Article by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick
Our research teams have surveyed more 850,000 people to learn what makes people the most motivated and engaged in their careers. We found that when individuals are fulfilled on the job they not only produce higher quality work and a greater output, but also generally earn higher incomes. And those most satisfied with their work are also 150 percent more likely to have a happier life overall.
As we researched this subject for our new book What Motivates Me, what follows are seven things we found the most motivated, fulfilled people don’t do:
1. They don’t chase the almighty buck (if that’s not what motivates them).
Motivation is not about doing what anyone else thinks is right for you, nor is it necessarily about chasing a job that pays well if money is not what floats your boat.
It’s about aligning more of your work with what drives you. People differ enormously in what makes them happy—for some challenge, excelling and pressure are the greatest sources of happiness, for others money and prestige, but for others service, friendship and fun are more satisfying in a workplace. The trick is in identifying your core drivers and then aligning your work to do more of what you love and little less of what frustrates you.
2. They don’t wait for a manager to motivate them.
The truth is, very few leaders know what’s really motivating to their people or, even if they do, would know how to apply that information to their day-to-day work. Motivated individuals have discovered that the surest way to happier and more successful work lives is: first, understanding what drives you and then second, doing some sculpting of the nature of your jobs or tasks to better match duties with passions. That involves working with a manager, of course, but most motivated people lead this effort themselves. They take charge of their careers.
3. They don’t leave to chase a dream job.
There is a prevalent notion that if you’re unhappy with your work it will take a
Herculean effort to change things, that you have to quit and find your “dream job,” for the vast majority of people, that’s just nonsense. That’s not to say motivated people never change departments or companies, and we all can appreciate that if an
individual is completely miscast or miserable it’s not good for them, their customers, or their managers. But most people don’t need to take a risky leap; instead they need to start by making small but important sculpting changes in their work lives. Many of the happiest people we’ve spoken with didn’t find their bliss down a new path; they made course corrections on the path they were already on.
4. They don’t believe everyone is motivated like they are.
One of the traps most of us can fall into is believing that other people are driven by the same things we are. We’ve counseled a bevy of frustrated teams on this issue. Perhaps the majority of the team members are what we call “Builders”—people who
are focused on high-minded ideals like developing others, service, teamwork and a greater purpose. And most of those team members believe anyone who is not motivated in those ways is not a “team player.” But on the team are also a handful of people we would classify as Achievers, Caregivers, Thinkers and Reward-Driven, and these people who feel alienated and unappreciated. Great strength comes in recognizing and appreciating diversity, but we have to understand and utilize the motivational drive of others. For instance, the Reward-Driven can make a team more competitive, Thinkers help us be more creative, Caregivers encourage empathy and fun, Achievers make us more goal-oriented, and Builders help drive purpose and meaning. Most teams need all Identities in play to function at high levels.
5. They don’t focus inward.
The happiest people we found in our studies typically focus their work efforts in service of others rather than on self-gain. That may mean they achieve more or sell more or
do more because they truly believe in their products or services and genuinely believe they are helping their customers by putting those goods in their hands—versus those who are simply striving to win a deal and cash a paycheck. It’s a subtle change in thinking, but it’s important. Psychologists also say most people perform at work better when they focus their energy toward serving their families instead of themselves.
Thus, motives based on the pursuit of power, narcissism, or overcoming self-doubt are less rewarding and less effective than goals based on the pursuit of providing security and support for one’s loved ones, or being able to give of one’s gain to a worthwhile cause.
6. They don’t hang out with whiners.
We all know who they are: there’s typically a group of people who complain about everything at the office. If the boss pulls out her wallet and starts handing out twenty-dollar bills, the whiners will later moan that they weren’t fifties. The most motivated people avoid this petulant bunch. Complaining with no solution is a toxic habit. Sometimes making a positive difference at work is simply a matter of how a person chooses to think. We always counsel those troubled at work to look for ways to be authentically positive; for instance, publicly acknowledging a coworker’s accomplishment on completing a project. And even if it doesn’t help change the office environment, we remind them they can always do this at home: telling their significant others or kids why they are inspiring, always using specific language not vague platitudes.
7. They don’t compare themselves to others.
The motivated people we interviewed don’t waste a lot of time comparing themselves
to those who have more; instead, they regularly express gratitude for the talents, resources, and relationships they do have, not to mention their health, their friends, their own brilliance, their motivation, and their family who inspire them. Everyone is happiest when they are thankful for the gifts they have been given, and that gratitude should be offered up regularly to those around them who support them and help them thrive. Psychologists are only just beginning to understand the healing and strengthening mental power of grateful attitudes. The most successful and happy people are frequent and specific in their verbal appreciation of not only their colleagues but also family members and friends.
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