Motivation – is it just about the money?

Motivation – is it just about the money?

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Dr Lindsay Joyce is an HCPC registered psychologist specialising in bringing psychological theory to workplace contexts. You can find out more about her work here. In this blog article, she helps you work out what motivates you.

Now don’t get me wrong – I would love to earn more than I do.  However, I’ve tried working in ‘the City’ and I found that I couldn’t bear that hollow feeling on a Sunday evening.  The money was great, but I just didn’t have the internal motivation to enjoy the job itself.  So, in today’s blog I’m going to discuss motivation, and try to help you identify what actually makes you want to get up in the morning.

A bit about motivation

Motivation is what arouses, directs and maintains our interest in something.  We can be motivated by external things – good pay, a company car, bonuses. Or, we can be motivated by internal things – curiosity, intellectual challenge, a sense of making a valuable contribution.  Undoubtedly, external motivation is a huge factor in the job market. We all look at the pay and benefits attached to jobs and these can impact the ways in which we as individuals, and as a society, view certain job roles.  Certainly, external factors can play a big part in arousing and directing our motivation to achieve and to work harder.  The problem, though, comes with the ‘maintaining interest’ part of the motivation triad.  Unless you have a deep-felt intellectual curiosity in money itself, you may find that even a large pay packet can’t compensate you for a job which bores you and makes you feel trapped.

Why we think money is motivating

You probably know all of this.  It doesn’t mean it’s an easy message to hear.  As a society we value high wages – we consistently hear in the media about ‘high earners’ and the lives they have access to.  We all have friends, family and acquaintances who earn more than we do and have better cars, homes and holidays.  We are driven to see money as a motivating factor.  Some individuals, possibly you included, can maintain motivation solely based on external factors. They may go on to make millions doing a job they don’t really like.  Lots of individuals, however, need to see value and interest in their jobs in order to achieve success.

Internal motivation

Steve Jobs was one of those people.  When he spoke to Stanford graduates in 2005 he gave them a clear message – “the only way to do great work is to love what you do”.  His reasoning was clear – if you address the ‘maintaining’ interest element of motivation, you are more likely to be successful in your career.  We work harder when we are engrossed in something and we see value in it. We are more likely to be creative and flexible in our thinking – something we all need to be successful.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist who has spent most of her career researching motivation and achievement, talks about motivation in terms of goals.  She explains that we can either hold ‘Performance’ or ’Mastery’ goals.  She argues that most people like to achieve ‘Performance’ goals –like attaining high grades at school so that people can see how clever you are. Or getting the top bonus at work so your colleagues can see you are the most valuable employee.  ‘Performance’ goals are appealing to us because they show others how good/clever/attractive we are.  Equally, we are used to ‘Performance’ goals because the education system and pay/bonus system are based on them.  However, Dweck argues that these ‘Performance’ goals can lead to unhappiness and maladaptive behaviour. Cheating in an exam because you can’t bear to get less than an A grade is an example of this behaviour. So is manipulating your sales figures to achieve the same bonus as last year.

The benefits of ‘Mastery’ goals

The alternative to a ‘Performance’ goal is a ‘Mastery’ goal.  Dweck argues these may not be so visible to others, but they are more valuable to success and happiness.  ‘Mastery’ goals are where you seek success for the sake of success itself, rather than for any visible reward.  If you spend hours practising a musical instrument just because you love it and you want to improve, you are being driven by a ‘Mastery’ goal.  In the workplace ‘Mastery’ goals can keep us interested and motivated – the exciting new project which means you get to work with a really good team, or the chance to work for a client whose agenda really appeals to you.  They may not be rewarded by money or praise, but ‘Mastery’ goals keep you hooked and wanting to learn more.

Please don’t misunderstand the message here – you don’t have to sacrifice money to gain internal motivation and job satisfaction.  Instead, you need to have the confidence that by pursuing job satisfaction and engagement you will be best placed to achieve and succeed.  It’s a longer game to play, but the rewards can be higher.

A bit of homework

So, between now and the next blog post try to have a think about your internal and external motivation.  Is money the main factor motivating you? Or could you see money as a longer-term goal in return for some (more) immediate job satisfaction?  Write a list of the internal and external motivation factors for your current job role.  If the external factors outweigh the internal ones then click here to see what internal motivation the latest movemeon job opportunities can offer you.

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