“I need to get motivated.”
You might want to rethink that.
Search “motivation at work” and you get the usual ManagementSpeak telling managers how to motivate workers — lots about engagement (again!) and carrots and sticks. Google “how to motivate yourself” and you get inspirational quotes and helpful lists. Okay as far as it goes, but it’s not the whole story.
We saw last time that we need inspiration to get going, and that our brains provide it with a shot of the hormone dopamine. But what the motivators don’t tell you is that dopamine can be too much of a good thing. The following is from Larry Howes — “lifestyle entrepreneur” and former arena football player and member of the USA men’s national handball team.
“One of the most dangerous drugs an entrepreneur can become addicted to is motivation.
“I’ve heard far too many entrepreneurs say, “I just need to get more motivated” in order to start a project or achieve a goal. This usually means they’ll spend a few hours reading or listening to other people’s success instead of creating their own.
“This is how the motivation addiction begins.
“Don’t get me wrong – motivation is great. It’s nature’s reward for achievement, but it can easily become your “drug” of choice if it’s misused.
“This may sound a little funny, but one of the best drug dealers in the world is your brain. Your brain is wired to release a shot of dopamine each time you … achieve goals, take risks, try something new. They’re all natural highs and designed to keep us coming back for more.
“It’s great to be goal driven and to have feelings of fulfillment following our achievements, but the moment we began wanting those feelings before doing the work we’re in HUGE trouble.”
The issue is dependence: that motivated feeling isn’t easily summoned; reliance on it is dicey. Plus, dopamine acts like any addictive substance: each successive time you reach for a shot, you need more than last time:
“Once again, there’s nothing wrong with motivation or learning from the success of others, but that moment we need the ‘reward feeling’ of motivation in order to get started, we’re in serious trouble.
“Not only does it take away from precious time you should spend working, it also means that you’ll need a higher dosage of motivation as time progresses.”
And don’t fall for the line that you can be anything you want, adds “journalist, author, and broadcaster” Leslie Garrett: your brain will hurt you if you do, this time because of the “stress hormone” cortisol.
“As long ago as the fourth century BCE, the Greek philosopher Aristotle celebrated the value of a meaningful goal when he coined the term eudaimonia (‘human flourishing’). The concept re‑emerged in the 16th-century Protestant concept of a ‘calling’. More recently, in the 1960s, a whole generation of young people brought up at the height of an economic boom began asking whether work could amount to more than just paying the bills. Couldn’t it have something to do with meaning and life, talents and passions?
“It was then that the episcopal clergyman Richard Bolles in California noticed people grappling with how to choose that special, meaningful career, and responded by publishing What Color is Your Parachute? (1970), which has sold more than 10 million copies, encouraging job‑hunters and career-changers to inventory their skills and talents. Bolles bristles at the suggestion that he’s telling people to be ‘anything’ they want to be. ‘I hate the phrase,’ he says. ‘We need to say to people: Go for your dreams. Figure out what it is you most like to do, and then let’s talk about how realistically you can find some of that, or most of that, but maybe not all of that.’
“The situation even endangers health. In 2007, psychologists from the US and Canada followed 81 university undergraduates for a semester and concluded that those persisting in unattainable goals had higher concentrations of cortisol, an inflammatory hormone associated with adverse medical outcomes….”
Ms. Garrett goes on to say that misguided career intentions throw you into the “ambition gap,” which is a nice segue into next week’s topic.
For more motivation bashing, you might enjoy a couple of my LinkedIn Pulse long posts: The Anti-Motivation Strategy: Why All This Motivation Is Killing You and The Anti-Motivation Strategy: The One Thing You Need For High Performance (And It’s Not Motivation).
 “Why Motivation is Hurting your Productivity (And How to Fix It)” Forbes (Aug. 20, 2012). I tried to provide a link, but it wouldn’t work. Google “Larry Howes Forbes Why Motivation is Hurting your Productivity,” and the article will come up.