• Rob


What motivates you? Why do you do the things you do, both in terms of your personal and professional life? Have you ever asked yourselves these questions before? If you have, do you think you answered truthfully?

Ok, so that last question was perhaps a little antagonistic, but I hope you see where I’m coming from.

This blog was written as a result of recently finishing a book; Drive, by Daniel Pink.

In Drive, Pink argues that the traditional carrot and stick approaches to professional motivation are out of date and do not appropriately address the needs of most 21st century working environments. He talks about the concept of intrinsic motivation, where people are self-motivated because they are allowed the freedom to carry out the work they enjoy and in a way that works for them.

He explains how intrinsic motivation is based on three pillars:




In this context, autonomy is about being able to control what you do, when you do it and who you do it with. For the majority of people, this is not something that you can just have; instead, it is something that must be provided by the organisation; people are both encouraged and trusted to take ownership of their work and personal development. Aspirational for most folk I’m sure.

Mastery is all about the desire to improve; constantly seeking to develop behaviours and skills through learning and practice and reflection. People should see no limits to their potential and are provided with the resources they need to continually improve. If you’re in any sense interested in topics of personal development, this should ring true for you.

Lastly, purpose. In current terms, this may be called impact. A phrase that I often hear is that people want to make an impact in/with their work. When I ask them what they mean by this, most (if not all) struggle to provide a cogent reason. Please note, I am not criticising here. It is a noble thing to aspire to have an impact/purpose in one’s endeavours, but unless you have carefully considered what you mean by this, it is unlikely to manifest. With purpose, I am talking about having a belief that you are working towards something larger and more important than yourself. Again, a superbly empowering attribute to have.

I believe that although this framework is aimed primarily at professional development, there is no reason why it cannot also be applied to personal development. This could refer to taking up a new hobby, learning a language, volunteering, joining/creating a new group, among a myriad of other personal activities.

Once your basic needs are met, I truly believe that you should spend the finite time and energy available to you on activities that tick at least one of these motivational boxes. If you manage to find something that, for you, ticks all three? Consider yourself quite fortunate.

So how do you determine what motivates you? The most effective way that I have found (so far) is the 5-why’s approach. This is a relatively simple method whereby you keep asking the question “Why?” up to 5 times. By doing this, you are uncovering deeper meaning into the true reason for a certain decision/behaviour, etc.

A simple example:

Why do you want to own your own business?

It will allow me to have greater control over how I spend my time.

Why do you want that?

So that I have more flexibility on my life.

And why is that important?

So that I can choose to work from home when I want.

Why would you want to do that?

I will be able to spend more time with my kids.

Why is that important?

Because supporting and being there for my family is the most important thing to me.

This approach can be applied to determine what motivates you and is most effective when someone else is asking the “Why?”. I wouldn’t advocate this for every decision that you have to make (you’d never get anything done!) but my experience of coaching others is that this is a tremendously useful way of thinking about and reflecting on the “big issues”.

So, today, have a think about what motivates you and, if you need some help, feel free to get in touch for a free consultation.



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