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Pear is not a pair. And motivation is not engagement.

Jun 4, 2021, 4-min. read

Although it may occur to us that these are words with a similar meaning and we can interchange them freely, this is not the case.

What is motivation?

The definition states that motivation is an internal or external factor or set of factors leading to the activation of an organism. Motivation directs our behavior and actions to achieve a certain goal. It expresses a summary of all facts - joy, curiosity, positive feelings, and joyful expectations that support or inhibit an individual in doing or not doing something.

In other words, motivation is something that makes us take action. The basic division of motivation results from the type of need, and distinguishes biological motivation (food, safety, sleep, reproduction...) leading to preservation and survival, and social motivation, related to the quality of survival (joy, love, happiness…).

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Another division is based on whether it is an internal motivation (knowing something, self-realization, trying something) or an external motivation (reward, punishment).

The so-called Pyramid of Needs, created by Mr. Abraham Maslow, is also very well known.

Motivation is actually the answer to the question WHY? Why we do what we do, what our motive is. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes less so.

Its intensity is also closely related to the fulfilment of our needs and can fluctuate over time. The more I am lacking something, the more it motivates me. But when satiated, the thing can temporarily lose its motivational quality completely. If I am hungry, then the cake within my reach evokes desire and salivation in me. If I’ve just had a three-course meal, not only does it not interest me, but even the sight of it can be irritating.

Motivation is relatively straightforward, and if we understand the person we want to motivate well, we have a great chance of success.

What is engagement?

Engagement, on the other hand, means enthusiasm, involvement, a degree of commitment to an activity or topic. So - while motivation answers the question WHY, engagement gives us the answer to HOW MUCH. To what degree I am interested and absorbed in a given thing is directly related to how much time and energy I am willing to spend on it and what chance I have to achieve not only a result, but an excellent result.

If I'm engaged I perform better, I’m ready to overcome and cope with obstacles, not just get discouraged easily. I treat the matter as my own, I spontaneously take responsibility for it. I am active and enthusiastic. I’m glad to go the extra mile, not just do the bare minimum. And that’s without it being specifically requested or taken into account for some bonus.

I treat the matter as my own, I spontaneously take responsibility for it. I am active and enthusiastic.

While motivation is the initial impetus and, as previously mentioned, its strength can vary greatly depending on the state of satisfaction of my needs, engagement is the source of energy and a desire to do the thing as part of the process itself. If I am sufficiently engaged, then I can continue working on this matter to the fullest and be completely absorbed in it, even though the initial motivation is long gone.

However, if you feel that both things are related, we’ve arrived at the truth. Engagement is to a large extent saturated with inner motivation (I enjoy it, I succeed, I feel successful in it, I see the meaning in it…). But not only that. It is also very closely related to what responsibilities and competencies I have, how much it actually is "my" topic, how much I can directly influence it and whether we are mere executors or even co-creators. It emerges in a space where my inner motivations and zone of influence meet, and at the same time, where I have the confidence and room for independence. The more I am able to adopt the thing as my own, the more my involvement and interest grows.

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