We all know, people can be internally or externally motivated. Before getting into a debate of which is better, I want to state, that both are valid and acceptable. It just depends on our personality type. I remember, while I was still in a leadership position, being an internally motivated person, I sometimes just looked at my employees wondering: “why can’t they just get themselves moving?!?”. On the other side, I am sure they were looking at me thinking: “why can’t she just slow the f*ck down sometimes?!?”. Depending how our personality is shifting over the years, we can move between phases of internal and external motivation. So make sure not to box someone up as “materialistic” just because they seem to be more motivated by external incentives or awards. Or look down on someone, because they need guidance and direction. Independent of the source of our motivation, question is how do we use them, to lead our life. What is it, that we want, and how do we go about achieving it?
When talking to my clients, things seem pretty simple. Whenever working with motivation, there seems to be one general motivator called: “I just want to be happy”. Easy right? Well, it all depends where you place your happiness on the scale. Maslow, on his later model of “hierarchy of human needs”, defined two main categories for classifying needs: deficit needs and growth needs. Call them quantitative and qualitative if you want.
Now, my naming of it in itself, gives it away. Why do I call them quantitative needs? Because there is always more, more, more (Idol, 1983)… You want a house, but then you see a bigger one, and then you get that one, and then you find a bigger one… You get the point. There will be a bigger one anyhow. So what is the problem with this? The problem is, that these needs are happiness killers. We are not miserable, because we don’t have what to be grateful for. We are miserable, because we have the image of “how we could live”. We call this the “relative deficit”. We don’t see what we have, we only see what we could have IF… As with any wrongly constructed algorithm, this too can lead to getting stuck in an infinite loop. And this will kill your motivation. I hear many times from clients “well, I guess I’m just lazy, to go after what I want…” I believe not! I believe, it’s not a matter of laziness, I believe it’s a loss of motivation. Because we get so disillusioned, when we see how far we are from the “wish state”, that we just cannot summon the power to get ourselves moving. The work that needs to be done here is to find that point, where we declare our basic needs fulfilled, and move towards our growth needs.
The worst part is, that many people confuse deficit needs with growth needs. How do I tell? They want more of that too. “I want to be good like Mother Theresa”, “I want to be better than my boss was, so people can learn from me”… See the relative scale? We are not talking about growth needs, we are still talking about filling the deficit need of having more self-esteem. Someone, who says “I want to be a better person”, might be closer to what it means. The reason why I think of the growth needs as qualitative, is because these are where we will find our life’s quality.
But as I said before, first we need to pull ourselves out of the loop we are in. Meaning, get ourselves to stop, sit and look around at what we have, and really work on accepting it to be enough to make us happy. According the the research of Sonja Lyubomirsky, you can make yourself feel better (about yourself too) by regularly doing any or all of the following things:
— expression of gratitude (for all that you already have)
— be optimistic, have a positive outlook on life
— avoid comparing yourself to others
— fostering relationships (quality over quantity)
— building resilience
— practicing forgiveness
— enjoying small pleasures
— committing to your goals
— practicing spirituality
— working out
You will realise that having small goals you are actually achieving, meaningful relationships, good health and the thought of a bright future ahead, will take off enough load off your shoulder, that you will be able to get out of the loop of always wanting more.