What Moves You?
Motivation is what moves us to action. What motivates you at work? For some it is pay, others prestige, and others a wide array of things: recognition, seeing results, making a difference, working with interesting people, etc. Sometimes you need to get motivated – this article is for exactly that.
Motivation for Software People
Working with software is a rewarding career but one filled with challenges. The primitive method for behavior modification is a simple rewards-punishment model. Carrots and sticks – you are incentivized to do more of the desired behavior and punished as a consequence of undesirable behavior. This is an external form of control. It is also one that doesn’t translate well to our jobs.
The carrots and sticks are only good for rather simple mechanical tasks. Jobs that involve lots of cogitation, creativity, and problem solving in the abstract do not respond well to it. This isn’t to say that, for example, money doesn’t matter. It is to say that once money is off the table – i.e. you are being paid a fair amount – that you need something more to motivate you through the days ahead.
Motivation <> Just Here For A Paycheck
I’m fortunate enough to have been promoted several times at several different organizations. Just earning paycheck isn’t enough for me. Back in 2009 author Dan Pink wrote a great book called “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us“. I read it and tried to live it ever since. His TED Talk is well worth watching. This is what I believe the ingredient for staying motivated at work looks like. It is internal rather than external. Intrinsic instead of extrinsic. Endogenous and not exogenous. I have adopted this mindset as a means of staying motivated at work and I hope you can too.
You can check out the animated summary of the book – it’s great:
He makes 3 main points about motivation:
Let’s explore them…
Autonomy – Who Directs You?
Autonomy is about self direction. What does this mean in the workplace? A pessimist would say “my manager directs me”. While technically true it lacks the necessary mindset to break free from the masses and rise above. Take control of the steering wheel and makes moves. Maybe:
- Get involved with an interesting or important project
- Work on a certificate
- Advocate for yourself
- Get ahead of the process
Autonomy is working how you want to work. Flexible hours and location help with that. In a way I’m always at work. Ask any good developer and they’ll tell you they are working even in the shower – that “aha!” moment strikes and you know the solution.
If you’re thinking “I’m very introverted and not sure I can do this” – I’ve got you covered. Go read this and come back. I’ll wait.
Mastery – This May Hurt
Mastery is improving and getting better. This come by challenging yourself. Don’t stagnate – the biggest threat I see in IT are people becoming dinosaurs. Their knowledge and skills become obsolete and since they haven’t bothered to learn anything new in a while they find themselves doomed.
Old dogs can learn new tricks. Rewrite that old process. Don’t think the boss will use it – do it anyway. Take chances -sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.
Purpose – Why?
Purpose is a transcendent reason for doing what you do. There’s no magic here. It can be whatever you want as long as you believe it. This makes going into work day in and day out much easier. Steve Jobs wanted to “put a dent in the universe”.
Be reflective and ask yourself “why am I here at work? What am I trying to do? Is what I’m doing helping me reach my goals? If not then why am I focusing on it?”.
Rethink the old model of carrots and sticks for what motivates you. Motivate yourself through autonomy, mastery, and purpose to be a better self.
What motivates you? Add it to the comments…
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