The other evening I was having an engaging discussion with one of my colleagues. We were talking about what motivates each of us and the importance of knowing who we are before we can lead others and achieve and/or influence real and lasting change. We talked about the danger people make in assuming that one-size fits all…that people are all motivated by the same things. They’re not. And while we all share some basic human needs; though our circumstances and goals may change over time, often influencing our choices and motivations, our core values do not.
We all, for example, need recognition and validation to one degree or another. Most of us welcome flexibility, though flexibility should not be confused with balance, for they are not necessarily one and the same. There are those motivated largely by money, believing that money will “buy” happiness or at least the appearance of happiness. There are others, dominated by their ego, who have an insatiable drive for power, as often defined by position. Power, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. The litmus test is what one does with that power. If you are in a position of power, do you use it for good or use it for ill and selfish gain? There are those who are driven internally to excellence in whatever they do, while there are others who are driven by a need for external approval and accomplishment.
Here’s the catch: Our core motivation comes from that place deep inside our heart that simply knows what we are doing and why. However, until we know ourselves, really, really know ourselves, we will not only lack direction in our lives, but we will lack the ability to understand what drives and influences our direction.
I’ve always known my answer, though at different stages in my life my motivations have been necessarily influenced by external circumstances. When I first had a baby, for example, flexibility (and work-life balance) became supremely important and led to a part-time, virtual position; one that enabled me to satisfy both my intellectual needs and the desire to care for my son. Still, while external influences may dictate many of our choices and even reflect our values, we each have buried within our heart, an undeniable truth that drives our dreams, regardless of circumstances within or outside of our control. It’s that voice that won’t take “no” for an answer; that part of us that believes anything is possible if you want a dream badly enough. It’s that part of us that understands the sacrifices we are willing to make in order to achieve that dream.
I’ve always needed to know I am creating and/or adding value; that I have the capacity to build bridges of understanding and influence change; and in doing these things, can make a real and lasting difference…in my family, in my community, and in the world-at-large. It’s what drives my professional passions, my relentless desire to continually engage and connect with others around the world, and the time I invest in causes near and dear to my heart, most especially my involvement in Rotary. When I am living from that place, as I’m increasingly doing these days, I feel centered. My outer life begins to mirror my inner values and I feel whole, complete and joyful. I feel myself glowing from the inside out. It’s not about attachment to a specific outcome, but about living in alignment with one’s authentic self.
Questions to consider…
Do you know what motivates you? Really motivates you? How have your motivations influenced your choices? Are you living in alignment with your most authentic self? How do you feel when you are out of alignment?