# 61: No Goals, No Drive?

Story behind the Passage

Today I picked a book about motivation because that is actually what I am lacking today. I do not mean the motivation to write. That hardly ever happens. And if it does, it comes back while writing. But I lack the motivation today to really get anything done — I mean, to complete stuff — because I constantly ask myself: “What for?” That sounds a bit depressed, I know. But days like these just happen. It is November, after all. And I did have some great conversations today, just to let you know that I am not all whiny today.

So, Drive by Danny Pink is my choice today because the entire book is about how to motivate oneself and others. Just like the book To Sell Is Human which I discussed the other day (# 7), Drive is an excellent mixture of research results in combination with intriguing stories. Well, why is it that we in Germany are so far behind in managing to communicate science like this? I know, this is unfair. We probably do. It is just that I do not read that many German public science books, I guess. Maybe I should make this a goal, i.e., read more German books. But maybe this is the “wrong” goal for me?

My Learnings

“But what we find is that there are certain things that if you value and if you attain them, you’re worse off as a result of it, not better off.” Pink here presents the research results by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, two organizational psychologists from the University of Rochester who in the 1990/2000s became famous for their research on Self-Determination Theory. Obviously, as the quote shows, motivation is very much about goals — but only about the “right” ones. Well, now it gets complicated.

Just yesterday when I talked to someone who was seeking advice for his career after the Ph.D., I said the sentence which I often say in coachings: “There is no wrong or right decision. You can only decide based on what you know at this very moment and pick what looks like the best choice to reach your goals. And you are not making a decision for life. Life is different today than in the past. We do not choose a career and then spend 30 or 40 years doing the same thing.” But Pink is not talking about any goals. He is talking about the “right” goals. How complicated is this? And did I give the wrong piece of advice?

On some days, I never know what is right…

But maybe things are not that complicated after all. In the example by Deci and Ryan, the goals they were researching also included a discussion about monetary goals. This is something that most of us have read somewhere already or experienced, i.e., that money does not make one happy. A certain amount of money is necessary to make one feel calm and not desperate. But at a certain point, more money does not create more happiness.

For me, goals are hardly ever about money. I remember very well when I quit my first job in industry, I yelled the following very elaborate sentence in the car on my ride home from the company: “Fuck money!” But the story is more difficult, of course. We all need money and making money is nice. Money actually works, literally. Money can do many things. And it is a barometer of success, i.e., it shows you if things are working. The problem with this is that you can have financial success as a consequence of reaching the “wrong” goals, obviously.

That is my problem.

Reaching goals is easy.

Finding the “right” goals is hard.

What I always tell people is that they should follow their heart. Whatever they love doing, they should continue doing it. And everything else falls into place. That is my experience so far. And after a while, success, a feeling of happiness, follows. I am repeating myself here. I have written about this already. What I want to get at is that sometimes, you lose the ability of feeling what is right and wrong with respect to goals. As a coach, I know how to deal with this. But I am not my own coach. It always ends up in a mess if you try to coach yourself. It is like playing tennis with yourself. It just does not work. You cannot run to the other side of the court that quickly to hit your own ball back.

Geeeee, my analogies suck today…

“Failing to understand this conundrum… can lead sensible people down self-destructive paths.” I guess, I have realized the “conundrum” part of the message — congrats to myself! But I wonder about the “sensible” people issue. That is always a matter of self-definition and what I have experienced so far is that people who care too much about their “sensible” nature really end up in trouble because they are making a big fuss about it. I do not even know if Pink really means sensitive or sensible here. Well, I guess, since I am not that motivated today, I have no “drive” to further pursue the issue.

I do know, however, that “self-destructive paths” need to be avoided. In the past, I always made sure I leave these dark paths as quickly as possible. And if I am honest, I also know what the wrong goals are right now. The problem therefore is not one of insight but of sequence. You have to focus on one goal at a time. The other goal might make you happy but that is not important now. And maybe, this is my hope, the other goal will completely disappear from my radar.

Reflection Questions

1) Do you need fixed goals to get going?

2) Did you ever achieve the “wrong” goal and felt unhappy when reaching it?

3) Which goal did you postpone to “later” — whenever that might be?




Founder & CEO of Companypoets

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Silke Schmidt

Silke Schmidt

Founder & CEO of Companypoets

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