We observe motivation and engagement in organizations where people are willing to use discretionary time, energy, and brain power to go above and beyond what is necessary. When we hear phrases like, “I was just thinking about how we could improve…” or, “I had an idea about how we could do this quicker…,” we are witnessing motivation. We see engagement when people are willing to take on extra tasks that fall outside of their job description. Motivation is alive and well when we stay late or come in early to work on an important project or help during a time of crisis.
The root word of motivation is motive, and motive is the reason we do some things and not others. To motivate ourselves, we must be aware of a need or desire and choose to be dedicated to the task of fulfilling that need or desire. At its core, motivation is a committed, conscious choice to act.
Because of the effort it takes to stay motivated, many people only remain motivated for short periods of time. This is important to note because progress is not achieved within periods of fleeting motivation. Growth and long-term successes are only achieved while staying motivated over long periods of time. In my book, The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization, I make the point that:
The key distinction between sustained and fleeting motivation is disciplined effort. Motivation does not sustain itself. Those who relentlessly pursue their goals and dreams with focused discipline and ambitious effort are the people who obtain sustained motivation. When we give more disciplined effort, we will feel more motivation (Grieser, 2017, p. 15).
Motivation is first and foremost a personal choice. As individuals, the onus is on us to show up to work willing and motivated to do our part over the long-term.