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Leadership Thought #279 – Be Mindful About What Motivates You

January 6, 2012

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It’s important to be honest with yourself about what truly motivates you.

People are motivated by many different things. Leaders are no different.  There are always a few major drivers in an individual’s life that prompt action and focus our activities.  Many of these motivators are formed in childhood or young adulthood.   They can be good or bad or both.  My personal contention is that living at the far end of any motivational continuum isn’t healthy.  What drives you has a significant impact on the formation of your character and your values.  We do tend to embody our priorities over time.

I know people who have a burning desire to change the world for the better.  They are usually fighting some sort of injustice or social wrong that they believe needs to be corrected.  They have a tough time turning off this mindset and taking a break from it because it is how they are hardwired.  Their view is that there is always another battle to be fought. They can be very impatient and unrealistic about progress.  Often this intensity was formed through either direct or indirect personal experience of a significant event.  They tend to be empathetic to a fault.

I know other people who are completely driven by money.  They are constantly keeping score of how much they have and how much more they want.  Material things are important to them.  Their belief is that wealth is the best way to keep score in life.  When your focus is always on generating more, sadly you never seem to feel like you have enough, and the pleasures of success can feel fleeting.  This perspective is often held by people who at one point felt inferior because of humble beginnings and a sense of scarcity growing up.  They usually have little sympathy for people who don’t share a similar view.

I use the above two examples for a reason.  The world needs people who want to make it a better place and people who want to be successful and generate wealth.  Unfortunately, these two types of people are regularly in conflict with and judgmental of one another.  I could argue that both types of individuals taken to an extreme become problematic and make it difficult for other people in their life.   You can be too empathetic, and you can want too much.  However, if they both learn to modulate their behavior in a more positive fashion and respect one another more, remarkable things can happen between and because of them.

We all need to be honest with ourselves about what motivates us and the cost/benefit of this behavior.  Are our actions inspired by positive thoughts or negative ones?   Are the results we are getting worthwhile and fruitful or uninspiring and ephemeral?  Are we getting closer to where we want to be or further away from it?  What is the impact of our behavior on those closest to us?  Are we setting a good example?  How would we feel if we were our own boss, spouse, parent, or friend?  Be ever mindful of what drives you and the true level of happiness and fulfillment in your life.