The origin behind what we call motivation has been studied for decades but has never truly been isolated as to what it is that drives people to get up every day and keep pushing forward. This goes for our private lives as well as our professional advancement.
Naturally, many theories have been considered mainly in an attempt to make the most of managing employees in a way that makes them want to work and perform well daily. From my experience working in a java software developer company, I have chosen to discuss some of the most supported theories in this article.
Working as a software developer is a job description, but it can quickly turn into a lifestyle. At some point, you start tweaking your habits to accommodate your needs from a professional standpoint. You may have changed what you eat, hoping to limit energy spikes and be more consistently productive. Or you may have made sure you get a consistent eight hours of sleep nightly to maintain excellent brain function. Some have taken the road of cutting out substances that are detrimental to health, such as alcohol, cigarettes or large amounts of sugar.
The drive that inspires people to make a change can be categorised roughly in one of the following:
You do not feel content with what you are doing, you do not see a purpose behind your actions and your work any more You have realised you are merely going through the motions of old habits and feel stuck. This can also be considered an indication you may have burnt out.
You want to optimise what you do as a part of your daily routine in a way that is helpful and makes you feel healthier, better and more active without feeling as tired — both as a developer and in your personal life.
You have come to the realisation that your daily life has been packed with a chain of habits, that you are not too sure actually contribute to your life, or rather you believe they harm you instead. You have tried to follow a set of self-assigned rules and productivity tips that are no longer helpful or extracting results while adding stress.
The best way to drive your career forward is to isolate any source of dissatisfaction with your work process and develop a strategy to make improvements that allow you to do better and achieve your goals. As intertwined as motivation is with human needs applying practices in your work to meet them will help you to prioritise in a way that helps you.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a person must sate the most basic needs before moving on to the rest. Besides, even if the higher needs are met, the sense of dissatisfaction will not go away.
His idea of what the inherent prioritisation of needs looks similar to this:
Along with the importance of the need, the motivation to obtain it is dependant on how high it is in the pyramid. The strongest motivation, for example, is driven by physiological needs.
What this comes down to is survival. Naturally, when I say survival, the discussion does not revolve around hunting for sustenance and building a shelter from the cold in a cave. To survive in the early twenty-first century means to have a stable enough job that allows paying our main expenses such as the cost of having a home, utilities and food.
As a bare minimum, this is a driving factor to aim not only for a well-paid but also for long-term sustainable prospects.
Nowadays, you cannot meet your physiological needs without having reliable employment. However, there is more to safety than simply meeting the needed aspects to stay alive. You need to do so to a well-enough degree to be healthy, to be able to manage your resources and direct them towards what is important to you personally. This also relates to having the ability to own and possess.
Providing the ability to meet the first two and most essential needs is easily one of the biggest reason that drives programmers to work in the IT industry. As demanding and quick-paced as it may be, it is also the most safe-bet industry to work in. After all, it is only predicted to grow more prominent with the mandatory use of technology in all other fields.
As far as love goes, it has been a known motivator for becoming better. And while love is not something we will touch too much on here, the concept of belonging is directly related to software developers. The software developer community is one that many appreciate being a part of. Hence meeting the need for belonging.
Many companies bet not only on a paycheck to keep their employees, but also on creating a nourishing company culture that helps people communicate and work together. Other developer platforms such as dev.to are a clear sign, of the way that having this community is something that is a motivator to pursue a career path in tech.
Not to mention the culture of sharing experience and also being able to find solutions on a problem you have been working on, by people who are not in your immediate reach.
Being respected and seeing that your work is valued. In a professional setting, feedback is easily one of the most important internal processes. Assessing the information allows for growth, by focusing on the performance issues and resolving them one at a time.
However, being appreciated for the work is a fundamental need. As far as software development goes as a profession is generally well-perceived and respected. The work is of high-value, not only high-demand. And while there will always be the right amount of criticism going into software products, it is generally recognised for what it offers.
Now, this takes a different form for different people. For some, it would mean getting to work on a passion project, or generally one they identify with. For others, it may take the form of achieving certain metrics for success or obtaining financial wealth.
Others may even want to take on a personal business that employs their particular technical expertise and creates a product that they have wanted to work on for a long time.
And we should not forget that being the most you can be, can quickly jump out of the scope of tech, such as achieving physical agility and meeting the goals of what you want your body to look like and being able to do more with it. Or it may be finding the perfect person to start a family with, or possessing your own secure home, or maybe even advancing any hobbies, even if they are unrewarded financially.
While Maslow has developed an overall well-rounded idea for what the human needs bring with themselves and as applicable as it is with motivation management, there are more than one ways to get motivated and reap results. Here are some more that have also proven to be quite successful.
One of the most simple motivations that are proven successful and universal. In a modern professional setting, this is very obviously applied. If you perform well with the assigned tasks, you get praised and are rewarded with some bonus.
If you underperform or stray from the requirements, you meet inevitable negative consequences. Like a cut from the bonus amount if you are repetitively late or unprepared. Naturally, the amount of praise and scrutiny depends on your actions. Still, as far as motivation goes, it is often clearly defined what you are expected to do to receiver the positives from your work.
We touched on this in the previous section under self-actualisation. A part of it comes from enjoying the process. Also having the opportunities and the desire to grow in a way that is productive and adds a higher quality of life and satisfaction.
And naturally, this does look different depending on the person, the bet here are some of the things that make developers excited about what they do for a living:
Working a part of a big project that you believe in. Being a part of a big or small project and knowing that your work makes a change can be an excellent motivation. The feeling that your work matters. Some may dabble in working for causes they believe in or merely choosing a project that aligns with their ideas
Being the lead of your own project. A lot of big companies let senior developers lead their own project if it overlaps with the company goals and general direction. Primarily if developing it benefits the company in some way, this can allow some developers to inherently working at something they wanted to, with the support of an organisation that can assist the project to success. Working on your passions is always a great motivation.
Overlapping work and personal interests. A lot of people choose companies for the industry’s niche and not only for the job conditions, despite them being above average at least. A good example is people who love making games (and playing them) choosing to be a developer in the gaming side of the tech industry. Designing game concepts and getting to produce it to the scale of an AAA game (triple-A means it needs to be high quality in three key aspects: graphics, performance, gameplay).
Being a freelancer. While it can be challenging to make a living as a freelancer, especially as a newbie, it is a route many have chosen. If you are inexperienced, you cannot afford to be too picky with the projects you take on, at least until you gain enough knowledge to be marketable. However, later on in your career, you can have the freedom to choose what to work on. Some of the apparent perks are the ability to work from anywhere. It also has assignment flexibility in terms of working hours and shifts. Not to mention choosing work related to your interest. Gaining more experience on the side with a steady job if you need more money, or want to switch fields in IT.
If you want to know more on why we enjoy the process of working as much, and how you can use this in your work and private life, be sure to check out the book “Drive: The simple truth what motivates us” by Daniel Pink.
Do you find yourself relating to any of the common motivators? Do you think it is good to isolate what drives you? Do you think you can use this to encourage better results in your life, by doing more of what helps you get riled and productive?
Let us know by adding to the discussion! I hope you found this article helpful, or at the least a little bit interesting.