Motivation: Why we need to understand what Motivates us as a Start to Creating our Best Life

Posted on Jul 14, 2016
Motivation: Why we need to understand what Motivates us as a Start to Creating our Best Life


“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives” – Annie Dillard

We are born with innate likes and dislikes, our preferences make up who we are, what excites us what makes us sad and what makes us envious. These emotions are key indicators and insights into our passions and our drives. To tap into these emotions can be the first step in really understanding who you are and who you want to be. Pay attention to your feelings, envy is a powerful emotion, one that can create some self-awareness into what you care about. Recognizing in yourself when something sparks you is vital to you understanding YOU. Dan Pink speaks about 3 main components of what helps us to determine what we do, why we chose to do it and how, in his book called Drive.

Autonomy, Purpose and Motivation combined create the inertia for you to move forward.

Purpose is the why, the driving factor that aligns you to creating priorities based on what brings meaning to you. When people lead purposeful lives they are filled with a sense of focus, contentment, a feeling of satisfaction with where they are going and why. They genuinely seem happy. Figuring out one’s purpose has been a difficult task for most, some lucky ones fall into it early and create their lives around it. If you did not know what this was early on you may spend your whole life searching for this. Some people find it when they have children, as this is a powerful connector to not only themselves but to the sense of the greater good. The ability to leave a mark in the world through your children, a legacy, feeling like your life mattered for some reason. Others create this through their careers or volunteer work, some in their gardens, it is such a personal thing.

Most of us want to know that there is a purpose to our life, that our being here does matter and we want to live intentionally. The search for meaning matters but often we don’t evaluate this until something happens, a death, an illness etc. What if we determined this before something bad happened and incorporated it into our life plan, the life you are living now and making this your daily goal to create a well-intentioned life based on your purpose.  Our well-being and quality of life depend on finding greater wholeness in life. Having a purpose in life a clear reason to get up in the morning is essential to growing whole.- Richard j. Leider- book the power of purpose

Purpose was revealed as the differentiator between those who reported living the good life and those not living the good life. 94 % of those who felt their lives had purpose reported that they were living the good life and were happy.

When our work is not aligned with what we need and enjoy problems in other areas of our lives are affected. The mental and physical cost of personal frustrations and stress can be high. Therefore, defining one’s purpose may be difficult but in the end once found, will likely bring the most happiness


Organizations are also clueing into the power of understanding their purpose and aligning their employees against sharing in it. This is different than a mission or values statement that we so often see on the walls in companies, this is deeper an overarching reason that the company exists separate from just making money. People can better align their personal values with the company once there is a specific purpose identified for them to embrace. This makes people feel good about coming to work every day as it creates a different level of meaning, a larger picture, a chance to be a part of something people can align their personal values with the organizations. This creates engagement, employees wanting to work for the company because of all of the good they do in the world, or the overarching legacy the employees feel personally involved in creating.

The best examples of this are companies like Google, Apple and WestJet. What these companies do so well is define their brand alongside an impactful authentic goal that inspires employees to believe in the journey and be willing to bring their best selves to impact against it on a daily basis. One example is Tom’s shoes; this company’s motto is everyone deserves to not walk in bare feet. The CEO’s mission to create the company came out of his life experience while in India where many people he came to meet could not afford shoes and so they walked in bare feet. He could not comprehend this basic need not being met and so he decided to do something about it. He created shoes that not only are made of all recycled materials but for every pair sold a pair is donated to someone without shoes. In order to align his employees around this mission, he held a wear no shoes for a day, day each year, where every employee had to come to work and not wear shoes for the whole day. The response to this was overwhelming, the employees not only intuitively understood the value they were bringing to the world but then actually experienced what is was like to not have shoes. They are now personally motivated and engaged in this mission, passionate about helping the CEO meet his goal that it now becomes their own goal. Brilliant marketing and personally impactful for all involved.


Motivation is a funny thing, how many times have people tried to lose weight and don’t. Let’s face it we all know what to do, but that doesn’t mean we will do it. So what makes us do anything, what creates that spark inside you to make you focus on your goal and make it happen. Their needs to be an internal conviction to the cause, you have to feel it inside you, you have to really want it. The analogy that most resonates with me with motivation is athletes, not only do they have specific goals they continually work toward but they have the undying motivation to keep going, every day, the conviction to stay on course the internal determination and strength to make it happen. I am in awe of this power they have and the drive they possess to stay on course. Their conviction stems from purpose individual and sometimes team, the sense that they are bigger than just themselves, and always inspiring to be better

If you are working towards better understanding your purpose, there are many things you can try to help you identify this in yourself. As a start ask yourself some basic questions as per the below and see where they lead you

Purpose Checklist

Yes or No

  • Do I wake up most mornings and feel energized about the day ahead?
  • Do I have a deep energy a personal calling for my work
  • Am I clear about how I measure my success as a person
  • Do I use my inherent gifts or strengths to add value to my life or others’ lives?
  • Am I experiencing true joy either in my work or in my home life?
  • Am I making a living doing mostly what I love to do
  • Do I know what my innate strengths or gifts are, things that come naturally or easy for me?

WRITE out in one sentence your purpose………





Autonomy is the desire to direct our own lives

This is an important part of motivation as you may not realize how much of this you personally value and how it will affect how you are motivated or not in your life. Autonomy leads us to greater engagement as we have more decision making over our tasks, time, techniques and teams

Understanding how this affects you can help you determine the right kind of work for you. If you like independence and feeling empowered to achieve a goal on your own , then being apart of teams for your job may not be the best route to go. If you are more of an independent thinker you may need a job that allows you to set your own path, like an entrepreneur or someone in sales

IF you like being around people and being collaborative with ideas then work that entails brainstorming or team support may be best. It is so important to think about what has brought you the most joy so far. IF you loved group work in school then a job that allows you to partner with others is likely the best for you. If you are passionate about people and insightful into their lives then work that brings a sense of giving or caring may be for you. Autonomy is about the freedom to make a choice daily monthly or in the moment on what you want to do without feeling constricted by anything or anyone.

Autonomy check list


  • I am able to work flexibly if I need to
  • I am able to delegate tasks that do not allow me to use my strengths
  • I feel empowered to do my job the best way I can think of and deliver on the results
  • No one is constantly looking over my shoulder
  • I feel like my boss trusts me
  • Do I feel like I control my own destiny?
  • Do others try to convince me to do things I don’t want to do and I give in
  • Do I listen to my own internal voice and follow my own lead?

MASTERY- Working towards something that is meaningful

Have you ever lost track of time doing something you love? It could be anything from painting to writing or spending time with your kids. This is called being in flow and when we have these moments we tend to do our best work because we are so passionate about what we are doing we are being the best we can be and forgetting about anything else.  The highest most satisfying experiences in people lives are when they are in flow. The relationship between what you have to do and what they are able to do is prefect it is not too hard or too easy, and it allows us to just be present in the moment.

Ideally we find work that helps us to be in flow most of the time, think of a professional athlete, a writer a painter, these people experience this in their everyday work lives

Also mastery is about being clear on what my goals are so that you can work toward them and get feedback along the way. Without getting some direction on how you are doing against a goal you will never really know where you stand on performing it.

Mastery Check List


  • Can you think of a time that you were so involved in what you were doing that you lost track of time?
  • If yes, what were you doing? Can this be something you build on in your life?
  • If you were in flow can you remember what needed to be in place to create the right feeling to make you work your best? For example if you think of a writer, sometimes they need a space that was quiet or maybe they got inspired by the outdoors. Do you have something that may trigger you to get into flow?

If you are able to first understand what your purpose is and then if you have some autonomy around how to achieve it, you will likely find yourself in flow and mastering the work that you do and therefore feel very fulfilled. This is the ultimate goal for people whether it be in their personal or professional lives. To feel that satisfaction each day that you did something that was meaningful to you or the world. To wake up each day wanting to do more and always wanting to do better.

If you have not been able to figure this out for yourself then it is a good first step in understanding how to create the life that you were meant to live. Around your personal gifts and strengths so that you can be as fulfilled as you can. Motivation is a personal thing, no one can create this for you, it is your individual journey to understand it for yourself and to foster it within your world.