Let's talk motivation.

What motivates you in your work and life?

Is it a cop out answer to say “a lot of things”? 

Yeah, okay fine. I’ll get more specific. But only if YOU promise to do the same. 

I’m a developmental scientist by training, which means I've been taught to think about how our contexts, and the relationships between those contexts, affect our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. 

I also wrote my dissertation on the intersection of risk-taking and reward processing in the brain. (At least I think that’s what it was about? So much of that whole part of my life is a blur and I couldn’t honestly tell you what my research findings were at this point…#BadAcademic)

But over my career, I’ve spent a decent amount of time reading and thinking about the concept of what motivates our behaviors. Is it seeking a reward? Is it following the rules? Is the pressures from others and society? Is it financially motivated? Is it about fulfillment? Is it about finding inner harmony and peace?

Yes. All of it.

And it’s different for different people in different situations. One of the things I’ve been talking with others about lately is how young adults are experiencing very different types of pressures and motivations than people from previous generations faced during their young adulthoods. These pressures and motivations aren’t necessarily more difficult to navigate, but are hard in different ways, in part due to shifts in many priorities and motivational factors I mentioned above. 

Then there’s the whole question of personality differences with respect to intrinsic motivation (being motivated by your own inner drive and desires because you find it personally rewarding) versus extrinsic motivation (being motivated by external rewards or punishments from outside sources). There are different schools of thought on the value of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, but I find for me, the personally motivating factors are more powerful than the external accolades or “success” I might achieve. 

I could go on at length, but to for the handful of you who haven’t already stopped reading, I’ll get to the point. 

In short, motivation is complex, and the things that motivate you are YOURS. 

For me, the primary motivators in my life, at this time of my life, (and in no particular order) are: 
  • To find joy and fulfillment in my work.
  • To find joy and fulfillment in my relationships.
  • To contribute to my family in both monetary and service-oriented ways.
  • To feel like I’ve made a difference to someone else in a meaningful or personal way.
  • To feel like the things I create, and the work that I do are useful to others.
  • To feel like the people whose opinions matter most to me are proud of me, and of my work. 
  • To lift up more than I tear down.
  • To be good, and if I can’t be good, to be kind, and if I can’t be kind, to be - at bare minimum - nice. (Thanks mom for this life philosophy, which has served me well in SO MANY SITUATIONS.)
It’s interesting looking at this list. I *knew* all of this, but to see it written out really highlights that connection with others, and creating meaningful things are the two primary motivators in my life. Huh. Cool. 

Using this motivation lens also helps me think about some of the tension points in my life, and in my business. Sometimes the motivations I listed above compete with one another. Sometimes they aren’t in balance. (Because let’s be real, balance doesn’t really exist anyway.) Sometimes they contribute to behavior that might, on the surface at least, seem baffling. But if I do a little reflective digging, I can see patterns of values and motivations emerge that inform those behaviors. 



So now it’s your turn to reflect on the question:

What motivates you in your work and life?

As always, if you'd like to share your own creative response to the question, please do! Use the hashtag #HonestlySeries on Twitter or Instagram. And if you’re enjoying this series, and think someone you know might too, please encourage them to sign up for the newsletter at:
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For those of you who've been following my work around stress and resilience in childhood, I recently released the newly updated Resilience Toolkit of videos, discussion guides and role play scenarios. The toolkit is a great tool for people who work with children to help children cope with trauma and stress. More info about how to get your copy is here and use the promo code "TipList" at checkout for 10% off until March 1st! If you want to sign up for a FREE monthly tip of the month email list to get practical tips and resources delivered to your inbox every month, you can do that here

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