This is the time of year when millions of kids are either going back to school or going for the very first time, and summer will soon be a memory. For weeks, parents have been getting ready – buying clothes, supplies, and dorm room necessities, while students are experiencing a variety of emotions as they anticipate the new year. Whether you are walking into a pre-school classroom or a post-graduate lecture hall, there is something about the first day of school that makes everyone a little nervous, even when they are excited about it. I think it’s about motivation and expectations. Why are we there? When we purposefully enter into a new place or experience in our lives, there are reasons that brought us to that place, even if we were taken there by hand. Along with the motivation, we have certain expectations and, often, fears. Our motivation may be simple or complex, and can change, ebb and flow with time, along with our expectations — and sometimes staying motivated can be difficult.
I was motivated to attend college as a young adult and was close to finishing when life got in the way. My original motivation was the usual story; adults in my life had taught me to believe that college was necessary in order for me to get a good job in the future. Also, I was a pretty good student and liked school, so I figured as long as I could get help financially, college was for me. I enjoyed college life and majored in marketing. When I was very close to graduating, I decided to get married. Shortly after that my husband was transferred, so I left school with only three classes to go – or so I thought.
Shortly after we moved, I found out that many of my credits would not transfer to the college where I had assumed I’d finish, and I realized I’d have to put in a great deal more time and effort to complete my degree. Around the same time, I was delighted to learn I was pregnant, and made the decision to put college on the back burner to focus on my new life. My original motivation for college became less important as time went on because I had a beautiful baby boy to care for and a husband who was supporting our family.
The years went by and, despite my lacking a college degree I was able to develop a career in sales involving advertising. One day my young son asked me how I was able to be so successful in business without ever having finished college. I realized I had been lucky because at the time I was hired, having a college degree wasn’t a requirement. Today, I could not have been hired by that firm for that job without one. But back then I got in and was able to prove myself and move up. Still, my son’s question made me think. I told him that I would return to college and get a degree in the future – in fact, I told him, I’ll go to college when you do. I very much wanted my son to have the advantages that college would give him and I knew it was even more critical for him because times had changed and having a degree is a must in most professions. He HAD to go to college – and now my promise to him became my own motivation to finish.
After many, many twists and turns including a debilitating illness and a realization that my life and career needed a major course correction, I kept my promise to my son. When I was in my 40’s, after having been out of the workplace for a while and with no computer skills, I went back to school and started all over. After my illness – and possibly as a result of it – I re-discovered a passion in myself that made me realize marketing and advertising were no longer meaningful to me. I had always wanted to help people by coaching them, but life had led me elsewhere. Now I decided to follow that passion by pursuing an education and career that would take me there. This motivated me to earn a BS in Science and Health at the University of North Florida in 2008, two years after my son had followed his passion and earned a BA in Communication and Broadcast. My motivation to achieve this goal began with the promise I had made to my son years before and grew stronger when I decided to honor my own passion.
Today both my son and I are very happy in our chosen careers because we are motivated for reasons far beyond money and status. My expectations have been exceeded and the fears I had at the start are no longer with me. When you know what is truly meaningful to you and know what you want to accomplish, it is easy to be motivated. But knowing those things first makes for quite a journey, as many of us well know. In the workplace especially, if we aren’t motivated, we need to find a way to change that in order to succeed. Motivation is personal; it’s one of the 3 self-focused core competencies of Emotional Intelligence and, along with self-awareness and self-regulation, it’s a skill we can use to know ourselves better. This will ultimately help us in our intra-personal skills and relationships with others at work and in our lives. Read on to learn more about how your passion feeds motivation, how to improve your motivation, and why procrastination is the enemy!
Sometimes we feel very motivated to pursue a goal or complete a task, and other times we don’t. Why? Well, outside of circumstances that may affect our motivation temporarily, like illness or exhaustion or a major distraction, motivation is strongest and most enduring when it is tied to passion. If what we are doing isn’t part of a larger goal we believe in – or passion – then keeping our motivation going can be difficult. Simply put, if we haven’t found a way to link our work life to our passion, staying motivated is more difficult and less enduring. Our motivation becomes inconsistent; we find excuses to cut corners or to procrastinate.
Most of us have to work to live, so a paycheck is important. But what else motivates us to get up and go to work each day? Think about what motivates you. How does it fit in with who you are and what’s important to you? Whatever your job is, do you take pride in doing it well or is it something to just get through on a daily basis? Motivation in the workplace is exemplified by a passion to work for reasons that rise above money or status. It’s a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence by striving to meet or exceed a standard of excellence. For example, someone with high motivation may have a perfectly good plan of action in place but will continue to strive to make it even better. People high in motivation pursue their goals consistently and with energy, whereas people low in motivation are typically comfortable living with the status quo.
When we are motivated at work, it usually means we have found a way to honor our own values in the workplace, to connect with a passion inside of us. This passion – or value – or desire — may be as simple as wanting to be thorough in every task we undertake in order to achieve the best possible result. That simple desire can apply to any task or project in any profession. On a broader level, a passion may be tied directly to the profession we’ve chosen. In my case, it is the desire to help people, which I do through coaching. This desire is behind everything I do in my career, big or small. Of course money is important, and status may be as well, but those become secondary to the driving force behind why we strive to succeed. As I discuss in my book, people with high motivation quickly act on opportunities and persistently pursue goals despite obstacles and setbacks. If there’s a barrier to the plan or goal, a motivated individual will constantly look for ways to go under it, around it, or over it. This is because whatever they’re doing ties into something inside of them that has meaning, and that is their motivation.