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Motivation: Success Drivers Part 1

Have you ever sat down to determine what your personal motivators are? Have you considered what it is that drives you? That element that encourages you to set and pursue your goals? How do you stay motivated or keep others motivated ~ particularly when the going gets tough or when your efforts seem fruitless?

Motivation means "to move" and essentially refers to what leads us to take action. Whilst subjective and variable in context, motivation also varies in both nature and focus. What gets you out of bed each morning will most likely be different to what gets your partner out of bed, or gets your colleague out of bed and definitely what gets a child out of bed. This drive can change from day-to-day, context-to-context and you have more control over it than you may think.

Researchers have developed a number of theories related to motivation and some interesting conclusions have been drawn. Historically, we have been aligned with intrinsic VS extrinsic sources of motivation. Intrinsically we are driven to act for sheer enjoyment and interest whilst extrinsically we are moved by an external reward or expectation to meet ~ a clear 'separable outcome'. It turns out that our motivation is much more complex than simply intrinsic/extrinsic factors and our environment along with our social network, play important roles in our decision to take action.

The Evidence

From the dawn of time, we along with our animal counterparts, have done things out of curiosity, adaptiveness and playfulness. Our natural, motivational tendency or our intrinsic drivers were engaged to meet our basic needs. The self-determination theory expands on this to emphasise the influence that our external environment has on our intrinsic needs, particularly our psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Social and cultural factors either promote or undermine an individuals 'sense of volition and initiative, in addition to their well-being and the quality of their performance'. Meaning, those we surround ourselves with and our environment ~ both at home and in the workplace, influence our motivation.

The difference in work between someone who offers average performance and someone who goes above and beyond is readily apparent to the most casual observer. One of the expectancy theories has found that the higher the expectations you have for yourself (or for others) the better the corresponding performance. In other words, where you set the bar for yourself (and others) will have a direct impact on the effort you/others exert and on the execution. In some organisations, mediocrity has become acceptable but only because that's where the bar has fallen to and accountability has become a notion of the past. The good news is that by simply raising expectations and moving beyond 'good enough' with modelling of 'what great looks like', behaviours and ultimately cultures can shift. Get out of your comfort zone and strive for things that challenge you.

Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right. Henry Ford

Another theory confirms that if you genuinely believe you have what it takes to accomplish something (self-efficacy), the more effort you'll put in and the more likely you are to achieve your goal. You can increase your self-efficacy through mastery experiences, observing best practice and modelling that behaviour, seeking constructive feedback and lastly through generating physiological states that promote feelings of confidence and minimise anxiety. Organisations can offer talent these types of opportunities through focusing on positive organisational behaviours.


Whilst our underlying motivations are idiosyncratic and diverse, we now know that we have the capacity to create an environment which bolsters motivation and positively impact effort and performance.

  1. Determine how your environment and those in your immediate circle influence your basic needs. What does that look like for you as an individual and what does it look like for your organisation?

  2. Set high expectations for yourself and others, develop stretch goals, create a culture of performance excellence. Step outside of your comfort zone.

  3. Increase your self-efficacy and that of others through focusing on positive organisational behaviours (engage mentors, increase opportunity for feedback and implement well-being initiatives).

By employing these practical measures, we can not only increase our motivation, but the motivation and culture within our organisations.

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