Friday, 10 April 2015

What are the ingredients of career motivation?

Last week I attended "Career Management at the cutting edge" a fascinating day of insights and ideas for practice arranged by the CDI (Career Development Institute) and NICEC (National Institute for Career Education and Counselling).

Julia Yates from the University of East London led an interesting session on career optimism, hope and motivation. Julia explored why intrinsic motivators are more powerful than extrinsic ones. Ryan and Desi's (2000) work on Self-determination theory suggested the explanation lies in three strong human needs:

We strive for autonomy and control over our lives, decisions and behaviours.
We strive for competence because we like the idea of being good at something, being successful and skilled.
We are driven by a need to connect with other people.
Julia went on to talk more about Stajkovic (2006) and the four constructs he identified which lead people to be more confident and motivated to turn ideas into action.

Resilience - the ability to bounce back if things don't go as anticipated.
Optimism - an outlook that the world is benign and that things generally will go well for you.
Self-efficacy - a confidence in your own ability to make good decisions, to find work or achieve your ambitions.
Hope - having a goal and seeing a pathway to achieve it.
So if you want to be truly motivated what are the ingredients these theoreticians and academics believe you need?

You will need:

A clear goal
To know what steps you need to take to reach your goal
Belief that you can reach your goal
Some level of enjoyment in the tasks and steps along the way
To feel in control of some of the decisions you take along the way
To feel connected with others - not being alone or isolated in the journey
To feel positive
All good so far.... but what about those clients or customers who are less positive and whose aspirations seem to them to be nigh impossible or extremely remote?

Julia suggested several useful and practical tools which can be helpful. One of the most interesting was from the field of positive psychology. "Three Good Things" struck me as an interesting and non-threatening tool which many advisers and counselors could easily use with their customers and clients.

The approach can have a positive impact on people who follow it, and the reason according to researchers is that being grateful for our experiences has a positive impact on our psychological and social health. Many people focus first on things that go wrong - identifying the problems they encounter in minute detail. By taking the time to reflect on the good things we experience, the encounters that made us smile, we actually notice and can get more from these positive things.

So what is the process?

Nightly before bed, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened. Make a note of why they happened and why they made you feel good. Write these down in a diary or notebook. If you don't like the idea of a notebook by your bed, you could even take to your favourite social network and record your three good things of the day in a status update. Keep this up for a week, then review and see whether there are any recurring themes.

Perhaps reading this and hearing the idea of "three good things" might be one of your own three good things today! If so there are only two to go to meet your daily quota.

If you want to read more about the "three good things" approach check out the Action for Happiness website

Image credit: Susu Jabbeh

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