I laid out the idea that we don’t spend enough time talking about motives yesterday. Let’s quickly recap the 5 motives.
Achievement: The need to exceed or keep improving one’s performance. (Propensity: Take on solo skill improvement projects, obsessive about badges and winning, etc.)
Affiliation: The need to maintain friendly relationships with everyone. (Propensity: Very likable, avoids confrontation)
Power: The need to influence/have impact. (Propensity: Eager to take leadership, care about reputation, willing to be political, focused on impact)
Note: There’s a dark side to the power motive and it is called personalized power. The dark side is driven by one difference – the impact these folks want to have is all about furthering their own fame at the cost of others.
Autonomy: The need to be self directed. (Propensity: Enjoy having a strong say in defining work and agenda)
Purpose: The need to have a sense of purpose. (Propensity: Always ask why and understand why they’re doing things, conscious of both means and ends)
If we had to go with a “High,” “Medium,” “Low” ranking, I would likely be – High on Power and Purpose, Medium on Achievement and Autonomy and Low on Affiliation. So, my motives graph would look something like this –
The important first step is laying out a graph with a hypothesis. It won’t be right at first try. But, you can begin building your awareness about it and adjust as necessary.
Once you build the graph, it becomes easier to understand why you are unable to get some things done. For example, you may be high on the achievement motive but may value authentic connection with people you care about. However, your motives drive you – so, you end up working 100 hour weeks and leave no time for authentic connection.
When your motives and values work together, on the other hand, it feel great because you enjoy it (motive) and it feels important (value).
I value people, learning and impact. I’ve learnt that my low affiliation motive means I only need a small group of people with whom I maintain active relationships. That realization alone was very liberating. I stopped attempting to go to larger events to “stay in touch” and “reconnect” and focused on the small group who mattered.
Similarly, I realized that I’m not high enough on the achievement motive to just learn things that seem interesting to me without a teacher. So, I’ve learned to pick areas that I think will help me have an impact. And, voilà, I find myself with enough motivation to learn more. In addition, learning is a self focused habit while sharing is an others/impact focused habit. So, I make it a point to share everything I learn as it helps me enjoy the learning process.
The point here is that it isn’t smart to fight motives. There are a few cases where you might fight and win by sheer force of will. But, it won’t happen most of the time. We’re better off re-framing what we think is important (e.g. sharing learning versus learning for myself) in a way that it works for our motives.
Motives and values are often in conflict because we don’t take the time to understand our motives. That’s why it is important to understand those forces within us that resist things we want to do. There’s powerful insight in any internal resistance. As we’ve learned today, the resistance is likely just a motive working against something we consider important.
It doesn’t have to be that way.