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Introducing your CAR

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Does this scene sound familiar? It’s Monday morning—wait no—Sunday night, and you are already dreading going to work. You’ve already thought about that person who gets on your nerves, or that colleague who thinks he’s your manager, or that client who is never satisfied. You may have received awards, bonuses, promotions, but they aren’t enough anymore. You wonder why you’re still at the job and want to quit, but you don’t know what else you’d do.

If this is you or someone you know, read on. (Actually, please read on anyway.)

The question is, why aren’t you motivated? What is keeping you from jumping out of bed Monday, or any day, excited about what lies ahead? Today, I’d like to address some common barriers to motivation.

Self Determination Theory provides a simple, practical way to look at how we as human beings are motivated. It introduces the concept of our basic psychological need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. When these needs are met, we thrive because we are more effective and fulfilled. If one or more of these needs are not met, there can be significant negative consequences in some area of our lives. Let’s look at each of these a bit more closely:

Competence—I got a great fortune in my fortune cookie a couple of weeks ago. It said, “Our purpose in life is not to get ahead of other people—but to get ahead of ourselves.” Are you satisfied with the quality of your work? Are you good at your job or are you just getting by? Sometimes, when good is good enough, we can ignore that calling to be great. If this rings true for you, maybe it’s time to take that online class, or get that additional certification. How about making a commitment to read for 30 minutes a day for self-improvement? Feeling competent gives you a sense of personal empowerment that does wonders for the quality of your work, and this will have a positive effect on other areas of your life as well.

Autonomy—How independent do you feel when doing your life’s work? Are you free to call the shots, or is someone else dictating what to do and how to do it? Are you able to exercise your mind and use your creativity, or has work become a drudgery, completely out of your control?

Relatedness—How connected do you feel with your work, and with the people around you or working alongside you? This can have a huge impact on how motivated you are to do the work. You definitely don’t have to be best friends, but a shared sense of purpose with those around you creates a special kind of synergy that makes everyone’s work more effective.

This weekend, hold these things in your heart. Remember your CAR—competence, autonomy, and relatedness, and how you can consciously optimize each of these things in order to reclaim your internal motivation and drive.

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