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Unveiling Motivational Mysteries: Beyond Money to Intrinsic Values

Hardly a leader hasn't encountered the topic of "internal and external motivation" and the concept of "the durability of internal motivation and the perishability of external."

And yet, we often come across the phrase, "yet people are motivated by money, not development..."

And if we listen closely, we'll notice that it carries more depth than it initially appears.

When we compare "money" and "development" as motivation criteria, we're contrasting incomparable categories.

By its very nature, "development" is an internally significant criterion and, in this sense, abstract. This complexity allows for various interpretations: development can manifest in different forms like climbing the hierarchical ladder or enrolling in a prestigious MBA program. Consequently, individuals have more flexibility in meeting this internal criterion (value) as it holds significance to them. This underscores the importance of exploring the values of those we aim to support when it comes to them managing their motivation.

"Money" resides in the material world and, in the realm of motivation, serves as a symbol of deeply ingrained priorities for individuals.

When we pose the question, "What matters most to you?" and elicit responses such as "bonus and salary," we often overlook (and the respondent may remain unaware of) the intrinsic values that "money" represents.

In our quest to understand sustained internal motivation in others, we frequently delve deeper with inquiries like, "What underlying need does 'money' fulfill?"

How do we uncover values?

A helpful response is, "be curious about how the other person spends their money."

Imagine the response is "journeys to distant lands" or "children's education." Again, we encounter categories from the material world. They once more represent what is internally significant for the other. The question becomes,

  • "What truly makes investing in your children's education important to you as an individual?" or

  • "What do you gain as a result of this experience (travelling to distant lands)?"

And frequently, the answer is "satisfaction." However, this is a response to a different question, namely, "How would you like to feel?"

Satisfaction is a state, as is dissatisfaction. Yet, the question about intrinsically meaningful criteria - also known as "values" - remains open. It turns out, arriving at the answer isn't so straightforward.

Interestingly, we often grasp the value of something when it's absent or unrecognized. When what truly matters to us as individuals is lacking, we feel unsatisfied. Then, the question becomes,

  • "On an internal level, what needs to be present for you to feel satisfied?" or

  • "What do you lack when deprived of this experience?"

When I invest in my children's education, what is truly important to me? The "peace of mind" for their future? The understanding that they'll have "freedom" to choose? The "care"?

When I travel, what do I gain? "Energy," "meaning," or "expansion of worldview"? Is the last criterion the same as "development"?

The question "Why is this important to you?" provokes awareness of values.

It directs us to our "why," which is "the real trigger" ("Always starts with why," Simon Sinek).

And if we return to the refrain "people are looking for 'money,' not development," through the prism of internal criteria, the thesis may sound like "people seek freedom, not development." Doesn't it sound strange?

Internally significant categories (values) for individuals are rarely in conflict.

Through the lens of exploring people's motivation in our team and/or provoking their motivation in a certain direction, we can seek the connection between the two criteria.

  • "In what way would development give you freedom?"

  • "If you were completely free to choose, how would you develop?"

So, the next time we catch ourselves discussing what is important to us or others in the realm of material categories (superficial, perishable motivation), we can ask ourselves "Why is this important to me/you?".

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