Where Does our Motivation Truly Come From ?

There are things we do simply because we enjoy doing them. We don't really care about the outcome, we simply enjoy "the doing", independently of anything else.  We do them naturally. The satisfaction/energy ratio is almost ideal : the satisfaction we get is virtually unconditional and far greater than the energy we "consume" to do them. These activities actually nourish us  and rebuild our energy.

Jane is in sales. She loves people contact, challenges and solving problems for others. She loves her work, is always positive and naturally highly motivated. Her clients love her and give her a lot of business - her performance is very good.

There are things we do for a reason. We want to obtain a certain result, avoid things or situations we really don't like, or simply because we feel "we have to" do them. Our level of satisfaction is somewhat more fragile, more "conditional". The satisfaction/energy ratio is less stable : we have to make an effort, we burn more energy, and our sense of gratification will depend on our ability to reach the expected outcome.

Jack can easily spend hours putting department work files in order. Items are sorted by clients, topics, and dates, and put away in a very structured manner. He is very happy, proud, and satisfied when it is all  done and tidy, though he does not necessarily enjoy the process itself. He becomes demotivated and stressed when his boss and colleagues do not seem to appreciate the structure he brings to the department.

There are things we do for the wrong reasons.  Through them, we aspire to obtain a different, somewhat unrelated result. Something that is very important to us, but that we are not conscious about or that is difficult to get "directly" : recognition, security, fame, sense of belonging, etc. Recent studies however tend to show that this "hidden" objective is rarely met... This source of motivation therefore rapidly becomes a true  emotional roller-coaster : one day we are highly enthusiastic and motivated because we believe we are - finally - going to get what we really want. Shortly after we become totally depressed because circumstances show us we fail to get there... And in between, we go through moments of excitements and doubts. 

John took this management role because through that, he expects to get the public recognition that he needs.  He emotionally over-invests in his work, shows no tolerance to what could be perceived as imperfection on his part, and gradually becomes a nightmare for his team members, his peers, his manager... and himself.

Research shows that in the work environment, the source of motivation is very often closer to the one of John or Jack.... And that comes with important consequences for us and our organisations : sub-optimal use of the available resources, skills,  and energy, inefficiencies, unnecessary tension, stress, frustration...

What is our true source of motivation in our work today ?

Based on the Neuro-Cognitive & Behavioural Approach (ANC)

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