Motivation and Life

I was looking at using a new psychometric instrument the other day when one of the developers explained by they had used motivational drivers as one of the axis for the instrument – “well they’re pretty consistent aren’t they” he said and moved swiftly on. I was left open mouthed and very unconvinced by the instrument as a result.

Our motivations, it seems to me, are complex moving things that change as we move through life. They are a combination of what we as individuals want and what society and those around us expect. For many westerners the typical script runs something like, go to school, finish school, go to college (possibly), get a job (start earning), maybe try a few more jobs to see what we really want to do, settle down and have a family, raise family and earn enough to keep and look after them, …

Yes I know there will be variations by gender and culture, but that’s still a common white male westerner script. That’s sort of how we think life goes and within that we will seek to meet our more individual needs and preferences and that’s where things can get very interesting; as they also do at the ellipses (the three dots at then end).

I first read about the script above in the context of some research done in the 50s. And I’d be really curious to see how it looks in 50 years time despite everything we hear about Generation X, Y, Z and whatever follows. But despite the strength and enduing nature of the script there is increasing dissonance. More and more people early in their lives are looking at that script and saying I’m not so sure. And more and more people in their middle life are getting to the end of the script – the moment when the children leave (though some of them can be very obdurate at this point) and wondering what to do with the dots.

This can be both very liberating and very confusing time. And with that liberation or confusion comes either a release or diminishing of our energy. The confusion occurs when what we as individuals want and the social expectations placed on us collide, or just don’t align very well. We find ourselves going around in circles or wandering aimlessly unsure of where we want to go next or what we want to do. Sometime the confusion can lead to outbreaks of rebellion but that is an explosion of energy that usually dies down and dissipates quickly.

When its liberating, we find a way of understanding who we really want to and can be and try directions and choices that take us there, fuelled by a restless energy that knows we are on the right path, even if we can’t see it. As ever this isn’t easy – its sometimes really hard to stop looking at all the things we want to have, or the things we want to do or the roles we might like to do to hear who we really want to be.

So if you find yourself listless or going round in circles or frittering away your time – stop hankering after the things you want and worrying about what you want to do and in stillness listen for the voice that helps you understand who you can be and go in search of that person. And you know what – when you find it the rest follows.