Motivation is not enough

This morning, I took a red-eye flight home from a conference that was several time zones away. It was a terrific but intense conference for entrepreneurs, and I am bone-tired. Yet I am sitting here at my computer anyway, taking a risk that what I am writing now could turn out to be a confused jumble, because I am moved to achieve my company’s purpose.

Today, I just don’t have the energy to find much motivation, but I am pushing myself because my purpose is so strong that I can’t resist it. I am truly inspired to show up.

That’s the difference between purpose and motivation. Purpose is stable and solid. It gets us moving and keeps us going in the right direction, even when motivation is lacking. When we have purpose, we show up and give the very best, whatever “best” is at that moment.

Purpose rises above everything

For people of all ages on teams, motivation is a confusing and less-than-dependable driver of achievement. Motivation can vary widely from one person to another and from day to day. Where one person is motivated by competition or a big salary, another person – even one with identical job responsibilities – will be motivated by the potential research impact or by how much they enjoy the company of colleagues. Yet these same people, when they share purpose, will show up day after day, and they will work together to achieve purpose.

Motivation is also subject to change at the speed of life. Even the most committed marketing director, star salesperson or team leader can be distracted by both the good and the bad going on around them: anything from something as exciting as looking forward to a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to the distraction of a sick parent. That’s when purpose rises above everything. When we know purpose, we show up anyway.

How can you tell if a team knows and shares purpose? Here are two questions to ask yourself:

  1. Does this team struggle to understand why their work is important?
  2. Does this team seem to lack motivation?

If you answered “yes” to either (or both) of these questions, it is highly likely that this team does not understand their purpose. And they are in good company! Every day, we at Facilitator on Fire help individuals of all ages identify purpose, expectations and accountability.

We can help you and your intergenerational teams unite around purpose, so you can show up and give your best. Together, with purpose, you can achieve your greatest successes. Even when you are exhausted, jet-lagged, and distracted to the point of no motivation.

Need a little help to make everyday meetings more purpose-filled?

Download our one-page Cheat Sheet to Disrupt Damaging Meeting Behaviors.

your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO and Chief Facilitator of Facilitator on Fire, has a dream to create a world that is generously inclusive of all adult generations. The best place to connect with Kay is on Instagram. Or, listen to Kay on the "From One Caregiver to Another" weekly podcast.

"Caregiver Coaching" is for family caregivers who are ready to overcome the emotional grind of caregiving. 

Facilitator on Fire's "Building Trust Across Generations" seminar helps leaders and managers build amazing teams that are attractive to people of all ages. Kay's keynote address, "Top Myths of Leading Generations," helps businesses see the hard costs of miscommunication between generations.

Help us Help YOU

Leave a comment below to tell us how or where your team is struggling or seems to lack motivation. We pledge to provide you with insight and solutions to help you build success for every generation on your teams.


Comments will be moderated. Facilitator on Fire and the Teams That Work Better blog is committed to creating safe experiences to learn together about teams. We are not afraid of hard questions, so please ask and comment about things that are difficult or might be touchy! Language intended to harm others will not be permitted in comments or at live events; moderation will be made and comments allowed at the sole discretion of Facilitator on Fire team members.


  1. Brad Griffith

    This is just what I needed today, Kay. Thank you! I’m both motivated and driven by purpose, but I all too often focus on the motivation rather than our purpose when taking with my team.

    • Kay Coughlin

      Thanks, Brad! You are a good leader and I know how deeply you care about your team. Yes, going back to purpose will serve you and your team the best every day.