This is a word used often in organisations. It is a question I am frequently asked “How do I motivate the people I work with?” Is motivation a puzzle or is it as simple as “you can if you want to”? Is it a case of starting your career by gaining the necessary skills that provide you with a profession to support a life style?

This sounds like we would just be going through the motions and life would be standing still. Having these types of attitudes in companies can hamper productivity. Let’s look at motivation from an individual’s perspective. What can you get from motivation as an individual and not just being motivated so the company can achieve.

There are people out there who are doing things differently. They seem to seize the day and chase things that they want. What are they doing differently? The secret is a vision that motivates.

Motivation starts with a desire to be free – A Dream. Free to start new ideas, projects, set new goals. Free to dream big, not matter how crazy the dream seems. Through this freedom, the love for learning is developed. Learn new skills, take risks, seek opportunities to get the ideas, projects and goals off the ground. We then develop the ability to overcome failure. We learn from our mistakes, we try different ways of doing things and so the circle continues until we achieve. In any thing that is worthwhile, barriers and failure will be there. The ability to bounce back is key to achieving the dream.

Opportunity is attracted to people with dreams. They are the first to be hired, the first to be offered opportunities, the first to be promoted. Why? People with a dream act differently. Dreamers develop an attitude that radiates energy, they have a sense of purpose and meaning to their lives. They make the impossible seem possible!

There are three types of dreams:

  • Socially accepted dreams – professions or skills that society hold in high regards, eg “My son is studying to be a doctor” ranks highly as opposed to someone saying “My son is an artist”.
  • Wishful thinking – this is the start of all dreams. However, the intention behind the wishful thinking is important. Is it the start of a dream or is it trying to find an easy way out? Eg “Let’s buy the lotto ticket and then we won’t have to bother with anything ever again.”
  • Socially unaccepted dreams – these ideas have never been tried or tested so they are rejected and the dreamers are told to stop wasting their time on silly ideas, eg Einstein and his theories. He was under house arrest because of his ideas.

There is one word that jumps off the page as the guardians of dreams – society!

When children are younger they have great imagination and are very creative. They have excellent ideas to day to day challenges, so where does it go as we get older? Society helps us lose our creativity. We are encouraged to leave our childish games behind us as we grow up. We are encouraged to use adult thinking to solve problems – tried and tested routes and methods. This can be seen very clearly in a brainstorming session at the office. Everyone sits very quietly wondering if they should put their idea to the group or not. What will people think? If we put our ideas out there and we get the comment “Now where did that come from, what were you thinking…” we will be inclined to keep our ideas to ourselves in the future. We may, in fact, stop thinking them all together as they seem to get us nowhere.

It is not that our parents or other people do it intentionally. It is the way society has molded us (said or unsaid) as to what is acceptable and what is not.


By Captain Bob Webb


During lunch, at one of my Public Executive Assistant training sessions, I decided to explore these concepts of motivation and dreams. I was hoping the relaxed setting of lunch would open the doors. I started by saying that is it not funny how we spend our school careers dreaming of a career and in many cases we don’t follow that profession. Worse still is that some of us went to university and studied that profession and then did something completely different when we started to work. I asked the group to suspend reality for a minute and share what their dream job was. We had answers from someone wanting to dance with the Russian Ballet, to someone wanting to work for the CIA, to someone wanting to be a lawyer and so this colourful conversation continued. I ask why they had never pursued their dream jobs? 70% of the group said they were told that their dream job was a dream and would not pay the bills. They needed to do something that would make them secure in life.

Just after that there was an interview with a talented South African musician – Jimmy Nevis – on the radio. The presenter asked him “You are so talented as a musician and I see that you study full time as well, tell us about that.” He responded, “The study part came from my parents. They said I should have a degree/career behind my name and then music. So I chose Marketing as it is creative and will work with my music career. I will finish my degree and then pursue my passion full time. They are looking after my best interests.”

Therein lies the key (words) for all of us.

  1. Find a Dream. Find something that inspires you to re-establish your Dream. For some of us it may not be related to what we do currently. The key is to re-establish the “attitude that radiates energy”. If your Dream is different to what you are currently doing your attitude is just as important. You now have two reasons to be motivated. One, is to be good at what you do and be rewarded in the best way possible as, Two, your career may be funding your Dream.
  2. Picture the Dream. It prepares you to accept opportunities when they arrive. It creates the attitude needed for people to offer you opportunities.
  3. Put society’s ideas about your dream behind you. Everyone will have their own opinion – don’t let that cause you to put your Dream aside.
  4. Grow the love for learning. People asking questions are valuable to your journey. While developing the dream the questions they ask can assist you in evaluating potential challenges before they arise. This helps in dealing with failure and helps with perseverance as you have already tackled that problem in your head. We become proactive not reactive.
  5. Keeping the Dream alive is like having a project plan in your head. It constantly has you evaluating options and moving things forward.
  6. Your Comfort Zone. This is the living, working, socializing space we have become accustomed to. The greatest enemy to human potential is our Comfort Zone. If you want something you have never had then you must do something you have never done before. Your Dream will change your Comfort Zone. You will experience feelings of inadequacy, stress, embarrassment, nerves and excitement and stimulation. The excitement and stimulation is what is needed to overcome the failure and keep the perseverance.
  7. Fail forward. It is important to adjust your mindset to failure. Learning from your setbacks and make adjustments until you succeed. Every change you make, every person you meet, and every bit of information you absorb helps you on your journey towards your Dream. Your vision/dream may be blocked for a short while, but perseverance will help you discover opportunities that have been waiting for you.
  8. The Dream may change shape. For the person who wanted to work for the CIA that Dream may no longer be a reality. However, they need to explore what it was about the role that attracted them and how to make those options reality. They may have liked the investigating part of the role. They can now look at other avenues related to the Dream.

Now that we are motivated individuals, enjoying the fruit of our hard work, imagine how these motivated people are contributing to the company goals and objective.

Joanne Barnfather is the Managing Member of MindLeap, a training company in South Africa. She works in the private and public sector, focusing on skills that inspire people and organisations to want to be better.

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