At some point, every leader has dealt with a person — or, worse, a group of people — who has lost motivation. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? As much as we’ve been there ourselves, sometimes it’s hard to sympathize with others who are disengaged from work and unproductive as a result. Sometimes, we view their unhappiness as a bug in their mental makeup — and, therefore, we think they should be able to suck it up and snap out of it.
Although it’s easy to fall into this mindset as a leader, this type of thinking is counterproductive and it ignores the underlying reasons why people lose their passion for what they do (or never find it to begin with).
In order to get at the crux of the problem, it’s crucial to understand that as humans we want to feel motivated and to find meaning in the things that we do. It’s part of our biology. In fact, there’s a part of our brains called the seeking system that creates the natural impulses to learn new skills and take on challenging but meaningful tasks. When we follow these urges, we receive a jolt of dopamine — a neurotransmitter linked to motivation and pleasure — which make us want to engage in these activities even more. And, when our seeking systems are activated, we feel more motivated, purposeful, and zestful. We feel more alive.
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