“What motivates you?” I’ve been through several interviews in various places and dealt with various questions, but none, thankfully, have ever been really hard to answer. One day though, I was at an interview during a job fair and that question, “What motivates you?” came up and caused me to pause for a bit. I quickly tried to scramble through my brain to find the best answer possible without taking too long, in fear of sending a bad impression. I don’t quite remember what my exact words were, but I believe I said something along the lines of waking up and getting tasks done, or doing things and building motivation from there. Is this is a good answer? I personally wasn’t impressed with my response, but it’s certainly better than saying I don’t know, or even worse – nothing. Oh goodness, if I were ever in the position of the hiring manager, and I had someone tell me that nothing motivates them, I’d be rather concerned. But anyway, a day or so later I asked a relative about how to approach the question and they said, “Knowing that there’s always something to done.” Turns out that my answer, albeit delayed, wasn’t as bad as I initially thought. From there I temporarily penned the following answer: my determination to accomplish my goals and daily tasks, because accomplishing a goal or project makes me feel content, and it gives me a sense of confidence and a feeling of going forwards. This is not the response I’d use now, or I’d at least probably word it differently if someone regardless of whether they’re an employer, client, brother, neighbour or stranger were to ask me the question.
The Mysterious M Word
So explicitly speaking, what exactly does motivation mean? To motivate is to provide someone with a motive, or a cause or reason to act. Similarly, motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a certain way. So what this ultimately means is that there isn’t a wrong answer per se, but that it’s a very open question that should be approached thoughtfully and respectfully. A veterinarian’s motivation may be the end results of seeing sick animals getting better, and making animals lovers smile. School teachers on the other hand, may be passionate about sharing their vast knowledge with students in their field, and watching their students learn, grow and apply it.
What about employers or clients?
When an employer, or in the case of freelancing, a client asks you about what motivates you, they’re trying find out what drives you, what you value, what you take pleasure in doing, whether you’re fit for the job or not, and just what generally motivates you in life overall. Now, even though it sounds like a very broad, flexible question, it’s important to approach it with professionalism in mind and avoid saying I don’t know, or the much dreaded nothing. Saying that money motivates you most will obviously make the client think that you’re desperate, greedy or selfish, and send a generally bad impression overall. Thankfully, most people are smart enough to avoid that response, even though money is in fact, part of being one of our biggest motivations behind a job, or nobody would work. Not even snails and sloths. Most typical (or should I just say cliché?) answers will typically be responses similar to the following below:
- “I am motivated by deadlines and setting targets”
- “My biggest motivation is results. I’m very results driven”
- “I am motivated by team leadership and helping people grow”
- “Learning new things is what drives me”
- “I am motivated by providing excellent customer service
Mind you, I’m not saying that these are bad answers or that there’s anything wrong with using them in a professional setting, but you just have to make sure that you’re being honest, while at the same time being yourself and professional with the response you’ve provided. This is in case you’re asked to provide further examples and stories.
But what if I really don’t know or have motivation at all?
How can you possibly say that you have no drive at all? After all, we get up everyday to carry about our lives for a reason, right? Well, chances are that if you feel that you don’t have any motivation, you very likely haven’t truly explored yourself, or maybe you lack ambition and don’t have the self-esteem and positivity within you to discover what makes you tick. Explore yourself: what do you like to do? Why do you do the things that you do? What do you want to become? Where do you want your life to take you? Do you have goals? You can’t discover what your general motive in life is if you don’t start with asking yourself questions. It’s also important to remember that you should not rush or feel the need to find an immediate answer, as some things can take time to figure out, while others may be able to be answered sooner. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone you trust to discover your hidden motivation. If your mind is clustered, maybe you need to step out and go to some place like the woods or a coast to clear your mind, relax and think about it. Stress and negativity can be great detriments to being motivated, so it’s important to eliminate or reduce them.
M for Motivation
Some of us have similar motives, some of us don’t. For me, at the time I was asked that question in a formal setting, I hadn’t really thought about what motivation truly means. Since I’ve had the time to think and talk about it, it has become clear: your general incentive in life. Be happy, healthy and stay motivated.
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