Is Your Best Only Worth $50?

Tapping Into Your 3 Internal Sources of Motivation

I read an article yesterday written for managers. The article was not unusual or unique in any way…quite the contrary. It was the same old dribble about how to motivate your employees to do their best, blah, blah, blah. Makes me want to hurl.

To be honest it’s hard to recall which “strategy” they were pushing this time. Was it recognition, validation, or maybe building consensus? Who knows. Who cares? I honestly can’t remember because there were 100 articles on the topic of motivating your employees last week and there are probably 100 more today — #MotivationMonday seems to be a popular hashtag.

As a professional that is compensated to perform and drive high performance I find it rather insulting that any manager thinks they can motivate me for more than an hour or so.

Anything of value I’ve accomplished in my life was because I put my hand to the plow. Nobody did it for me. Get over yourself managers. You’re not Vince Lombardi.

Sure I might have been fortunate enough to have a great boss, dedicated mentors, or invested coaches — but in the end I recall someone had to do the work and there was no shortcut to reaching my destination. Who was that…? Oh yeah, ME! No pizza party, pep talk, or gas card ever made me get out of bed in the morning.

I suspect you have some accomplishments you are proud of too. And you should be. Because YOU did the work. Nobody else.

So while managers waste time focusing energy on how to get us all pumped up to do a job we’ve willingly signed up for, let’s direct our attention to how to stay SELF motivated. For therein lies the secret to top performance.

Whenever I feel lazy or like phoning in a performance I reflect and tap into one or more of these 3 Sources of Internal Motivation and take ACTION…

1) Fear

The good kind of fear. The kind of fear that keeps you from touching a hot stove or petting the neighbor’s Rottweiler. This is my primary motivator and I’m not ashamed to say it. Fear I won’t be able to pay the bills and my family won’t eat prompts me to give myself a good kick in the ass when I need it.

Action: Keep a picture of your family in your wallet, on your phone, or on your desk. When you feel lazy imagine how they would feel if you lost everything. If you had to move out of your home, if they didn’t have new school clothes, if they were going hungry? What if they found out the reason for all their loss was because you didn’t try hard enough? Scary stuff.

2) Fortune

This is the good life. Nice clothes, nice cars, a nice house in a great neighborhood. Sending your kids to the best schools. Belonging to prestigious clubs or associations. Power and influence spring forth from this well of internal motivation for some people. If money is important to you then this is one of your internal sources of motivation that can reignite you when you feel like just performing at the status quo. None of these are right or wrong. If this is your thing then own it and use it to drive you to the next level.

Action: Go shopping. Keep a list of material possessions you want. Keep photos around to remind you of your next great purchase. Watch shows that highlight the good life and the lifestyle you want to achieve. Buy nice things you desire and spend a little extra on them! Treat yourself when you crush your target. Set up your own incentive plan. For example, “When I hit my sales goal for 6 months in a row I’m going to buy a Rolex.”

3) Faith

This last source of internal motivation is a little more abstract. It could come from the way you were raised, your moral compass, or a pivotal moment in life where you reevaluated everything you thought you knew. Call it religion, call it your family name, or just pride in a job well done. Call it whatever you want but I call it faith because it is your set of rules that you live by and a standard to which you hold yourself to. You give 100% because of who you are and what you believe. You put your faith in living life this way so you owe it to yourself to do your very best. This internal source of motivation requires a little soul searching and honesty before it really comes to life.

Action: Regularly connect with your family, higher power, or moral code and evaluate if you are living up to it’s standard. Ask yourself “What would my parents think of my effort?” or “What does God think of my actions and dedication?” of “Am I proud of my commitment and the actions I’ve taken to achieve _______?”


These 3 Internal Sources of Motivation are the key to your accomplishments. None are right or wrong. You could tap into 1 or all 3. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know what gets your hustle working.

While recognition like pizza parties and gift cards are a nice way for leadership to say “thank you” for a job well done, no professional would ever consider these true sources of motivation for their performance. Never, ever count on a manager to get you pumped up to do a job you’ve already accepted. Take pride in your performance and rely on yourself to fuel your own motivation. No one else can move you like YOU can move you — and why would you want them to? You’re best is worth more than $50 right?


@realShawnBuxton on Twitter!

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