I’ve always been fairly ambitious in my life and that ambition has driven me to work ridiculously hard holding down full-time jobs as well as two other part-time jobs while studying part-time on top of all that! I’ve also gone out and set up small side businesses in the areas I was passionate about at the time but my earlier attempts always met with the same faith. I was so driven to succeed in my twenties that it was all I could think about. How to make money! Not only was I was working hard (and not really working smart) but I got to the point where I lost my motivation. I didn’t know why or how it happened but I just settled into a nine-five job and started living life like a ‘normal’ person.
I like to think I know a little more about myself now and before I delve into why I lost my motivation, and what that might mean for you, let’s talk about ‘success’. Back in my twenties the meaning of success for me was about having stuff…money in the bank, the nice car, the house, the holidays…all the things money can buy (although I never took holidays because I was too busy ‘achieving’!) So much so that I neglected all the other areas of my life. Success means many things to many people but isn’t it true that success is a little broader than having the things that money can buy? Success has a different meaning for me now; it’s more about improving my life in all the areas that are important to me. Constantly improving my relationship with my wife and daughters, improving and maintaining my health and well-being, learning and growing through areas of study that interest me…as well as improving my financial situation but by doing what I love to do. As long as I’m improving in those areas of life I feel pretty successful. It’s based on a simple philosophy that I’ve no doubt you’ve heard about: Kaizen. It’s the Japanese word for ‘constant improvement’. Strangely enough there’s no one-word equivalent in the English language so many industries that focus on lean production (and a philosophy of constant improvement) have adopted Kaizen as their default way of working.
Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. ~ Albert Einstein
What does success mean for you? Have you ever taken a moment to determine what a successful life would look like? Remember, it’s not the destination that’s important but the journey…what could success be for you and your life if you were to think about it?
So where did all that insane motivation that I had in my twenties go to? Some might say, “Well, you got a little older and realised there are other more important things in life than money” or, “You burned yourself out and got smart about a few things.” Maybe…but I think it has more to do with two powerful psychological forces that shape our lives: ‘Moving Toward’ motivation and ‘Moving Away From’ motivation…the principles of pain and pleasure.
The research tells us that those who develop Moving Towards motivation in a particular area of their lives are far more likely to succeed in that area. They’re far more likely to succeed because they derive pleasure from achieving the end goal. For example, a child who gets a good grade because of the adoration she gets from her parents would be an example of Moving Towards motivation. On the flip side, a child who gets a good grade because of the beating she’ll get from her parents if she doesn’t would be an example of Moving Away From motivation. Looking back I think my motivation stemmed from my experience traveling around Australia and New Zealand when I was 21. I didn’t plan things very well, pretty much bummed my way around the place and ended traveling back to Ireland through America on a wing and a prayer…literally! Looking back I remember thinking (and feeling!) that I never want to experience that again in my life and that was my motivation for having money…I wanted all the things life could offer and never have to worry about how I’m going to survive.
Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek. ~ Mario Andretti
But that’s the problem with Moving Away From motivation. As soon as I got comfortable – a nice car, money in the bank, living in a nice apartment (albeit rented), and a reasonable paying job – my motivation started to fall away. Therefore, once you determine what it is you want it’s important to understand your motivations for achieving it. Ask yourself, “How do I know when I have success”, for example. “What does that look like?” and, “What causes me to feel successful?” Listen for the answers and if there are any negative statements (see my underlined statements above) or statements of necessity (should, must, have to, etc.) it’s likely that there is an element of Moving Away From motivation in your reasoning for having something. Often times there will be a combination of Moving Towards motivations and Moving Away From motivations so pay attention because this is what might be preventing you from fully reaching your full potential in life.
If you’d like to know more about how to take the brakes off and remove Moving Away From motivations from your life, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.