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Selfish or Selfless? What’s your motivation?




Last night my friend was very upset. One of her staff members had called in sick for the next morning. She herself had a very busy day of meetings and an overwhelming backlog of work to complete. It was close to midnight and she had exhausted all her possible options to fill the shift. She told me she was going to have to go into work for 7am to fill the busy part of the shift herself and her final meeting would be at 6pm. She would have to put in a 12 hour day right after having to work through her weekend due to throwing her staff a holiday party and having to attend a day long training session on her usual days off. She was holding back tears; exhausted.

My friend is the hardest working person I know. While I have admired her tenacity at work for years, I have also seen the emotional and physical toll it takes on her. 

I began to walk the fine line a best friend in this situation has to walk. Being a sympathetic ear while trying to get her to see the situation from a less emotional point of view. 

I asked her why was it was so important that she go in and work the shift?

She replied that she didn’t want to disappoint the staff and leave them hanging when she knew it was going to be a busy shift for them.

This got me thinking about a YouTube talk I had just watched by Joe Dispenza. 

5 types of Motivation
Highest to lowest (Selfless to selfish)

1.Purpose motivation
Duty Motivation
Mission Motivation
(To have a vision of the future to change the world; something bigger than you)

2.Personal conviction motivation
Self-starter Motivation 
Entrepreneurial motivation 
(When you do something because you said you were going to do it)

3.Ethics motivation 
Morality based motivation
(Based on good vs bad)

4.Ego centred motivation
(For acclaim, recognition or importance)

5.Money Motivation 

The higher motivations experience the lower motivations by default.  For example, those who are purpose based have strong personal and ethical conviction. They will often experience acclaim and material wealth even though they are not focused on those goals as motivation. It simply flows downstream naturally.

I asked my friend which motivation she felt most influencing her decision to put her job first. She chose duty motivation. She felt responsible for her employees workload and the guests satisfaction. Being properly staffed helps provide high guest satisfaction as well as ensuring her staff did not feel unprepared for what was likely going to be a busy shift she explained to me.

Although she was feeling overwhelmed by her other work commitments, she was having a difficult time figuring out a solution that did not have her overworked and without the energy to perform her primary duties. We decided (well I decided and then convinced her) that this was the perfect time to try a resistant breaking exercise I had suggested to her a few weeks earlier. 

The exercise consists of taking her to-do list and splitting it up into two column. What must get done ASAP and what she would like the universe to do for her. It is typically recommended to actually physically write these lists out but my friend was suffering from a time scarcity mentality so I felt just saying the ‘universe to-do’ list out loud was enough. She picked two things to give to the universe as tasks.  She would not go in early the next morning and she would trust in the universe to make the morning go smoothly for her staff and guests. She was also lacking the time and creative energy to come up drink features for the month. She mused over the notion that maybe her staff would be able to come up with some interesting ideas for the drink menu. After the exercise she texted her staff to give them a heads up about the absent employee and explained she wouldn’t be able to help out and why. Then she went to bed. 

In the morning she saw a text that told her not to worry, that they would be fine and that she should make sure she got her sleep. It is my belief that because her motivation at work is so often on the high side of the selflessness scale that her employees understand how hard she works to make sure they are prepared and well staffed for busy days. If she was simply working out of ego or money motivation, it is likely that her staff would not be so understanding of her not coming in to fill the shift.  They would be able to see if she was the kind of boss that was motivated by selfish reasons as most employees do. They would resent her decision but instead she found they supported her. 

And yes, near the end of her day, she was pleasantly surprised that her drink features were sorted out and ready to be put on the menu due to a collaborative effort of her staff. The universe came through yet again!

My friends situation reminded me of how having the right motivation effects not only what you reap but how others will catch on if you have selfless vs selfish motivations.

And it’s always nice to be reminded:
The universe has your back, you just have to remember to ask!


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