Why some can’t sleep!
Why some can’t sleep? Let’s assume it’s not because of hunger or the
sirens of an approaching airstrike, but rather it is because of hundreds
of thoughts that start rushing through ones’ mind, which generates a
subtle urge that flips ones’ eyes open, while an invisible pull drags he
or she to its feet brining almost a smile of excitement to their face.
What makes this voluntary hyperactivity unfold one may wonder? It’s definitely not duty, as that rarely comes with a smile.
Daniel H. Pink calls this ‘Drive’ in his book carrying the same title. He defines drive, or what he calls “the third drive”, as our inner motivation and not the external ones such as money, status and power, as the single most important weapon we can unleash in people, if the right preconditions of motivation exist.
He outlines the three elements of true motivation as follows:
Autonomy: the desire to direct our own lives
Mastery: the desire to continually improve at something that matters
Purpose: the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves
and he offers surprising techniques for putting these into action in his book.
Let's assume we all have it, this drive or motivation, however we need different levels of stimulus to maximise it. And let's assume the core framework has to be based on autonomy, mastery and purpose.
It is still a complex undertaking to provide that framework or environment to everyone equally, considering we are dealing with a differentiated and complex group of individuals who have diverse preconceptions, experiences, objectives and attitudes.
At the same time, not everyone wants or needs or can handle the same autonomy. Also, not everyone will be as skilled or capable to master certain challenges the same way or on the same level as others. Finally, not everyone’s purpose is a good purpose.
I agree that drive has to be stimulated and the right framework needs to be provided as a basis for everyone, no matter the level of talent or ability, to be able to nurture it. Some will get further than others due to their abilities, but everyone should be given the opportunity to get as far as they can or make as much progress as possible. This can only be achieved if drive is in play and we enable it to happen.
Through the course of this article, I will share my views and observations on the three elements of true motivation stated above: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. However, my views are obviously not free of flaws or partly based on incomplete information and my own life experience. But this essay illustrates some of the struggles one might encounter or will encounter when in a leadership position, either by nomination or self-proclaimed.
AUTONOMY – the freedom to choose
Why is autonomy key to achieving a motivated state?
Firstly, entrusted liberties are the fertile soil that let creativity, thought and ambition flourish. It is the bed where self-governance rests.
From my point of view, of all the three motivators, autonomy is probably the least abused and the least costly and dangerous one.
Autonomy, in some cases, is misconstrued as having the liberty of working from home or benefitting from flexible working hours, with a remote boss having little means to control activities, only outcome. More correctly, autonomy is the freedom granted to a person to make all the decisions within a certain remit, within its area of responsibility. Like creating a little mini-boss of one self in some way.
By definition, autonomy therefore often provides a greater struggle to the one who gives it than to the one who receives it, as it generates a trust challenge.
Nevertheless, autonomy is not always easy for the receiver either, as it has immediate consequences on accountability and comes with responsibilities, unknown to some. It is also the basis for self-governance, which some may struggle with.
The principle of self-governance
Self-governance is defined by the absence of absolute authority, strict rules and tight control. It is the most efficient and satisfactory way of self-organisation.
Based on these premises, a self-governed society should therefore be the strongest, since it has shared values and beliefs which are understood and lived by all its members, without the need for authoritarian enforcement.
These values encompass the empowerment of the people, accountability of each of its members, open free thought, fairness and mutual understanding. It therefore enables that self-governed society to defend itself against others in a united way, free of internal structural weaknesses.
The values of a self-governed society are almost sacred principles, and are clearly discernible through its members’ day to day thoughts, words, behaviours and actions. New members to such a society experience and sense these principles the moment they join it and any violation or deviation from these values or principles would immediately be corrected by any or all members, without the need of a superior authority to take action.
MASTERY – through never ending apprenticeship
Mastery is a noble idea and in my career, I took or had to take time to develop it, which I now appreciate. But to be honest, patience was not one of my strengths since I always wanted more and the sooner the better.
For some reason, I felt I was able to do challenging things, most of the time, while I was also often scared. I had confidence in my abilities and knew that it would not end in shame, so I kept doing things I clearly hadn’t done before but wanted to do.
I also had to learn that this comes with that inconvenient factor of taking time. Taking the time to learn and understand and taking the time to mature as a person to master the tasks at hand. Then I had luck on the way as well, quite a lot I guess, and support from peers, bosses, customers and generally people around me. I could sense their hesitation and concerns about my desires and I realise that more in recent years than I did then, simply because I have been in their shoes for many years now scratching my head when confronted by people's confidence and expectations.
The unfortunate observation I made in a lot of cases is that many declared ambitions are being purely driven by status, money and power rather than the desire to become masters of a new challenge or develop mastery in a particular field.
Many would argue and self-testify how well they had done in and “mastered” their current role (after a mere 18 months) and how that makes them the ideal candidate for this future challenge or “better” position, which typically comes with more money and authority over others (power).
How high is your personal ceiling – Really?
A lot of people are blatantly unaware up to a certain age, but even beyond that, of the existence and height of their personal ceiling. There are clearly cultural factors at play here, but to an even larger degree, schooling and family upbringing seemingly also has a big impact on the miss-judgement of one’s “ceiling height”.
Some people’s ceiling height would at best allow them to crawl, but yet they think their ceiling is more in the category of the ones found in a Baroque villa in Vienna, not to mention those who are aiming for a ceiling height found in a country mansion.
Both parents and meritocracy make people believe that it is an inherited right, that a degree is the passport to a different or better life. That entitlement culture of today, with lofty ideas about big careers and an attitude to hide from, more often ends up in endlessly striving for more and permanent disappointment, as more is never enough. Or one simply ends up as a Barista at one of the famous coffee chains, which at least provides a hot meal every day.
I have always wondered what fuelled these behaviours and often self-delusion, but never found an answer to their source. I know there are many drivers that lead to them and some are so obvious that I'm surprised the people in question can't see them themselves, being as capable as they claim to be.
Our enemies of self-delusion
Let me outline a few of our own worst enemies of self-delusion and unconscious intrigue that hold us back rather than the opposite.
Depending on the cultural background and society circles one frequents, job titles and pay grade provide status both in family and society, like some valid endorsement of our own achievements. People like simple benchmarks to validate how far they have come, and think that by replicating others’ actions they could possibly get there as well. The problem that we face about defining ourselves by material goods, purchase power, as well as the level of our lifestyle is that it doesn't make us happier. Rather it makes us more dissatisfied, constantly craving for more - like drug addicts.
The super-consumer who consistently gets fatter remains hungry for status, as there is always another person who has more. Insatiable desires turns us into fools for hope and fortune.
Actually trying to get status through material goods or rank in business is a fallacy. They are not status in themselves. They are status symbols usually held by the ones who cannot get status from personality and character.
Power is a feeling of strength provided via a position that was given and that offers certain levels of authority to a person who, if in a level playing field, could probably never obtain it. Most of the time, people in a position of power will do everything to stay there. This includes getting rid of talented and strong people, surrounding themselves with obedient fools, adding to that a decent level of arrogance, while shedding any form of humility. These outright dangerous species are ones to avoid with vigour, as one day they will even shoot their own mentors once they smell blood.
Money can buy one many things but not qualities. Characters fostered by greed have probably the lowest levels of integrity to be found in people. For them, everything can be bought and that includes themselves.
The trouble here is the ways people try to reach their goals which, multiplied by the drivers of status and money, gives you an idea of the extent of the trouble political-orientated people could cause if they ever got their way.
These species can be easily discovered, yet not easily disposed of. Most of their time is spent pleasing the ones in charge and hanging around in the right circles demonstrating to them that they are next in line up the rank, whilst others do their work.
You will find them largely engaging in none required activities and positioning themselves as the forward thinking helper, while getting involved in other peoples’ business without any mandate. Any of their potential competitors will be removed by badmouthing and political engineering.
We are in desperate need of WE people in an organization and in society and not THEY or THEM people? Clearly THEY don't want to be part of US.
In conclusion, to show real mastery one must accept never ending apprenticeship, as one will never reach 100% excellence. It is a constant path of learning and improving - an infinite journey. This is no reason for frustration, as it is a journey that drives one forward with the quest being the source of the joy. In some way, it is attractive because it eludes.
PURPOSE – the anchor of our personal and work life
Lastly we come to purpose - a key companion of mastery and autonomy, as people without purpose are drifters.
Our personal lives are centred around the meaning and purpose which we seek to achieve a fulfilled existence. But the purpose and meaning we are aiming or looking to have is for others rather than ourselves - a manifestation of our place and standing in society.
This we cannot create ourselves. Only others can give us purpose if they value and respect our actions and behaviours. The same applies in our professional lives, where these two elements are the foundations of "a culture of significance". But again, significance for others and not for oneself that is.
Making a difference, having a positive impact, creating results and achieving something which benefits others as well makes us proud and fulfilled at the end of a day. Being recognised, appreciated, respected or simply important to others makes us relevant. If we are not relevant we are insignificant.
Having purpose is the most rewarding thing, especially when lived intentionally.
There is a difference between active purpose and passive purpose. Some actions might have had a purpose in hindsight, but were not intended to. This is very different from the one that sets out with purpose in mind.
Out of bed again
So we now come full circle to why some cannot sleep or have that irresistible urge to get up with a smile in the morning at the prospect of another exciting day filled with challenges and opportunities to outdo themselves and learn.
For all of you who have and still experience that calling almost every morning, the chances are that the above motivators are highly important to you. For the ones who don’t, this urge might never come, so no point wasting time waiting or hoping. But get up as well and contribute.