Does Clutter Correlate with Not Being Motivated at Work?

November 24, 2009

One reason for clutter could be how we feel about our work–or, more precisely, the lack of autonomy, mastery and purpose we feel when we are working. Dan Pink, author of Motivation, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (due out December 29, 2009) spoke about his findings at this past summer’s Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference whose theme is cutting-edge, innovative thinking. He gave a glimpse of his new book’s thesis: It’s not money that motivates us to work. It’s our sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose in the workplace, what he calls “intrinsic motivators.”  See U-Tube video “Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation.”

Let’s explore the three components Pink cites:

Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

Autonomy is “the urge to direct your own life” (Pink). In the workplace this could mean the freedom to choose your time, task, team and the way you want to go about doing it. How many of us actually have this kind of freedom at work? For many of us, the room to be as creative or innovative as we would like is limited. We have to be accountable, show up for meetings, and work 40+ hours a week. This lack of autonomy at work can spill into our personal life and show up in a variety of ways at home. For some, it comes in the form of clutter. “Since I don’t have autonomy at work, why should I care about having autonomy at home?” Things begin to pile up and before you know it, clutter has taken over.

Mastery is “the desire to get better and better at something that matters” (Pink).  Does your work matter to you? Is it a subject you want to master? For many, work is a means to an end, rather than a subject that inspires us to be a master of it.  Inability to be masterful  at work can parallel an inability to be masterful at home. While some compensate by creating a home where they feel creative and proud, others slump into lethargy and let the clutter accumulate. Mastery becomes a subliminal subtext: the desire for mastery is always there, but many of us don’t let ourselves be conscious of it.

Purpose is “the yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves” (Pink). Few of us have taken the time to clarify what our purpose is. We get so caught up in the quick-paced, day-to-day responsibilities at work that after awhile we can’t remember we had a purpose that serves something larger than ourselves. Getting an education and securing a well-paying job are often the benchmarks of success in our society, but what is our purpose? If our purpose were more clearly defined, we may see that much of the stuff we fill our lives with doesn’t matter.

Nurturing Self

By shifting our focus from the conventional demands of work as most of us know it today to a new way of working that honors who we are, we begin to nurture ourselves. The external clutter we possess might well become less alluring, and the internal discovery might actually become riveting.

Consider Dan Pink’s three components of motivation in the workplace. Ask yourself how they factor into your life. Are you filling your life with clutter—unaware that you might want more autonomy, greater mastery and a clearer purpose? More attention to your inner world could mean less attention on filling your life with objects of the external world. Motivated at work could mean more engaged in your personal life, and more engaged in your personal life could lead to clearing your clutter.

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