Going beyond motivation

When I started out in recruitment all those years ago, I remember crafting innumerable ads for clients with the words “Self-starter”, “highly motivated” and “working unsupervised”.

What a load of crap.

How the heck would I know by dint of one, two or even three interviews whether the candidature was motivated?

When I was growing up my career influences were limited. Neither of my parents had gone beyond a basic state education, and their marker for success was a trade: carpenter, plumber or electrician.

I wasn’t the first person in our family to go to University but I was the first person to qualify as a solicitor.

My motivation for studying law was to move out of London and back to my beloved Devon, to find a career that would stretch me and be financially secure. Underpinning these life objectives was my intense desire to serve my clients brilliantly and to make a difference.

But, even though I have come out of practice after 14 years, I look back and ask myself what really motivated me.

It wasn’t:

  • The pay;
  • The conditions;
  • The new client wins; or
  • Doing a good job.

No what truly motivated me was making a difference.

Making a difference, of course, comes at a cost.

You might want to turn over every stone, pebble and grain of sand but, you and I both know, that that is bloody expensive. All clients are interested in is the outcome: Will I win my case?

It is easy to lose sight of why you chose law as a profession. You become so subsumed in the internal antics that any grand scheme becomes elided from your pshche. Perhaps that is why I never progressed beyond Associateship because I wasn’t prepared to give myself absolutely to the cause.

I valued my persona too much.

When all is said and done, if you are going to make the most of your career you have to focus on something more personal than the money. You have to look at the impersonal aspect of the job: how can you change [insert] for the better? If it is not significantly impactful then, after a while, you will not only feel that you are going through the motions but you will begin to question why you put yourself every day through the acrid stench of risk, billing and working to fulfil someone else’s aspiration for the firm. Do you really work to build the best firm in the World when your role as stakeholder is so limited?

To be truly motivated you have to have a purpose.

Ask yourself does the job still fulfil your mission in life? If not, can you immerse yourself in a project or new area of practice that will give you that sense of purpose that has been missing up to now?

Self-analysis is critical to your success. This is not just a case of self-talk but rather re-examining your rationale for law. If you can’t find your way through the thickets of practice, then perhaps it is time to examine whether law is for you.

Of course, you may be so far in that you can’t see a way to escape. And I wouldn’t blame you if you subsumed your inert craving for something better to the greater good of your current circumstances. But such an existence is corrosive. For me, every day I turned up to work and I wasn’t making the most of the day, doing my best work and being myself was like watching a little part of my soul die. It really was that hard.

I am deadly serious when I talk about motivation.

If you don’t love what you do it is very unlikely that you will ever find that spark to keep the flame burning each and every day.

Stop and focus.

Spend time identifying your needs. Your true calling. If you don’t then no amount of extrinsic reward will allow you to make sense of your career choice.