Figure Out What's Next

Save Half a Million Dollars by Using This Strategy to Lead You to Fulfilling Work

career change motivation motivationfinder peter axtell purposeful living self-assessment Mar 23, 2018
student debt

by Peter Axtell

drawing by Peter Axtell

Knowing your motives and your basic nature are the keys to finding fulfilling work

In this post, we're going to explore the correlation between a person's motives and their basic nature and how that can be a huge insight into finding work you love and avoiding time wasted and incurring the chains of student debt.

Here is a real-life story

So please forgive me for the smarmy headline.

A friend of mine, Jeff (not his real name), attended Harvard and graduated with a law degree (approx. cost according to the latest information from Harvard, around $524,865!). He worked for a Silicon Valley Law firm for about 8 months. One day, a partner at the firm said to the new associate lawyers: “ladies and gentlemen the purpose of your work at this law firm is to make our wealthy clients wealthier.” Jeff quit the next day. He learned Tibetan in a year (smart guy) and traveled around the world translating for a high Tibetan lama and he was insanely happy. Today he is a brilliant fulfilled therapist reflecting his basic nature, motivation, and desires.

What does knowing your motives and desires mean?

You have energies inside you that cause you to act, either towards something or away from something. These energies are a combination of desires that are unique to you. They are called “motives.” Think of them like your fingerprint. 

Motives are integral to your personality. They also determine your basic nature. For example, I have a high desire for contact. That means I like being in contact with others, I seek contact with others. Jeff has a low desire for contact. You can tell because he doesn't like to be surrounded by people very much. He would never walk in the pub and go up to the bar and start talking to people. He will have conversations, he just usually doesn't instigate them. The motives I'm talking about aren't good or bad any more than your fingerprint is good or bad. By the way, I'm not speaking about when a person has an ulterior motive, for example, to be dishonest.

Why couldn't Jeff be motivated by a Harvard law degree and a top job at a prestigious law firm?

I can hear you say, “give me the Harvard law degree and all that money in Silicon Valley and I'll certainly be motivated.”  Jeff's story is not an anomaly, in fact, it's quite common. At least 70% of Americans are disengaged at work according to Gallup.

The answer is that Jeff's law career was completely out of alignment with his basic nature, his motives, and desires. You can't continue to be out of alignment like this and keep going. That's the reason people burn out. By the way, it's been scientifically validated that money alone is not a very good motivator.

Why you might miscommunicate with people frequently

Have you ever wondered why you can't connect with certain people but you can connect with other people?

Your motives determine a lot of different things. For example, there is a particular way you like to be communicated to. Think of people trying to communicate with you like walking through one of your doors. Certain people you don't trust at first for whatever reason. When they knock on your door you don't open it, at least not at first. However, there is a door that is easy for other people to communicate with you and you'll respond. Often that open response on your part is automatic, you don't even think about it because it's in your subconscious.

I'll be a little transparent here and give you a real-life example. Before I knew all this, I was like a bull in a china shop. To illustrate: I have a high desire for contact. One night I went to a meetup in Denver. I remember walking up to a hip looking entrepreneur and we started having a conversation. After a while, I could see this guy's eyes sort of glaze over and look around the room as he backed away slightly. The conversation ended shortly after that. I realized something had happened to break the rapport, but I wasn't sure what. Looking back from what I've learned, I now know what it was. This entrepreneur had a low desire for contact and a high desire for distance (must have been hard for him to be at a networking event). I totally invaded his space and threw up all over him (not literally). I completely missed his body language not to mention his desire for distance and low contact. The lesson here is that if you know your own desires, you'll be able to start to read others. From there you'll likely know how to communicate with a person that is different than yourself and avoid getting out of rapport so quickly. You'll have a much better idea of which door to walk through.

Why can't I get myself to be motivated and enjoy my job?

This is a big question with a number of possibilities. It's probably two things. Your job is in conflict with your basic nature and that's causing your motivation to drain out of you a little bit every day. It's like a slow leak in the gas tank of your car. Eventually, the car will stop moving. For example, let's say you have a low desire for competition and you're in a sales job with a lot of aggressive competitive people. You'll have to use willpower to get yourself to be more competitive but it's likely, you'll frequently lose to the aggressive competitive people. Also, willpower is not sustainable on the long run. Eventually, you'll wear out and feel exhausted.

The second reason could be that you have a manager who believes that pressure and maybe some fear will motivate you which is impossible over the long term. Here's why: Any form of oppression will deplete motivation. The psychologist Dan Ariely and others have done many controlled studies on motivation and the data shows, oppression depletes motivation. This is one of the major reasons why about 70% of workers in the US and about 92% in the UK are disengaged at work. It's an oppression epidemic.

Five Strategies for finding work you love

Now you know the problem. What can you do about it?

  1. Find out what your personal motives and desires are by taking a self-assessment. Make sure it's a good one.
  2. Do some reflection and identify what you think your basic nature is. For example, are you a numbers cruncher, do you like to build things, do you like to compete and win, do you like autonomy, do you like to be sedentary etc.?
  3. Look at your assessment results and see which desires match your basic nature generally.
  4. Look a jobs or careers that feel like they might be a good fit for your basic nature and your top desires.
  5. Check out workplace environments with this new knowledge about yourself and see what feels right to you.

Question: What did you learn about yourself from this post? 


The Inside-Out Career Design Podcast

Join Us as We Search for Answers to the Age-Old Questions of 
"What Should I Do With My Life?" and "What's Next for Me?"

Check Out Our Episodes