What moves you to do your best work? To be your best self?
Does it come from an internal drive built on pride and desire for improvement?
Or does it come from appreciation, encouragement, and kudos from people around you? Maybe it’s the promise of a reward. A couple recent studies seem to indicate that pizza and a kind word from the boss provide the motivation we need to be fully engaged and awesome.
If we’re to take this research seriously, then it appears we have come to put a greater weight on outside, extrinsic motivation
Sorry, but that’s screwed up.
But it’s understandable. We’ve been trained into this mindset since childhood. From parents, teachers, and other adults, we heard such things as:
“You’re such a smart girl”
“I’m proud of you.”
“That was great work.”
“Here’s your gold star.”
From these seemingly innocent statements, we gradually learned that our goodness and value came from someone or somewhere else. So unless you were a little hell raising rebel who gave society the middle finger, you likely spent a good bit of time to seek out and earn praise from people we saw as authority figures. (Full confession: I was a born pleaser so I fell hard into the latter category.)
We’re grown up now, but has anything changed? Do we still not chase extrinsic rewards in the form of job approval, public accolades, and awards? Do we still not chase those digital white rabbits of clicks, followers, and likes?
When were we ever taught to take charge of recognizing our own value and claiming it with both hands?
The problem is that when we wait for those extrinsic rewards before we feel we can claim our value, we may find ourselves hanging out there for a long time with little to show for it.
And that’s what’s wrong with the modern workplace. All to often, we expect (demand?) to find our happiness there or else it’s a shitty organization. I’m not saying you don’t work in a shitty organization but in the process of playing the waiting game, we put our happiness and sense of value in the hands of others. And some of these folks may not deserve such an honor.
We are now at an inflection point in the modern history of work. If we want to be happy and fulfilled and fully embrace the soul of our work, we have to go get it ourselves. Waiting patiently while hoping for a pat on the head or the promise of pizza from the boss can no longer cut it.
Understandably, we’re all human so we do desire some degree of extrinsic motivation and appreciation. We want to know that others see and hear us. But it becomes unhealthy when that desire becomes all-consuming and tunes out what our inner voice says.
If we want to be happy in our work, it starts inside each of us. We need to start learning how to say:
“I’m proud of the effort I put into this project.”
“I know that my work has value”
“I love who I am.”
And if we want more fulfilling workplaces, it has to start by helping each of our employees recognize their own value first…then openly appreciating that value second.
Stop waiting for someone else to provide your motivation and define your value. What will you do in the next seven days to claim your best self?