Have you ever made a goal and failed to meet it? Of course you have — whether in work or life or both. Everyone has. But some people seem to have an amazing ability to inspire themselves to put sustained effort into meeting goals. These people display a preternatural ability to relentlessly pursue goals and cause positive lasting change. Imagine that you, yourself had this ability. Think of what it could accomplish in your organization and your life.
Welcome to the eighth (and final!) mindset of workplace transformation. This section addresses the source of your energy and your impetus for action. Understanding this is crucial as it provides insight into how to ensure you make and stick to goals — from new projects to New Year’s resolutions — long enough to create lasting change in your life or work.
The problem with motivation
Creating change requires taking consistent action over time. Let’s be clear: most people are terrible at this. A study by the University of Scranton found that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. Over 9 in 10 people fail. Why?
The skills and mindsets to make goals and create short term change are vastly different from those required to sustain change over long periods of time. Common techniques like declaring goals publicly, outlining concrete plans, and tying in rewards may help some people, but the fact stands: few who make resolutions stick with them. Is it possible there is a different approach?
Think about the greatest change agents in recent history. Einstein. Mother Theresa. Gandhi. Nelson Mandela. Can you imagine, even for a moment, that their achievements were motivated by a desire to avoid embarrassment or make money? I am not saying that they didn’t ever think of these things — just that this is obviously not what “motivated” these individuals to sacrifice years of their lives to achieve things no one else could have dreamed possible.
So what’s the difference between them and you?
They did not need motivation because they had inspiration.
From motivation to inspiration
Inspiration is much more powerful than the carrot and stick performance management strategies typical organizations use to motivate people to perform. Inspiration is not based on fear, competition, and scarcity. Our biology predisposes us to seek and compete for love, belonging, pleasure, comfort and status as a way to ensure our survival. These natural tendencies are rooted in a desire to preserve the status quo — the very antithesis of change. The known (even the dysfunctional known) feels safer than the unknown.
Playing on our natural fears and inclinations to please others, gain status, or get more stuff obviously works to a point. At a certain level, however, it stops being effective as the very fears and desires that spurred you on to shift out of your comfort zone will kick in to prevent you from going further. The motivation approach is based on self-interest and driven to act by external sources of pain or pleasure.
You are operating from this mindset if you ask questions like these:
- What rewards can I promise?
- What consequences can I threaten?
- What opportunities will we miss?
- Who do we need to beat?
- How will it make us look good? To whom?
- How will success make things easier?
- How will failure make things more difficult?
These are certainly important questions to ask, but are they the only questions to ask? Are they even the best questions? I would content that the pursuit of art, science, spirituality, wisdom comes from somewhere much deeper; and the enlightenment that drives creativity, innovation, and transformational change come from a place beyond that too. They come from inspiration. Inspiration is not concerned with status, comfort, or even physical existence. The root of the word is literally to breathe in, but it is not about the breath that preserves physical life. Inspiration is about that which sustains life force at a soul level. From this place, action is not limited by comfort or discomfort. Instead, it is powered by purpose. When the goal lives beyond the benefits to self, it cannot be limited by the concerns of the self/individual.
The inspiration mindset asks questions that are driven by their internal passions (values, principles, purpose, vision), but focused on serving the interests of something greater than their own self-interest. It asks:
- What do we feel inspired to do?
- How will this serve a purpose beyond our own self-interest?
- Is this goal and our methods for achieving it aligned with our values and principles?
- How can this be done in a way that expresses authenticity, utilizes our strengths, and energizes us at a deep level regardless of how “hard” it gets?
- Are we excited about doing this? Are we excited about the way we are doing it?
- If this doesn’t feel right for us, who else might be excited by this opportunity?
Efforts to simply motivate yourself are doomed to miss the mark as they reinforce underlying beliefs of fear, competition, and the preservation of the status quo that are bound to be exhausting and, therefore, not sustainable. Inspiration does not eliminate these inclinations, it simply provides the inexplicable source of energy that allows people to persist in the face of all obstacles to achieve something that truly matters.
So what does this mean for your goals to increase performance and profits in your organization? What does this mean if you want to lose weight or get a new job?
Stop worrying about profits (or pounds). Leave the carrots and sticks in the closet. Take the time to discover a goal that is truly worth working for. Learn how to reinforce your source of inspiration on a daily basis. This will be your path to success as a leader in your organization, and sustainable growth in your own life.
Are you ready to make the change in your organization? We hope that this series provides you with a lot to think about. Not sure where to start? Take Kyosei’s free online training needs assessment to find out how we can help get you on track to meaningful transformation.