Most of us know how hard it is to motivate other people. No matter what your full-time job or role in life, we are part-time motivators. We not only have to motivate ourselves, but others as well. We need colleagues to complete tasks, partners to do their share, and children to become self-sufficient and responsible.
I hear this all the time with my coaching clients. Managers, colleagues and parents are all baffled when it comes to finding the right words to inspire enthusiasm and action. It is a major challenge for leaders to find the right way to inspire and motivate people.
If it weren’t hard enough to motivate ourselves when tired or bored, it’s even harder to persuade others into action. Motivating others is even more challenging when tasks are difficult, unclear, or distant from any immediate reward.
In spite of all that’s known about motivation, we continue to misunderstand it and fail to make good use of its true nature. We make assumptions about what drives people, grossly over-estimating the value of external rewards and under-estimating the power of simple appreciation and recognition.
Our Search for Meaning
Motivating others can’t be reduced to a formula or list of steps to check off. That’s unfortunate for managers, team leaders, and parents. Yet everyone can do a better job of getting others to participate in needed tasks.
“It’s about connecting more deeply to what we do, to the outcome of our efforts, to others, and to our relationships.” Dan Ariely, Payoff: The Hidden Logic that Shapes Our Motivations, Simon & Schuster/TED, 2016.
Motivation drives us to achieve tasks that are difficult, challenging, and painful. We use motivation when there’s something that must be done to achieve a larger goal. When we are motivated, we will do things without joy and under unpleasant conditions. This is because the things that give a sense of meaning to life aren’t always the things that make us happy.
Humans care more deeply about meaning than simple happiness. Most of us will do whatever it takes to find meaning and feelings of connection. We motivate ourselves in a quest to find a purpose or cause bigger than ourselves and our daily routines.
“Knowing what drives us and others is an essential step toward enhancing the inherent joy – and minimizing the confusion – in our lives,” writes Dan Ariely.