What Motivates You? (And those around you?)

Daniel Pink has done some really interesting work around what motivates us. Understanding this better has been incredibly helpful for me.  Pink suggests that we are all motivated by some combination of the following four things: Autonomy, Belonging, Mastery, and Purpose.

If Autonomy is one of our greatest motivators we will be self-directed, think outside the box kinds of people. We probably dislike being constrained by having to do things a certain way and tend to disregard processes and policies that don’t make sense to us. You can spot someone with this motivator by their desire for flexibility and fear of loss of control. Their limiting belief is that they don’t work well with others – and, believing this, it may become true.

If Belonging is one of our greatest motivators we will highly value relationships, prefer to be part of a team and need to feel liked and respected in order to be motivated. You will naturally create places of belonging for others but may neglect execution or efficiency for the sake of harmony. People motivated by Belonging understandably fear rejection and react to even the suggestion of being left out or consulted last. They have a limiting belief that “I can’t work with people who don’t like and respect me.”

If, on the other hand, Mastery is your highest motivator you probably experience a constant need to learn, improve, be challenged and do new things. You are probably on your way to becoming an expert in something but you may also be burning yourself or others out in the process! People motivated by mastery fear failure and have a limiting belief that they (or others) will never get truly good at whatever their field of interest is.

If you are motivated by Purpose, wanting to change lives and understand the meaning behind things you are probably also inspiring and caring. You probably ask the question “why?” a lot, and seek to understand the big picture. You may also have unrealistic expectations. People who are motivated by purpose fear insignificance or a misalignment of values. The limiting belief here could be “What can 1 person do?” and/or “Others don’t care as much as I do.”

Ouch. Some of these hit home don’t they. They explain us at our best – and at our worst.

Consider now that everyone around us has their own mix of motivators and that what we have been offering them may not be what helps them. It is worth our while to figure this out because something interesting happens when we are stymied. We swing in the opposite direction.

Here is what that looks like. When people motivated by belonging perceive that the need is not being met they can swing right over to antisocial behaviour. That makes sense doesn’t it when we realize that we are wired to self protect. If we are not acting out of self-differentiation (see last Brave Way post) we will push others away rather than endure the pain of them rejecting us.

If people motivated by autonomy keep bumping up against restricting walls they will huddle in a corner, and become passive. What might look like compliance may be the first signs of someone shutting down.

People motivated by mastery will settle for mediocrity.

And sadly, those inspired by purpose may become skeptics.

If this doesn’t motivate us to discover what motivates us, and others, I don’t know what would! But this insight is bigger than that. It teaches us how to respond to people when they are being antisocial, shutting down, settling for mediocrity or cynical. We speak to their TRUE self. We help them think differently about their limiting beliefs and to engage the best of their true motivators. We help them find their BRAVE Way.