How does motivation affect wellbeing?

Posted
15/07/2019

It’s common enough to ask how wellbeing affects motivation, or how motivation affects your performance as an employee. But how much time do we spend thinking about how motivation affects wellbeing?

What I’m getting at is that we all have different things that motivate us. When we understand what motivates us, and get the conditions in place for that, our overall wellbeing at work can increase.

For example, two people can both be motivated by the need for approval. They both want to be recognised and appreciated by others. But for one this might be a quiet word from their manager, and for the other this might be standing on a stage in front of everybody, receiving an award. If you get these the wrong way round, what you think of as a celebration of someone’s achievements may end up causing them anger or embarrassment.

Motivation can be seen as positive and negative. It could be the desire to do well, or the desire not to be punished for doing badly. The desire to eat, or the desire to avoid hunger. If we can understand a little bit more about this, we can improve our wellbeing.

Here are 7 truths about motivation:

  1. Motivation is enduring.
  2. It doesn’t change in an essential way throughout life.
  3. It is an internal force.
  4. It controls behaviour.
  5. It is how we do what we do, not the job description.
  6. It is irresistible.
  7. If it is blocked it leads to frustration and if we are using unmotivated skills the result will be a mediocre performance because we will have too little investment in the work that we are doing.

Many of us don’t really know what motivates us. Sometimes the things that society says should motivate us – pay packet, promotion or pat on the back – aren’t what really nurture us.

It’s easy to make false assumptions about what motivates us – and other people often assume they know what will motivate us, on the basis that they think they know us.

 What motivates us – what do we value?

  • Taking responsibility
  • Achieving personal goals
  • Achieving results
  • Developing a sense of worth
  • Leadership that provides a focus for energy and employees
  • Gaining recognition
  • Making good use of skills and abilities

These are some of things that motivate us. It’s crucial to be able to line up the direction of the organisation you are part of with your own personal goals. This helps you to feel a sense of purpose and a feeling that your values are matched, leading to greater emotional energy.

Be clear with yourself about what you want from your job, what you want to develop and what the outcomes are that you would like to achieve. Being able to see how your contribution influences the success of the organisation can have a potent effect.

There’s a famous story of how during a visit to NASA in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor sweeping the floor. He asked him, “What are you doing?” And the man replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” He wasn’t just a janitor, or just cleaning the building. He was helping to make history.

Clarifying Motivation and Developing Values

It is clear that motivation is a complex combination of factors and a workforce cannot be perceived as a homogeneous group. Most organisations, if not all, are dependent on the commitment, capability and capacity of their staff to achieve their purpose.

If we want to continue working together within an organisation, it’s on all of us, not just managers and leaders, to understand what motivates others. Practise on others – give recognition for going the extra mile, celebrate successes and achievements, work out what drives those around you.

And above all, think about your own motivations within the prism of your organisation’s values. If you don’t know what they are, it might be worth finding out! Whilst understanding the motivations of individuals is necessary, it is creating organisational values that will bring people together and unite them in their contribution to the life of the organisation.