What fuels us?


Think of a time you received a coveted recognition, or a promotion or a salary increase you were aspiring for? Close your eyes and recollect your emotions at that moment, on that day.

Exhilarated? On cloud nine?

What happens few days or weeks later? You still take pride in your achievement, but the joy is tempered. Few more weeks later, life begins to take its normal course…

This happens in our personal life as well. We are ecstatic as we walk into our new dream house, drive the dream car, or carry the signature Prada purse that we always wanted to own. However, in no time, our joy evens out.

You know where I am heading…extrinsic motivators that provide short-term joy or satisfaction. How often can we get promoted? Or recognized? Or buy a new home or car?

What gives us steady joy and sense of achievement is inherent to what we do in our personal and professional lives – Are we doing things that intrinsically motivate us? Things that give us joy and satisfaction?

Here are few questions to reflect:

  • Am I doing this project because it gives me visibility? Or am I doing it because its challenging and stimulating?
  • Am I spending time with this person as he/she is a lynchpin in the organization? Or because I enjoy his / her company?
  • Am I reading this book as my boss expects me to? Or am I reading to learn something new?
  • Am I helping someone as I need to be in his / her good books? Or helping someone gives me inner peace?
  • Am I blogging to increase my followers on Twitter / LinkedIn? Or because writing is my passion and I like share my ideas?

When driven by intrinsic motivation, we engage in an activity for its own sake.  The work itself holds interest and merely doing the work elicits joy! Whereas extrinsic motivation is driven by external goals, rewards, or punishment.

Agreed, we do not live in an ideal world! There is always a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that inspires us to do what we do.

However, what we need to be watch out for is the balance, or should I say the lack of it?

Are the scales leaning heavily towards extrinsic motivators? – the short-term triggers that force us to climb the never-ending treadmill… If so, think about what gives us inherent joy and how can we take their help to shift the balance? 

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