivated working under a micromanager. This could mean that autonomy is really important to you and would be an important consideration for you in many situations.

If you’re feeling unfulfilled in your current role, You may consider examining your motivation to determine what may be happening. Is there a way to consider a different combination of autonomy, purpose, relatedness, and mastery. Have a meaningful discussion with your manager – you might be able to arrange a shift in responsibility or structure to better motivate you.

Be mindful of the ways you control your motivation as well. It’s not out of your hands. For example, after you reflect, you might realize you’re motivated by relatedness, but you don’t work in a team. In that case, build your own! It doesn’t need to be officially recognized by your organization--just gather individuals to you who will hold you accountable and give you a sense of status.

Discover More Meddlers Resources
Learn more about the importance of motivation in our recent blog: “How to Put The Right Person in The Right Role: It’s All About Fit!”