The funny thing about motivation is that it comes in two flavors. It’s easy enough to call them micro and macro, although that isn’t quite right. Here’s what I mean:

- Micro-motivation is what you use to get yourself to do specific tasks. When you say ”I have no motivation to clean the house” or ”I just can’t get motivated to write this article”, you’re talking about micro-motivation. It can actually expand to an even bigger scale: ”If I write this article, I can have a cookie” and ”If I write this article, it’s the first step in getting my business started again” are equally micro-motivation.

- Macro-motivation, on the other hand, is a grander concept; it’s the forest of which individual micro-motivations are the trees. It doesn’t do much to get us going on a task-by-task basis, but it’s integral in deciding which tasks we apply our micro-motivators to, and it guides how effective each of our micro-motivations is going to be.

For example: in your business, do you want to make a living, or do you want to build an empire?

In your job, do you want to do what you love, or do you want to bring home a paycheck?

(I’m consciously not using words like ”just” because these are value-neutral motivations and I’d like to keep them that way. This list also isn’t encyclopedic - just making sure that’s out there.)

If your macro-motivation is to make a living with your business, your micro-motivations are going to (and should) revolve around that. ”If I write this blog post, it’ll get me X pageviews, which will get me Y sales.” But if your macro-motivation is to build an empire, you’ll be doing the same task, but applying a new set of micro-motivations: ”If I write this blog post, it will showcase my ability to create quality content, which will both get more people talking about me and demonstrate to more influential bloggers that it’s worth tapping me for guest posts.” As such, being conscious of and explicit about your macro-motivation can help a lot in giving you micro-motivations that actually help you get tasks done, as opposed to just sitting there wondering why you have no motivation.

Usefully, the process works the other way as well; it’s possible to examine all of your current micro-motivations and use them to discover your underlying macro-motivation - which may not be what you think it is. If your mental image of your macro-motivation is ”I want to make a living with my business”, but every micro-motivation relates to expanding your reach and becoming dominant in your niche, making a living might not really be what’s on your mind. (And in that case it might be useful to examine why you (think you) want to make a living instead of building an empire - you might find some assumptions there that bear revisiting.)

It’s important to note, too, that we’re not limited to a single macro-motivation, and we shouldn’t be. The vast majority of the time, we’re running with multiple interlocking macro-motivations that have interactions that we can’t always see or predict. But knowing what they are is the best way to figure out what micro-motivations are going to work for us and what outcomes we ultimately want to see.

(Later today, the mailing list is getting a second post on motivations, this one about recognizing and understanding others’. If you’d like to read it, be sure to sign up!)


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