What Motivates You to Work?


question mark - yield signAll legitimate work is ultimately about serving others – whether through providing products, services or income. But sometimes we forget this.

Here are three different mindsets we tend to have about work that limit our motivation and success at work – and our organizations’ success:

1. Working for the paycheck.

Most of us work, of course, to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. That’s good. But if we only work for the money, we can easy become lazy or greedy. Either way, we can provide for ourselves and our families and at the same time short-change our clients, co-workers, bosses and community.

2. Working now so I don’t have to work later.

This is a variation of the first mindset. Maybe it’s a “work for the weekend” mentality or a “work my butt off now so I can retire early” mindset. Again, there’s nothing wrong with saving for the future and delayed gratification. But what a shame to view work – the activity where we spend most of our waking lives – as something to be endured until I can escape it. Is work really just a necessary evil?

3. Working to earn my value and prove myself.

Some of us may have a primary focus in work – if we’re honest enough to admit it – to show myself or others that I am valuable, worthwhile and significant. The problem – again – is this can quickly become overly self-focused. How can I really strive to serve the best interests of my employer, my customers and my colleagues if I am primarily and continually concerned with trying to justify my own value? In this case, I’m doing it only when it makes me looks good. Even those who work to “change the world” can be doing it for self-centered reasons … to make themselves look good.

A Bigger Mindset for Work

Yes, work is a way to provide for myself and my family. Yes, after working hard, it’s great to rest and enjoy the fruits of my labor. And, yes, work is a way to build confidence and demonstrate my talents and contribution while having a big influence and a positive impact. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about myself and receiving recognition and kudos for my accomplishments.

But my work is not ultimately about me.

My work is also a means to provide for the needs and betterment of others – beyond my family. This provides a purpose and meaning that is greater than me and greater than my family. When I use my talents and skills at work to the best of my ability, with an eye towards serving others, I create a win-win-win-win.

  • A win for me – it’s meaningful and fulfilling.
  • A win for my family – I’ll likely be more successful when I’m more motivated. And I’ll likely be more fun and energizing to be around.
  • A win for my customers and those I serve  – because I’m focused on helping them in the best way I can instead of just focusing on myself.
  • And a win for my organization – which benefits from productive, engaged employees and happy, well-served customers.

Having a hard time getting motivated at work other than on payday? Then answer the question … “How am I using my talents and contributions to serve others through my work?”

Image credit.

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. In his work as a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps senior executives create win-win-win-wins. You can reach him at jbaker@www.people-results.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr