What’s Really Motivating Us?

We watched “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” this weekend and I had forgotten how hilariously insufferable Chevy Chase’s boss is, including the annual bonus debacle.

For many, this is bonus time. Bonuses and other financial incentives are external motivators, like praise, grades, and awards. Internal motivators, your goals, thoughts, and feelings, have been proven to be more motivating than external motivators.

Both internal and external motivators can be positive or negative, like fear of embarrassing yourself or the threat of losing your job. As many studies have shown, positive motivators are much more effective than negative motivators.

When positive external motivators reinforce our positive internal motivators, it’s the best of all worlds. Internal and external motivators combined help us do our best work. Driving down the road to work, it’s the external expectation of being at the office that gets us in the car every morning. The external paycheck has put fuel in our tank. Our internal drive for self-preservation keeps us driving safely. And our internal ambition keeps us looking forward at the big picture.

The fascinating thing about motivators is that they change during our lifetime. We may value financial security more when we are younger, and health more when we are older. We may value time with friends, spouse, children, or alone differently at different phases in life. Promotions and awards may change places with managing and mentoring employees.

As you think about year-end accomplishments, and possibly goals for next year, it’s a good time to think about what’s motivating you in your life now. Being clear about your motivators helps you set yourself up for success. Take a performance survey now to better understand your motivators at this point in your life.