What motivates you? Is it money? Attention? The desire to be the best?
It doesn't matter what gets you into the gym at 5 AM, or keeps you working late into the night. What matters is that you know what will keep you going when things get tough -- when you're too tired to get out of bed, when you experience setbacks and disappointment, when things feel too hard, you need to remind yourself what it's all for.
When thinking about what motivates you, you may be surprised to discover it's not money. Money and rewards are often used as motivators, but studies have shown that these kinds of extrinsic, or external, motivators only work in the short term.
“Compensation is perhaps the most frequently used motivator,” write Doug and Polly White at Entrepreneur. “It works, but studies show that only the prospect of receiving money in the near future is a strong enough motivator to change behavior. Once the employee receives the money, its power to motivate ends very quickly. Some studies say within a week.”
For this reason, intrinsic motivators, which come from deep within an individual, are much more powerful. Some companies have taken note of this fact and have started to use other ways to motivate employees beyond money. These include allowing a flexible schedule, letting employees pursue projects that interest them, encouraging creativity and including employees in the decision making process.
“People won't come to work motivated every day, so you have to do different things because everybody responds to different motivators,” says Brent Gleeson, Chief Marketing Officer at Internet Marketing Inc. “Maybe it's letting someone speak at a trade show, or offering a flexible schedule or having a fitness-oriented culture.”
One thing that works to motivate employees at IMI is providing resources for learning and development. “As the owners, Brandon and I set guidelines for strategic direction, but we try to let employees be entrepreneurial within IMI,” says Gleeson. “Directors have their own budgets, allowing them to be creative and drive their own business. And we do knowledge shares, where employees present new topics to others.”
In order to figure out what will motivate you to the fullest, ask yourself one question: “Why?” If you are starting your own business, why are you doing so? The answer to this question will uncover your most powerful motivator. If you started your business for freedom and autonomy, that is what you need to keep in mind. Maybe you wanted to solve a problem that you feel passionately about, or because you believe that this is what you need to do to fulfill your purpose in life. The deeper the motivation, the easier it will be to stay driven.
Wimbledon champion Pat Cash says that although he always had a passion for tennis, he also hated it at times. The love of the sport alone was not enough to keep him motivated. But once he realized that he enjoyed playing for his country, friends and family, he used that as his motivation.
“Search hard for what you're truly passionate about and understand why you're doing it. Cash says. Once you have a clear picture in your mind you'll naturally be more motivated and focused. Search for meaning in your work and make money, fame, or success a byproduct of your mission, not the goal itself. What you do doesn't need to be big; it just needs to be what you want to do. Whether that's being a great parent, winning a Grand Slam, or building the next Google.”
You may find that your primary motivation is not your family or a love for what you do, but fear. Many successful people use fear as a motivator, including Steven Spielberg. “For every movie I make, there's a hurdle to it,” he says. “I look for things that will scare me. Fear is my fuel. I get to the brink of not really knowing what to do and that's when I get my best ideas. Confidence is my enemy and it always has been.”
Whether you feel motivated by meaningful work, expressing yourself creatively or fear, remind yourself of your “why” often. It's what will propel you forward on your most challenging days.