A friend and I were talking about a few things the other day. He’s considering a new position and we were going over the pros and cons of the opportunity when he asked me a pretty basic question that really doesn’t have a simple answer. Let’s see what you think.
The question was “what motivates you?” What he meant was why would I, or anyone, get out of bed in the morning and go to work. He wasn’t looking for a rehash of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs since I think everyone understands that we have to earn money somehow in order to live (unless you’re already wealthy). He was more interested in what would have to appeal to me in a position for me to want to spend as many hours as we all spend working doing that job.
I’ve found over the years that there is no one answer. Some of the folks with whom I’ve worked are motivated by the need to prove themselves, either to a parent, a significant other, or maybe to a teacher or coach who told them they couldn’t do something. It’s really an external motivation. Others are self-motivated – they feel a deep desire to achieve. Other people just fear failure, while still others are after material rewards. It probably doesn’t matter since every one of those root causes can produce an excellent worker who feels fulfilled by their job.
I thought about my answer. It really has changed over the years. At first it was just the self-motivation to do a good job and to learn as much as I could. Over time, not wanting to let down my team became really important. I suppose that some of the other motivations mentioned above were part of the mix as well. Thinking about it now, I’m at the point where it’s about the challenge itself. How will it push me? What will I learn? How will I grow? That sound strangely like the self-actualization that Maslow mentions. Who knew?
So what motivates you? If someone were to approach you about a new job, as they did my friend, what would be the first question you’d ask and why?