Friday, September 24, 2010

Motivate Me (part 2)

Today I have been thinking more about motivation and I dipped again into a book by Jim Hayhurst called The Right Mountain.  In 1988 Jim, a 47 year old advertising executive, became the oldest member of the Canadian Expedition to Mount Everest.  Jim says:
Motivation makes the difference every time.  You may have the best equipment, the most up-to-date information, the most money, but you can always be out-sold, out-played, out-performed by someone with more motivation than you.
So what is it that really motivates us?  It's not a simple answer, as different people will be motivated by different things.  Some people, for example, are driven by a desire for balance or harmony in their lives or perhaps by routine or structure, some are driven by economic or practical reasons, some need to stand out from the crowd and be individuals, others are motivated by control or the desire to have influence.  Some people are driven by a desire to help others and others by a thirst for knowledge, learning and understanding.  Motivation, it seems, is driven by our values.

For myself, one of the things I value deeply is the environment I work in.  While I may not be working in the best school in the world, for example, I very much appreciate living and working in a beautiful country.  While job satisfaction is important of course, I want more work/life balance.  As one of my personal goals this year, I am trying to take a walk along the lake where I live every evening to just enjoy my surroundings.  The school I used to work at in Thailand was a much better school than the one where I am now, but I didn't like living in the middle of a large, busy, polluted, noisy city.  Enjoying being in a beautiful country now is one thing that motivates me to try to do the best I can in my job and to make the school the sort of place that I want to teach at.

Like most teachers I would say economic gain plays very little role in motivating me.  Almost every teacher I know could be earning more in some other occupation.  We definitely don't do it for the money.  Teachers in general find a lot of satisfaction in their work because they thrive on helping others.  Despite this I would say I have become very demotivated by salary scales which rewards longevity in place of qualifications or experience - basically the longer you are there the more you earn.  A new person coming in with much more and varied experience than those already at the school still has to start in the bottom half of the salary scale.  While this is fair (in the sense that this applies to everyone) I find it unreasonable.   Daniel Pink talks about compensation in his book Drive.  He talks about internal fairness (paying people in line with their colleagues who are doing the same job) and external fairness (paying people in line with what others are earning in similar organisations - in this case schools).   So while I am not driven by money, I am extremely sensitive to unreasonableness.

However being able to work independently is what really motivates me.  I love being in a team environment but in a place where I have my own niche.  I very much celebrate the differences and divergent ideas that individuals on the team have to offer.  I like having the freedom to do my own thing, and to do things a little bit differently from others.  In this way I have thrived in schools that have given me ample professional development opportunities.  It's really motivating for me to be able to learn new things that lead to me becoming a better teacher - I think I truly am a life-long learner.  Classes, courses, conferences - send me and let me learn!  Given the choice between the two, I'd rather have more professional development than more money.  And at the same time I love teaching others new things too, helping them to develop new talents and skills - and so I guess, at the end of the day, the things that really motivate me are teaching and learning and a quest for greater understanding.

Photo Credit:  Creative Independence by Nattu


  1. Hi Maggie. My son, Jim Jr, has an on-going watch through Google on appearances of his name. When your comment on Motivation came up, he sent it on to me. Thanks for the attribution! I spent many years speaking to The International Schools with Connie Buford and Roger Ratner. How did you come across my book?
    I agree completely with you that understanding our true Motivation...our Core Values... is critical as we make life decisions.
    It is now an even smaller world! Best Regards, Jim Sr

  2. Hi Jim
    I'm excited you found my blog post. I have had your book for years and have read it several times over the years as I find it really inspiring. Not only that I have twice ordered the book for friends who were going through bad times in their lives and who I thought could do with a bit of inspiration too! I saw a presentation you gave at an ECIS conference and bought the book there (you have even signed it!).

  3. Hi Maggie. Yahoo for the ECIS Conferences and the wonderful people I have met through them. I am always thrilled when I hear that someone is using the metaphors in the book as guideposts in their day-to-day lives, as indeed I do myself.
    Jimmy works for a company called as their VP Marketing+Communications. They are the only company in the world with the technology to log the trees left standing when an area has been flooded for a power dam. Their latest project is in Ghana.
    It is exciting to hear from you. Best wishes. Jim

  4. Motivation takes a lot of different forms. I also feel like motivation can change...what used to motivate me may no longer motivate me or something that never motivated me before can suddenly be motivating based on life experiences. Location is an important motivator for me too. I will work hard to be in a beautiful setting even if it isn't the ideal situation. That less than ideal situation motivates me to work harder to make it my ideal situation...when that is the case I suspect that something else will motivate me.
    Learning is something that has always been motivating for me. I love learning something new and I love that I will never run out of new things to learn, it keeps life interesting!