Daniel Pink writes about a different paradigm for motivation in the workplace in his best selling book “Drive.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this new way of thinking, which obliterates the old notion of carrot and stick motivators and instead focuses on a new approach:
1- Autonomy: The desire to direct our own lives.
2- Mastery: The urge to get better and better at something that matters.
3- Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
These ideas have been dogging me for months, and as I continue to bear down on several different life and career milestones, I’m trying to decipher their place in my life.
The overarching revelation that I believe brings the promise for my enduring freedom, however, is one that I think I came up with myself, although I read so much I cannot be sure anymore, so forgive me if I stole this from you:
I am no longer willing to compete for stakes that are internally assigned but have no transcendent value.
Transcendence. That seems like a big word fraught with meaning, but to me, it really just means lining up with point number 3 above: purpose. Maybe it’s the time of the season, but finding something “important” to do feels especially urgent.
Quick aside: I realize I am not the first to feel these things or write these words. Nothing to see here, I acknowledge. Except maybe this: the word “important” does not mean that you need to invent a cure or devote your life to eradicating something or ensure the abundance of something or donate millions or organize folks to stop or start something. So often we get hung up on the grand gesture, which inevitably feels out of reach, which then guarantees disappointment leading to inertia and a profound dissatisfaction.
Important means important to you. Because just like the old saw about not being able to love another until you can find a way to love yourself, I submit you cannot do anything important until you define the word for yourself.
I cannot help you do that, but for me it has taken on many shadings, all of which inform my overall definition of the word. Yet I find I keep coming back to the top three points over and again: autonomy, mastery and purpose. In my case, I have an thirst for knowledge that seemingly cannot be slaked, a desire to improve in all areas of my life (personal, professional, as a father, as a friend, as a golfer) and a devotion to a positive legacy.
Gone are pretense and hypocrisy and shallowness. Well, if not gone, they’re no longer welcome and hopefully on their way out.
So, where’s the transcendence? I think it comes from awareness, both of self and of circumstances. It feels like we all spend a lot of time figuring out (and complaining about?) what we DON’T want, which is undoubtedly time well spent. But do we pursue the reverse?
It’s up to you. Autonomy, mastery, purpose.
What motivates you? And can you get out of your own way?