This is a result of idle thoughts early in the morning, so forgive me this self-indulgence.
It seems to me that there are two extremes to motivation… styles? modes? Not sure what term best references this concept. One is a Leading motivation, and the other is a Driving motivation. They’re the terms I’ll refer to going forward; Leading and Driving. I don’t think these a mutually exclusive and often work together, yet I do feel that people often have a preference, either consciously or naturally.
This all started with the thought, which is better; aiming to be the best you can be, or working to be better than you were?
I see this as being like the carrot on a stick analogy. The goal that leads you forward. In the extreme, it is a never-ending goal that adapts as you move forward. I myself don’t find this all that appealing, not can I relate to, yet it would appear that others do respond to this form of ambitious motivation.
For me this feels very single minded, which in a competitive environment can be very useful. Sports, corporate markets, political rivalry, and activities where being first are al examples of a leading motivation. You are focused on beating the competition to be recognised as the best in your field, and everyone else is also striving to be the best, so the goal continues to shift.
For me, this sounds depressing. It is at risk of ignoring the impacts of your focused efforts. Within sports, it is expected that there will be injuries. Coporate bodies consume and crush rivals. Political parties, as per modern examples, engage in deceitful tactics to influence or be influenced. Leading motivations have the potential to cast disruptive ripples around them as they drive as straight line as they can to their goal.
There also appears to be little scope for satisfaction. You may achieve your goal at times, yet you will need to continue to compete in order to maintain your hold, because now you become the goal others will try to overcome. This may work for some, and I acknowledge that. For me, the selfish nature and short-lived satisfaction really has little appeal. I also see a high risk for disappointment and frustration as as sense of failure is highly likely.
Here the goal itself is less important and are instead comparing to previous version of yourself over others. That is not to say that you are without goals, you are just measuring your progress by your movement toward it, vs your distance from it. I feel it provides a flexibility not always available with Leading motivation in that your goals can shift while you are on your journey based on the opportunities your progress creates, and you are more aware of where you are and the impacts your choices have around you, making it possible for your path to form a more meandering pathway.
This does mean that achieving your goals may take longer than that of a leading style, although it could be argued that the leading style has a goal that can never be truly achieved, but you are measuring your success based on how far you have come. I would imagine for those that respond to a leading style, this apparent plodding approach would frustrate and baffle. If you want something, you do whatever it takes to get it.
For me, the journey is the thing I want. I want to experience the progress and see the world. The end of the journey isn’t really the thing. I am sight-seeing and enjoying the company I have along the way.
It is a well-known trope and truth that we are all different. We all operate in different ways, have different likes and dislikes, and all respond to different forms of motivation. What I have found most curious personally has been the strong social focus on Leading Motivations. For me at least, there has always been the encouragement to have goals that you strive for, that lead you forward. Until recently there has been essentially nothing for Driving motivation. Motivation that puts you in the driver’s seat controlling the direction in the moment. It never felt completely right for me, and I now know why; I’m not a focussed human.
Still, there are benefits to both modes of motivation, and a lesson can be taken from each. It comes more down to what works best for the individual and the situation.
For me, I like and connect with Driving Motivation, yet sometimes when I work, I have a short-term goal in mind, that I know I can achieve, that pulls me in that moment. Leading motivation can work well for short-term goals with minimal impacts, while I like to encourage myself for being better than I was.