The Myth about Goals and Motivation

What do Mother Teresa, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela all have in common?

Nelson Mandela

 I am sure we would all agree that they are amazing leaders whose impact past and present have had lasting positive influence on generations that followed. That is why we still talk about them today in such reverent terms.

But there is something else that speaks to the heart of the matter when we talk about goals and the legacies that each of those revered and loved leaders leave in their wake, and it is not what you would expect.

In these modern times of fast paced, high achieving, “go get ‘em” environments we are creating in our work places, I am sure we would all agree that the constant message you will hear from managers, life coaches, work colleagues and the like, is that you have to have goals to be working towards, or else you or your career will drift aimlessly like flotsam and jetsam on the tide of life. And while I would agree that having well formed goals is essential  to a focused and planned life, it may not be the critical factor in your motivational strategy… because that will depend not only on if you are motivated, but how you specifically are motivated within your own unique pattern of thinking, and that is a different thing.

For example, each one of those high achieving leaders I speak of during their time of greatest impact and influence were motivated less by striving towards a huge and worthy goal, but more by stopping or moving their societies away from the iniquities of the seemingly insoluble problem of the environment they found themselves in.  In simple words they were not motivated by gaining the prize “carrot” but avoiding the big nasty “stick.”  And yet no one would say that each of them in their prime of leadership was not a highly motivated individual, obsessed almost, given the persistence with which they dealt with all of the trials and tribulations they faced in order to influence great and lasting change that far outlived them.

Let’s look at each of them:–

  • Mother Teresa – To ensure that the poverty stricken and the least fortunate amongst the population did not die alone and unloved on the streets of their cities
  • Winston Churchill – To save Britain from annihilation during WWII when all seemed lost
  • Abraham Lincoln – To abolish slavery in his country
  • Mahatma Ghandi  – To get the colonial masters out of India
  • Nelson Mandela – To stop the iniquities of Apartheid

Now I am sure we can all say that within each of their contexts they all were extremely focused individuals who had specific goals and outcomes that they achieved in their lives, but in each case I am sure you would agree that their main motivating factor that overrode everything for them was to get away from or stop what they believed in their hearts to be wrong… to right that wrong.  And that was what drove them above all else. That is why they endured what they did.

Mother Teresa

i.e. Mother Teresa – a lifetime of humble service… Winston Churchill – indomitable spirit in the face of seemingly hopeless odds ; Abraham Lincoln – a career littered with difficulties, roadblocks and barriers; Mahatma Ghandi – fasting to the point of death on numerous occasions; Nelson Mandela – decades of incarceration and disillusionment. Each of them the epitome of motivation at the most extreme level of personal sacrifice. Each of them willing to die for their cause.  And each of them leaving their deep and lasting positive influence on humanity.

So what relevance does this story have to each of us, and you in particular?

When I write next week, I will share with you a true story of an executive whom I coached who was at the crossroads of his life and who turned his career around because I helped him to discover that even though he wasn’t ‘goal focused’ like all of his peers, he still was highly motivated and it was just a matter of how he tapped into that and leveraged it to his advantage. And he did that with amazing results, once he had unlocked the code to his own “motivational fingerprint”.  Just as you can.

Until next time… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less.

Precision Profiling – What Makes You Tick? Revealing the hidden secrets about yourself that even you didn’t know.

About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here

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