What's Your Motivation?

Why do you still do this work? 

Not what brought you into it 10 years ago or 5 years ago or 6 months ago or whatever. Why do you still do this work TODAY?

This work is generally thankless, yet critically important. While everyone else is running out of the proverbial fire, you wake up each morning and decide to run into the fire. You believe the people you serve are worthiest of your highest esteem. You believe that biography does not equal destiny. You believe that people can have a better life and housing situation than their current circumstances suggest today. 

But why are you still motivated?

This week, I suspect, another service organization or your own team will let you down. This week, I suspect, a program participant will be less than happy with the organization you work for, or your performance itself. This week, I suspect, you will help a person or family realize their goal of housing and not even be met with a kind word. 

If you still have motivation to do the work it is because you have been able to attach an emotional meaning to the work. I don't mean a general feeling. I mean an attachment to what you are doing every single day. I mean the sort of attachment that fuels your drive.

What I know about people and organizations that are motivated to do this work is that they thrive within the certainty they have created. They are unrelentingly focused on results, because the results fuel their certainty.

I know that organization that are motivated respond to uncertainty differently. They don't see surprises as problems. They see them as opportunities to learn and grow. They thrive in the ability to stay focused on their mission regardless of circumstances.

I know that organizations that are motivated attach significance to their work. It is not meaningful activities. It is every activity that progresses an individual or family towards housing is a significant achievement. That is shared across the team and the organization. That significance is grounded in the reality of what each story of each household they serve represents.

I know that organizations that are motivated build connections with their team, their broader community, and each household they have the privilege of serving. And the work "privilege" is not an accidental one. They see it a privilege to serve others and build connection from there, rather than seeing program participants as being privileged to be served by them. 

I know that organizations that are motivated keep growing. They do not rest on the laurels of past achievements. They keep pursuing getting better. And better. And better. There is no stop to their pursuit of awesomeness. And they do this by looking within themselves rather than using a competition mantra to get there. 

Finally, I know that organizations that are motivated give of themselves relentlessly but appropriately. To use a cliche sports analogy, they leave it all on the field each day, but also know when to shut it off at the end of the work day to practice routine self-care. That routine self-care (as opposed to fleeting self care or episodic self care) is instrumental to maintaining the "it" factor each and every day that they do the work.

How do organizations get to this place? Usually through superb leaders, cultivated investment in awesomeness, and external assistance to facilitate their ability. But there is nothing that stops an organization and the sum of its parts to wake up tomorrow and decide to be awesome. It all comes down to acknowledging motivation.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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