Motivation or Meaning?

Clients often ask me how to “motivate” their team. Some ask how to find their own inner motivation. But motivation seems to me a pretty limited construct.

The big thing that motivates most of us (beyond getting by) is meaning. Do we find what we are doing meaningful? Do we feel we are making a difference?

What I personally find most meaningful, most on target with the purpose of my life, is helping other people (as well as organizations) realize their potential.

This isn’t just about my work. It’s about how I am in the world day by day.

A casual conversation over coffee with a former colleague left me feeling truly enriched because it was right on point with what I find meaningful. Our interaction contributed to each of us moving toward a fuller realization of our potential.

That’s bigger than a “win win” – it fills me up. This is much richer than just being “motivated.” I’m “motivated” to make money but it doesn’t fill me up. I’m filled up by moments that add meaning to my life.

If you want great things from your team, find ways to enable them to use their best gifts, to do the things they find meaningful. And if you want to jump out of bed on Monday morning, eager to get going, find work that is meaningful to you or pay attention to the ways your current work is meaningful. Sometimes it’s there and we’re just not noticing.

What really matters to you? What do you do that feels easy, graceful, enlivening? Somewhere in those lists of issues that matter and gifts you’ve been given lies a core meaning-making engine for you. Spend some time exploring these questions, alone or with a colleague, and you’re sure to come away richer for the experience.

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