What’s your motivation?
“It’s not will power, it’s won’t power!“
It’s really easy to lose weight, I’ve done it loads of times (it’s not about will-power, it’s all about won’t power). Actually though, for me, it’s even easier to gain weight. So, thinking positively, I take the perspective that I count myself lucky that I have a wide choice of body composition and shapes possible, and I’m not stuck with being unable put on weight like some friends I know, and in this social-distancing lockdown period I am better able to cope with food shortages than many other people!
I used to say the same about smoking – that it’s really easy to stop smoking, I’ve done it loads of times. After more cycles of giving up and relapsing than I care to remember, I finally succeeded it when I mentally made an important transition, and in my mind, I became a non-smoker. Before then I was a smoker who wasn’t smoking. After that mind-shift, I became a non-smoker, and non-smokers don’t smoke; and now I’ve been a non-smoker for over 20 years.
I know that there are medical exceptions and I’m not making a generalisation, because of course, we all know that all generalisations are false. However, for me and in my experience, it’s not about an overweight over-eating/under-exercising person (me) trying not to over-eat/under-exercise, rather it is about (mentally) becoming a slim/fit person, and then eating and exercising like a slim/fit person does.
“All generalisations are false, including this one.”~ Unknown, attributed to Mark Twain by Normand Baillargeon
I have written a blog elsewhere to discuss the idea that however much you might want to, you can’t change people’s behaviour simply by trying to change their behaviour. That’s because our behaviour is based on our attitudes and emotions, which in turn are based on our values and motives, which are based on our beliefs.
My early career was spent managing engineering projects, and for a while, I also had a pre-sales role in which I prepared quotations for the projects that I would subsequently run if we were successful in tendering for the work. In the midst of this season I had just tendered for and won a project providing a control system for use at Tilbury Power Station on the River Thames just outside London, and then we had another opportunity to tender for similar work at Thurrock Power Station a few miles further along the Thames.
I was already working long hours, so the Sales Engineer offered to drive me to my project meetings on-site (a four hour drive each way) so that I could work on the new tender. In the end, we won this business too, and for the next few months, I managed to clock up an average of 80 hours a week working to deliver both projects.
I was proud of my work, and I put in the time simply because I felt the inner motivation to do it, and we were lucky enough that our family circumstances were such that it could be done. In the end, I was given a small bonus and some time off as a thank-you, but my motivation had to do with my personal worth and satisfaction with a job well done. I know that in hindsight I was in a strong position to have demanded a larger bonus than I received and more time off, however that wasn’t something that motivated me in that season.
When I look back over my life and consider the things that motivated me I can see that my motives have changed for each new season of life.
Life always takes on the character of its motive.~ J. G. Holland
When I was at school my main motivation seemed to be one of larking about and getting into trouble! I actually enjoyed my time at school for the most part, but the lessons didn’t really suit my learning style. My motivation was characterised by seeking freedom and independence.
During my ‘A’-Levels I found that I was now focusing on subjects that I enjoyed and at a standard that I found challenging. At university, I really enjoyed my studies and I was motivated by the idea of obtaining good qualifications to enter the world of work. In this season my motives were about seeking knowledge, mastery in my subject and specialisation my field.
After graduation, I started work and quite soon started dating a rather stunning young lady called Sue, who was soon to become my wife. This season had a focus on career progression and finding my identity both in my career and in my relationship with my wife, and my motives had to do with seeking a good income, career progression and material satisfaction.
When we started a family I found we had more responsibilities with a single income, and focus started to move away from career progression to providing a stable environment for my family. The motives that emerged from this season were about seeking security and predictability.
Then I started my own business and this season involved balancing family time with finding customers and income to continue to provide for my family as they were growing older. Flexibility became really important so that I could get along to see school sports days and shows. This season was characterised by motives of seeking meaning, making a difference, and providing worthwhile things.
Seasons of life
It seems to me that as we progress through life, each new decade is typically characterised by new questions that can reveal new motives in our lives.
- 00’s–Feed me
- 10’s–Who am I, how do I relate to other people, and what will I do?
- 20’s–Who am I becoming, and who will I spend my life with?
- 30’s–How do I juggle all these responsibilities, and what are my priorities?
- 40’s–What have I done with my life? Did I make it?
- 50’s–How do I cope with my failures and disappointments, and with this new generation?
- 60’s–How long can I keep this up, perhaps I need to do something new?
- 70’s–Where did my friends go, why does everyone mumble?
- 80’s–Does anyone remember me, did I live up to my expectations?
It turns out there are a number of underlying motivators that are at work in our lives causing us to want to do what we do and that for each of us the things that motivate us can change over time through the different seasons of our lives.
One summer while on a family vacation I noticed that I had managed to gain weight and I now found it had become difficult to run about on the beach and keep up with my children. Then I caught sight of a photo and realised that I needed to make some behaviour adjustments in my diet and exercise plans. That image provided some much-needed motivation to change my lifestyle, and very soon I had sold the motorbike on which I was currently commuting and bought a bicycle in its place, and started cycling 20 miles each way to work in all weathers.
“We all remember epochs in our experience when some dear expectation dies, or some new motive is born.”~ George Eliot, Middlemarch
Before long I had found a new enthusiasm for my new slim/fit self and in the process, I found a new role as a cycling coach and was cycling around 8,000 miles a year. In fact, one of the key factors for any new job I explored was to check whether I would be able to commute to work on my bicycle to maintain this new level of fitness.
I have found that understanding which motivators are active in my life in each season of my life helps me to understand how to gain the most value and satisfaction from the activities and relationships I am engaged in. I have also found without exception when working with teams, that by helping them to understand the things that motivate them and their colleagues, they too can learn how to improve their combined performance, productivity and profitability.
The key to motivation is motive. It’s the ‘why’. It’s the deeper yes! burning inside that makes it easier to say no to the less important.~ Stephen Covey
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.