People who are self-driven, or self-motivated, typically get more enjoyment out of their work. They are wired to keep pushing, even under less than ideal circumstances.

Of course they appreciate regular paychecks, or more likely, direct deposits, but knowing they worked hard, navigated obstacles, and executed their roles in moving a project or the company forward is its own reward at the end of each day.

Organizations prize self-driven employees. This is not news. What is different is how much more companies value such people in the 21st Century workplace. “Self-motivated” is a requirement embedded in nearly every job description. When it isn’t spelled out, it is implied.

The reasons are many. A few to consider:

  • Self-driven employees are more productive.
  • Self-driven employees require less management time.
  • Self-driven employees align themselves with their company’s growth.
  • Self-driven employees represent the organization well.
  • Self-driven employees want to learn more.

Getting an awesome manager or assigned to the most exciting project is never guaranteed. Workplace realities include that supervisors have less time for handholding. Some managers are better at motivating their teams than others. Yet someone with high self-drive will maximize the experience even under average circumstances and forge ahead.

Self-driven is not the same as autopilot, however. Ideally, the self-driven employee has self-awareness, too, and knows when to course correct or seek guidance. Organizations don’t want robots, but they will pay a premium for self-driven employees who also navigate change well and seek out new challenges. Change is the one constant in today’s economy.

One pitfall self-driven employees face is working in a “bubble,” disconnected to the bigger system in play. Operating in such a vacuum both deprives employees of important opportunities for collaboration and risks they’ll miss valuable, often nuanced, information about which way organizational winds are blowing. Put another way, self-driven is not the same as self-absorbed.

Some experts break motivation into two main categories. Intrinsic motivation comes from the inherent value of the work – for such an individual, doing the work is reward enough. Desired, specific outcomes distinct from the work itself drive the second type, which is extrinsic motivation. Recognition, promotion, fame, money, respect, and a comfortable retirement are among such extrinsic, or external, motivators.

Of course human motivation is not quite so simple because a combination of factors drives most of us. Think about whether you are self-driven and to what degree. Do you think it is enough for today’s workplace?

If it isn’t, tap into what does motivate you. Perhaps you are motivated by your role as part of a project, mission or community. Maybe the prospect of spending quality time with your family each evening, knowing you gave 100 percent or better at work that day, keeps you going.

Self-drive is like a muscle. Working at it makes it stronger. Create a list of what motivates you. In a slump, refer to it. Stay positive. Visualize past and future successes. Push a wee bit past your comfort zone. In three months ask yourself, “How high is my self-drive quotient?”

It may be more than you think.

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