Feb 10, 2012

What Motivates You? Pay, Prestige or Process?

What is motivating you?

It’s an interesting question, but it’s rarely considered. Rather it’s assumed. We assume each other’s motivations based on our careers. For example we assume sales people should be money motivated while artists should be motivated by the work itself, and politicians should be motivated by their status and position.

Pick any career and consider what motivates a person to do the job: social worker, teacher, executive, manager, construction worker, speaker, scientist or doctor. I bet you can make a motivation statement for each career. Something like, “doctors do the job to save lives” or “executives are motivated by their big bonuses and stock options.”

Even though we assume career motivations, individuals are more complex. Sure money may motivate some sales people, but not all. And money may not even motivate a sales person all the time. Motivation is constantly shifting and changing, even for you.

3 types of motivation

There are three types of motivation: pay, prestige and process. Or you can describe them as money, recognition and the work itself.

At some points in your life you will be motivated by income. For example you may want to buy a new car or get out of debt, and your reason for working hard is to get paid. At other times you may want the accolades of an accomplishment or the recognition a position brings. And sometimes the work is really what’s driving you, because you feel in the zone and are really excited by what you’re doing. Your motivations shift depending on your situation, your life and your goals.

What’s driving you right now: pay, prestige or process?

There’s no wrong answer

We have a weird relationship with motivation. For some people working for money seems base and lowly. They feel their motivation should be the work, the process of completing the job, and money is simply a reward for their craftsmanship.

It doesn’t matter what is motivating you, but recognize it. It’s exhausting to deny your true motivations. If you’re motivated by money, that’s great. Accept it. Run with it. Maximize those desires. Work hard, get paid, do it again. When you harness your motivations you can achieve a lot. It’s a source of energy, and gives your work purpose.

But ask the question frequently, “What’s motivating me right now?” Your motivations change on a regular basis. At some points you will be motivated by the work, and at others you’ll want the kudos and applause. Whatever it is – pay, prestige or process – embrace the motivation at that moment. Let it fuel you.

(Image credits: Steven Depolo, Ken ConleyManoel Petry)

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