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Monday, July 8, 2013

A of B? What motivates you to work harder--the accomplishment of climbing a mountain or the view once you arrive?

In different personnel assessment situations prospective candidates for jobs are often asked this or that questions.

These questions might sound like this:

Are you A. an introvert or B. an extrovert?  (Introvert--shy; extrovert--gregarious)

Are you A. a deductive thinker or B. and inductive thinker? (Deductive--Takes a big idea and backtracks it to its roots; Inductive--finds a clue and follows it to find the bigger principle)

Your answers to questions like these provide clues to the interviewer that you are a people person or not, a team player or a loner, and a rational thinker who either likes to start with a big theory and work your way down or a more creative thinker who finds a small clue and follows it to discover the broader concept that encompasses it.

Often overlooked--in fact, I have never heard it being asked--is the question that would reveal what most motivates you as a worker:

Are you by nature more of an A.  Stoic or an B.  Epicurean?

For the purposes of this discussion, a stoic person toughs out hard situations.  Stoics persevere without complaining--climb mountains as a daily task.  For the purpose of this discussion, an Epicurean identifies the possible rewards and works to gain that pleasure.

 Just as we are not exclusively one kind of thinker only or one kind of social person only, for we all move in and out of thinking deductively and inductively and can at times be gregarious in a certain kind of environment but not in another, we also have some ingrained behaviors of when we take a stoic response to a challenge or an epicurean one.

When you go to the dentist do you brace yourself for the pain--grin and bear it or do you think, "Ah, I love the way my mouth feels after a good cleaning?"  The simple answer to that question reveals that in this circumstance you are either stoic--grin and bear it--or schooled in offering yourself some kind of reward for going through something that is potentially unpleasant and, at times, painful.

After a dental visit, I go to Starbucks.   I reserve going to Starbucks for the times when I need a reward.  I have never made this decision consciously.  It is a habit that developed over time.  In my youth I went to the music store and bought new music after taking tests.  Later, I ate chocolate.  These days I take a walk as a reward for a long day of working at the computer.  More and more the variety of rewards for good behavior--the accomplishments of tasks--have expanded.  They are not big rewards. They are small ones--consistent ones.   I reward myself for working and think of myself as Epicurean because of that.

It matters to me that I know what kind of worker I am and what motivates me.  It should matter to personnel directors and bosses--not because we are responsible for others in this way really, but knowing what does motivate people--and it's not always the promise of money and can't be on a daily basis--does help us increase productivity and job satisfaction.  Knowing it about yourself can help you to work harder and more efficiently.

Do you know what motivates you?  Is it the feeling of accomplishment?  Do you climb those mountains because they are there.   On the great spectrum of what stoicism can mean, mark that as your answer.  Do you promise yourself a great view and lots of fresh air after you climb that work mountain?  Call yourself epicurean.  Then, watch yourself and see what happens when you consciously take control of the way you tell yourself what to do and what you say after you have done it.

When you know what motivates you, you can take charge of motivating yourself.

It's a very powerful choice to make for all kinds of workers.


  1. Very insightful post!

  2. Ms. Simpkins, thank you for linking the class to this post. Very helpful!

  3. This post was very helpful.

  4. I have found your blogs to be very helpful. Thank you for sharing them!!!

  5. This blog was excellent, I learned to help myself more by motivating myself and rewarding myself rather than to look for it in others. Thank You.

  6. I love this blog. It really made me consider what motivates me. I will definitely be applying this.

  7. This is an excellent thought process, and I can hope that any and all persons could read this and think of which they are. I believe I am Introverted and stoic, I can work without a reward and generally don't desire one. It's always a part of living for me, the reward is finishing the task.