Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Symptom or Cause

Is a lack of motivation and drive a symptom of stress or a cause of it?

I’ve met psychologists who argue that feeling low in energy and drive can result from stress. Whilst in many cases that’s undoubtedly true, it is also worth considering it the other way round. If you’re not motivated in what you do you will be far more likely to perceive a demanding workload as stressful and damaging to your work-life balance.

Think of athletes and entrepreneurs who drive themselves to achieve goals. Their self-imposed pressure leads them to experience the positive side of stress. Their motivation brings energy, enthusiasm and a good degree of resilience to stress.  There are two kinds of self-motivation and its worth bearing in mind that they need to be in balance to experience the benefits.

Long-term motivation is about achievement of goals and rewards. We are driven by where we want to get to and the rewards of getting there. But this on its own is never enough. If you doubt this think of the worst job you can imagine and ask yourself would you be willing to do it for a year for the promise of a pot of gold at the end?

The second type of motivation is short-term and in the moment. It comes from enjoying what you do, feeling valued, feeling useful, knowing there’s a meaning in what you do and that you are making a difference.  For example, the athlete needs the drive to achieve long-term goals, but to succeed they also need to love running.

You know when you have the balance right between these two motivations. You arrive home from a day’s work feeling satisfied. It’s the difference between feeling exhausted but happy as opposed to worn out and frazzled. 

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