What motivates you? It seems such a simple question, yet so many of us are haunted by our own silence following this profound question. It should be easy: are you motivated by money, success, fame, security, a desire to make a difference, the need to make your mark on the world? Perhaps your motivation comes from a combination of things.
On the other hand, we may be looking at this all wrong. Maybe the important question is what demotivates us? After all, the list of things that will motivate us is long but it is often overshadowed by the unspoken things; those things that cause us to forget about all the good and only focus on the bad.
Why is it that despite all the different ways that we can motivate ourselves and each other, most of us lack the motivation to step up and do whatever it takes to get the job done, to make our dreams come true? Before we can motivate, we must first learn to recognize what demotivates, because all the motivation in the world is useless if we are not fighting the root cause of that which stops us in our tracks in the first place.
There are three primary demotivators that seem to cause the most problems.
Fear will stop anyone from living up to their full potential. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, even fear of injury can all cause us to lose faith and give up. However, there is an even greater fear that hovers over all of us and that is the fear of things that are out of our control. A fear fueled by the media, politicians, and even well-meaning friends. We are constantly being told that the world is a dangerous place and if this fear goes unchecked, it can quickly conquer us. The best way to outwit this fear is to focus our attention on things that we can control. Instead of looking at all the things that are wrong with the world, pick one thing at a time about your life, community, or business that you can change and go after it with all your heart.
We often feel the need to create structure and organization around every part of our lives. When used correctly, this can be a useful tool. However, more often than not, our attempts at keeping things organized end up creating complications. We over-analyze, over-regulate, micromanage and weigh ourselves, employees, and families down with a heavy structure. This burden squashes motivation because everything we do gets stuck in a never-ending series of hoops to jump through and red tape to cut. Complication destroys innovation but simplicity allows room for growth and new ideas. When you find yourself constantly up against roadblocks or if your employees are afraid to move forward, this is a good sign that it is time to simplify your life and your processes. Get rid of the clutter and try creating a flexible framework to be used as a guide rather than building a concrete and unchangeable structure.
Low self-esteem is a huge demotivator. You could argue that this falls under the fear of rejection, but it is much bigger than that. Low self-esteem is your enemy even if you have pushed through it and made your dreams come true. The problem moving forward is that you compensate by trying to over control everything and everyone. Our own personal self-esteem issues can be overcome by latching onto things that motivate us. The real danger is that we allow our low self-esteem to seep out and kill everyone else’s motivation. We become so afraid of letting others shine that we forget we don’t have to take on life alone. We find ourselves micromanaging and believing that we are the only ones who can get the job done the right way. Those around us quickly learn that you don’t want help. If these people are your employees, no amount of prodding will get them to work harder. The only way to fix this issue is to recognize that you have to rely on those around you. Part of being a great leader is recognizing how to let others on your team shine. What is more effective: one star trying to hold the universe together and light the way or a whole solar system working together to create greatness?
Before any of us can be masters of motivating ourselves or those around us, we must first learn to recognize the tendencies within ourselves to demotivate. We all have good intentions but without recognizing our weaknesses, it is impossible for us to grow. The first step in creating a better tomorrow, a better you, is first allowing yourself to admit that there are some things that need to change. For most of us, the biggest demotivator of all is simply the fact that none of us really wants to face change, let alone admit that we must change. Until we can look change in the eyes and embrace it, even if it means realizing we are not perfect, motivation will never grab you or guide you.