What motivates you? Emotion or goals? Reaction or vision? Threats or Passion?
I have been thinking a lot about this lately. What drives us to be productive? To accomplish our goals? How do we foster that motivation successfully?
Today, I was thinking about a situation that really brought these questions into laser focus for me. As a young physician in academic medicine, I am building my career, my reputation and setting the ground work for years to come. As in any profession, this requires seizing opportunities and self-motivation, but it also requires mentorship AND sponsorship. An opportunity that lended itself beautifully to my current career path was available and fit my trajectory very well. So well, that when I found out it was offered to someone else, someone my junior (who was also less qualified), I was angry. I was angry because it was a stepping stone I was looking for and that opportunity was lost. That emotion drove me to want to do better, be better, get more done so that I would not miss the next opportunity. Sounds like great motivation, right?
Now, before I continue, I do need to say that I am legitimately HAPPY that the other person was given an opportunity because I do believe that we need to lift others up. And no, I am not angry anymore. And that is the platform for the exact point I want to make next.
In thinking about what motivates us, I thought about this situation and my reaction. There are two forces that really motivate us - our reactions (an example here being my emotion, or anger) and our dream/vision ( the purpose we are focused on). This is the dichotomy of external motivation - actions based on what happens to us vs internal motivation - actions focused on achieving a purpose we define for ourselves.
The critical concept is that external motivation is temperamental, fleeting and indeed superficial - just like the reaction, the emotion or the situation. Internal motivation however, is truly powerful. It is the unadulterated purpose and passion that fulfills us an keeps us moving forward toward our goals. It is steady, calm and runs deep.
I previously thought I was best motivated by emotion, that it drives me to do be better. Maybe that is true in the very short-term, but in the end, external motivation is never enough. It was a lesson I needed to learn and I am so grateful for the lost opportunity because I clearly needed it.
So, how do you foster internal motivation?
This is an area I cannot say I have perfect answers for. It is an area I need to work on and to learn more about, but what I can say is this. When I focus on WHY I am doing something and truly take the time to reflect on my reasons, it becomes clear quickly if I am doing something that aligns with my goals or if it does not and just serves as a reaction and emotional response. Self-reflection can truly weed out the ineffective activities, the time wasters and things that are simply not within your greater plan. Reflection takes time, more time that reacting, but it is time WELL SPENT.
Next is planning. Set goals, write down the steps and be accountable for those actions. Manage your time. This is harder than it seems, but checking even small items off that move you toward your goals increases that internal motivation for success. I know this, yet still struggle with it. But, the struggle is worth it because internal motivation grows when you focus on it; when you use it appropriately, and it withers if you spend your time focused on reactions and emotions that are fleeting. I am thankful for the lesson and the short-lived, withering impact of anger. It will not get me where I need to be. It will never make me happy.
Focus on your WHY. Write it down. Reflect. Strengthen and harness your internal motivation -for that is what will move mountains.