Staying Motivated: How to Prime Your Pump

"Let him that would move the world, first move himself." --  Socrates

Rev it up!” “ I’m pumped!”  “Shake it loose!”

Where does this type of energy come from?

In the rural section of Waverly, Virginia, where I grew up, there was no running water in the homes. Instead we had a community well with a pump sitting on top.  To get water you would take your bucket, with a little water in it, with you to the well. Once you arrived, you’d pour your little bit of water out of the bucket into the mouth of the pump, then sit the bucket under it—while moving the handle up and down really fast to activate the water flow. The pump’s suction power would take over and you could hear a coughing-like sound as the water would come gushing out into your bucket.

How did this work?

The pump needed a little help to give up the water. A mix of internal and external mechanisms was necessary to get the yield. Sometimes this process was fast— the water coming out immediately. Other times your arm would hurt from having to pump the handle for longer periods of time to get some water. Maybe a part was missing? Then someone from the neighborhood needed to come and take the pump apart to fix it.

Do we feel at times something is missing that we need to keep us going?

On a daily basis many of us focus on what helps us to get out of bed to do what we need to do. Understanding what is solid and sure in driving those energies can be an enigma. What is this force? Where does it come from? How does it draw suction for our choices in life or work? Does this energy come from within ourselves or do we get it elsewhere?

In a learning activity for my classes dealing with the topic of motivation, I use a handout which lists 20 known motivators we might cling to in work or life. Challenges, helping others, money, flexibility, security, autonomy, making a difference, and benefits, are some of the motivators listed, drawing from a mix of  what’s known in theory as “intrinsic or extrinsic factors (inside of ourselves or given by the outside). The instructions provided on the handout ask participants to review this list and then rank their motivators with an A, B or C.  Those that motivate you the most get an A, ones that motivate you moderately get a B and items that motivate you very little or not at all get a C.

Some participants look perplexed— reluctant to choose. They seem to be thinking, This is work. I get paid to be here so what else matters?  Others may be smiling and going through the list at a rapid-fire rate. Once everyone has completed the assessment, I lead several discussions following the ease versus difficulty of determining your motivators. Thought-provoking quotes like, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” spark dialogue within the group. Inquiries regarding inspiration versus motivation surface and opinions continue. The final question to the class is, “How have your key motivators shown up in your job and life?”

Motivation sparks our movement along life’s path. Whether it comes from within or outside of ourselves, one way is not better than the other—it’s just nice to know what’s pumping us forward.

Some days it may take some priming to get us going. Getting a handle on what the ignition is and turning it to the max can get us good suction in sticking to our paths.

There’s an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in ‘giving it all we got.’ When it shows up, draw from it in how we engage work and life every day!

What primes your pump?


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