The microphone waves in front of the athlete’s face, the question posed by the reporter focused on the efforts of his teammates. He wipes sweat of his forehead with a towel and without hesitation he nods and says, “Yeah, everyone came ready to play. They gave it their all. They left it all out there on the field. They gave it 110 percent.”
Perfect. 4-4 on the cliche meter and all smile in approval as they recognized an important goal in athletics goal was met. (Uh, the goal was not saying cliches after a game. It was giving the game one’s all.)
Sports taught me this lesson at a young age. CrossFit teaches it to me every week now. To get the most out of exercise, one has to give it their all. Every time. Proper form, attention to hydration and nutrition, and then pushing past physical limitations all contribute to physical and athletic development. In high school I showed up every day to run or to play basketball. Yesterday’s practice wasn’t enough to rest for that day. I had to again show up and train. Same for CrossFit today. I can’t take many days off to rest (or be lazy) or I’ll notice the drop-off the next time I show up.
On the road to effective work and leadership there is a similar crest along the way that all of us need to overtake. It’s a simple yet profound rise that separates people into two groups and helps to answer the question “what is motivation?”: Those who try to accomplish as much as possible while working and those who try to do as little as possible … just to get by.
[It may be helpful to reword "accomplish as much as possible" to "perform a task as well as possible" for those who have concerns about overemphasizing performance as the chief value - or putting 'doing' in front of 'being.' Either way, the issue is our stance toward the work before us - do we take it on with excellence as our standard?]
Take any work, learning, or creative situation and apply this simple question to those involved. You’ll begin to see a differentiation and you can explore more about motivation factors for what separates the two groups. Here are a few examples of what I’ve observed about motivation for the following situations:
- Give two children similar chores at home. One works to meet minimum standards of completing the task while the other stops to assess the end product of his work: Does it look clean? and performs a few additional tasks to make sure it’s done well. The motivation might be his own standard or seeking the approval of his parent, but the outcome is better quality than his sibling due to his extra time and attention.
- Assign a paper in the classroom. Some college students turn in papers that meet the word count, a first draft that meets the minimum standards of the assignment. Other students work to say something in their papers, working to make sure the content matters and that the paper is a demonstration of their best thoughts.
- Lead a youth ministry program. In my field I get to observe a lot of youth ministry programs. Some are just of higher quality. The sounds works consistently and without glitches, the speaking or discussion is compelling and obviously well-prepared, and the content is well-grounded. Others seem to have been prepared that afternoon. The topic had been chosen weeks prior, but the thinking behind it hadn’t been fleshed out until the hour before (and I’ve been guilty of this more than a few times too).
- The arts. Visual arts and music are the most common area where you can see the difference. And, unfortunately, in Christian circles ‘close enough’ is often good enough. Attention to detail and quality or even to the
I think there’s a general ‘life disposition’ where we live to try to accomplish as much as possible or we just try to get by. What have you noticed over the years in others’ lives? Where have you had to overcome this barrier?