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Putting the MOVE into motivation

Honestly, it’s been hard work churning out the blog this month.

A tad ironic, given that it is on the subject of motivation. A few things have been happening outside of my work life that have left me flat and demotivated. But , with reference to the ethos of my last blog, It's called work for a reason , I just had to ‘sit down, ramp up and get on with it’.

Where to start? If in doubt, google the definition. This was a sound piece of advice given to me by an avid blogger. So, Google defines motivation as:

‘The drive behind our actions’.

A good place to start as drive implies momentum and propulsion. It is the thing that really moves us from A to B, or what is sometimes described as ‘discretionary effort’.

Discretionary effort = What I WILL do – what I CAN do

I first came across this many years ago when I was studying for my Masters in Organisational Behaviour. We studied several theories of motivation. I loved the topic. In particular, the work of Elton Mayo, a renowned Australian psychologist and industrial researcher. From his work evolved the concept of ‘discretionary effort’ – the difference between what I can do and what I will do. Tapping into this discretionary effort is where great managers perform their magic in bringing the best out of others, and where we as individuals can bring out the best in ourselves. It is indeed the drive behind our actions.

Theories of motivation

Don’t turn off! It’s not a lecture, I will keep this very simple.

There are many theories on the topic, but below I concentrate on my favourite three, and my interpretation of them.

1. The simple Goal Theory of motivation.

I am motivated by an end goal that I desire.

E.g. more money, promotion, a fitter body, a nicer house. You have to ‘want ‘the thing you want. While this seems very simple, how often do we ask ourselves if we really want that goal we are chasing? Often we are over influenced by other people’s goals or what society thinks we should desire.

2. Path Goal theory of motivation

I can see a clear path to getting this goal.

If I want promotion, I will work hard and perform well.

If I want to lose weight, I will eat less.

If I want to buy I car, I will save money.

I am motivated to get that thing that I want if I see a clear path to achieving it. The clearer the path, the higher the motivation.

3. Expectancy Theory of motivation

If I follow the ‘path’ can I ‘expect’ the reward?

This is my favourite because it takes into account the likelihood, or not, that A will lead to B. E.g. if I work hard and perform well, will I get promoted? Well not necessarily, there are other factors at play. There may not be any promotion opportunities, there may be better candidates, I may not perform at the interview etc. Therefore, how much I ‘expect’ the path to my goal to lead to the ‘expected’ outcome will affect my motivation.

I think this helps explain why, often as rational human beings, we don’t always do the rational thing. Consuming too much sugar is not good for us. Giving it up will make me healthier. I want to be healthy, but I haven’t given up sugar. This is because I don’t ‘expect’ that giving up sugar, as one activity, will make me healthy. So many other factors are at play – genetics, lifestyle, stress etc. Therefore, my motivation to do so is reduced.

This expectancy theory also helps us to understand why we can easily get de-motivated. How we can start out well but stumble when things don’t go as expected. My son is learning to drive. He was keen and enthusiastic at the start. Did the lessons, practised a lot and was all set to take his test. However, we have a huge delay in driving test appointments and 7 months on, no test in sight and his motivation to keep driving is falling fast.

Self motivation - How to get it and how to keep it

Motivation is a big topic for a short blog, but here are 7 tips that I have collected over the years of reading the books and coaching on the subject. They have helped me, hopefully some of them might work for you.

  1. Think bigger picture. Why do you want to do this anyway? What is the motive, the end goal? Run the marathon, get the promotion, buy the house. Keep an eye on the prize.

  2. Think next small step. What is the one small next step that you can take towards making this happen? So often we are daunted by the size of the goal or task that it seems impossible to start or keep going.

  3. Reward yourself. Perhaps you are one of those people who are naturally self-motivated. For you the joy of achievement is enough. Good for you. For some, including myself, a little reward motivation goes a long way. Rewards can be as simply as coffee and cake after the report is done, or a weekend away when you complete the marathon.

  4. Get an accountability partner. If the reward ‘carrot’ doesn’t work for you, maybe you are more of a ‘stick’ person! Holding yourself accountable or getting someone else to hold you accountable is a great way to self-motivate. I have a good colleague who does this for me with my professional goals. She provides a healthy balance between a good clap on the back and a good kick up the butt!

  5. Phone a friend. This is not so much an accountability partner as a support buddy. Someone who can make the process more fun. I am always in awe of those people who embrace cold water swimming first thing in the morning. But I do see the attraction of doing it with a group of friends. People with whom you can ‘feel the fear’ and do it anyway.

  6. Just Do it. At the risk of sounding like a Nike ad, sometimes it’s just about less thinking and more doing. Just start. Success breeds success and often just a little progress goes a long way to propel future action.

  7. Celebrate progress. I have written about this before in my blog on pursuit of happiness The Pursuit of Happiness . Too often when it comes to motivation, we focus on how far we have to go and less on how far we have come. Always track your progress. Keep a ‘smile file’ at work to record your achievements and a ‘have done’ list at home to keep the motivation moving.

In conclusion

I’m feeling better now. Blog done. Here’s what helped:

  • Just do it – committed to 3 early morning writing sessions this week.

  • Big Picture – if even one person takes one useful thing from reading this, my effort has been worthwhile.

  • Reward – off for coffee now and next episode of ‘Succession’ on Netflix (yes, way behind the curve on this one!)

Until next time – thanks for reading.


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