Get to grips with motivation

Motivation and performance. They’re happy – or unhappy – bedfellows. If you’re motivated, you’ll be performing well and delivering the goods. If you’re not motivated, chances are that you’re not doing the best job you’re capable of. And it won’t make you feel good either.

The strange thing about motivation is that most of us assume that it’s not in our control. Most of us, but not all of us. Great performers know how vital motivation is to perform, really understand it and make sure theirs is topped up, however tough the conditions.

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What goes on

There’s so much misunderstanding about motivation that we don’t quite know where to start. Most people think it’s someone else’s job to motivate them. Their boss should motivate them. Their workmates should be inspirations to them. The office environment should make them want to work hard. This means people find loads of reasons why they’re not motivated and the funny thing is that people don’t seem to understand they’re in control of their motivation – there’s always excuses and it’s never their fault. We also hear people say “I’m not really a driven person” or “I find it hard to motivate myself”. So there’s also a view that motivation is some kind of personality trait – you’re either a motivated kind of person or you’re not.

This – as you’ll see – is entirely false. And if people got real and got to grips with what motivation is really about and how to take control of their motivation, they’d perform much better, feel like they’re winning and accomplish more. Everyone would be way happier!

Five performance truths

The brutal reality of high performance life – this is what you need to know

  1. Motivation is not a personality trait or quality. We are all born with an equal amount of drive and desire. It’s maximised when we’re doing things we feel we’re good at, we have choice and freedom over and that we believe in. Our motivation dips when those things aren’t in place.
  2. Your motivation is your choice. The actions of other people and the environment you’re in will affect your motivation, yes. But there’s much you can do to stoke your motivation, whatever situation you’re in.
  3. Your level of motivation is linked to your confidence, your sense of control and your connection to a purpose and other people. We call these the 3Cs. Get all three high and your motivation will be in great shape.
  4. Good performers fuel their motivation through the 3Cs. They know their motivation is down to them. They also know what motivates them and they do everything possible to keep their motivation high, particularly when times are tough.
  5. Don’t take our word for it. The research is conclusive. Motivation is one of the most studied areas of human performance and psychology. Decades of research has conclusively supported truths 1 to 4.

Three things to do

  1. Understand what motivates you. Usually one of the 3Cs will be particularly important – if it’s low, your motivation really suffers. Get to grips with what’s really important for your motivation.
  2. Get a motivation plan. Decide what you can do to maximise your motivation and how and when you’re going to take action.
  3. Get great at following that plan. Work on your motivation regularly and with discipline, and keep doing that. It’s too important to ignore.


Dominic’s story

Dominic is mid 40s. He’s worked in the energy industry throughout his career and for his current company for 14 years. He loves his job – or at least he used to. Lately he’s been feeling pretty disillusioned. He’s been feeling really frustrated with inefficiencies and poor decision making across the business. There’s been constant restructures that have been very disruptive for him and his team. He doesn’t respect his boss – she’s shown poor leadership, doesn’t communicate well, is overly critical and doesn’t appear to value the expertise and experience that Dom has. Lately, Dom has been voicing his unhappiness to others – which isn’t like him – and is aware that there’s a growing culture of whingeing and complaining in the division. His unhappiness at work is spilling over into his home life and he’s aware that he’s not a great husband or dad at the moment.

Dom knows he needs to get out of this cycle but can’t see how or that he can change anything – his boss and the way the business is run isn’t going to change after all. Then he reads a great article that changes the way he thinks about motivation. He starts to do what he can – in what he knows are tough conditions – to increase his motivation and improve how he feels. He works on his confidence by getting feedback, focusing on his strength and achievements and worrying less about criticism from his boss. He increases his sense of control over his workload by getting clearer on what the business wants and expects from him – he works to his priorities. And he gets better at connecting with others who are important for him to work with. He also makes a deliberate decision to not whinge – he’s choosing to be here and stay here after all, so he decides to take responsibility for his attitude and behaviours. Quite quickly, Dom starts to feel more motivated and happier at work. He also starts working harder and better, which feels good. People are disappointed that he’s no longer joining their pity party beside the coffee machine, but you can’t please everyone all the time.