What’s your motivation?

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I’ve always known that I’m not in it for the money.

Don’t get me wrong – earning money is great and if you buy some art, a consulting session or an Artist’s Eyeball, rest assured that I will do The Happy Money Dance.

Malta - Euros (Coins)
Creative Commons License photo credit: marfis75

I’m not averse to earning money; I’m just not motivated by it.

I am motivated primarily by interest and enthusiasm.

If I’m bored by something, well, hey, good luck getting me to do it!

I’ve always been spectacularly bad at jumping through other people’s hoops, which is why I’ve deliberately arranged my life so I do as little of it as possible. Oh sure, there’s always some hoop-jumping but take it from me, a great deal of other people’s stupid shit can be avoided if you’re bloody-minded enough. And as my parents and a generation of teachers discovered, I’m capable of taking passive resistance to whole new levels of creativity when I don’t want to do something.

Far better for everyone involved if I’m doing something that excites me.

Of course, I am not immune to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: you can motivate me with food and safety but after a certain basic level, I need that addictive buzz of excitement. I can and will do things that I find boring but it eats my brain alive. If you gave me the choice between an interesting low-paid job and a highly-paid dull job, as long as I wasn’t going to starve then I’d take the interesting job every single time. Even if I tried to be ‘sensible’ and take the highly-paid boring job, I know from past experience that I wouldn’t be able to stick it out. Sooner or later, I’d crack. I used to be able to manage a couple of years of mind-numbing boredom in paid employment: now I probably wouldn’t even get that far.

I’ve always felt slightly envious of people who are motivated by their pay cheques or who don’t mind a bit of boredom as long as they get to do what they want at the weekend. Goodness knows, I’d have a lot more money and outward trappings of success if I was wired that way. I’ve tried changing this aspect of myself. I’ve tried just sucking it up and working in paid employment. I’ve tried rewriting my brain so that I’m more motivated by money and the things it brings. But the best I’ve been able to manage is making some of the boring stuff more interesting using techniques like Havi’s Metaphor Mouse.

Now I am well aware that this makes me sound like a bit of a spoilt brat. This is not the intention: I’m just dealing with my reality here. And my reality is that ‘not being bored’ is my primary motivator: not safety, independence, impressing other people, having nice things or any of the other reasons that people like to earn big pay cheques.

My secondary motivation is helping people.

This is not the ‘ooh I’m such a nice person, look how selfless and generous I’ reason that it might appear to be. Sadly, it’s more selfish than that. Although I do genuinely want others to do well, the truth is that I need to teach.


yellow calcite
Creative Commons License photo credit: House Of Sims

This is unsurprising, since teaching is in both my blood and my family culture. My Mum & Granny were teachers, as were several aunts & uncles and now at least three of my cousins. It was bound to get me eventually.

[Yes Mum, you can feel vindicated: I don’t teach in a school like you always expected but I’ve wound up with a business that involves regular teaching. Feel free to commence gloating.]

Eventually I worked out that it was probably a smart idea to find people willing to pay me to teach them because otherwise I start randomly giving people at parties impromptu lectures on why they need an internet presence.

And then people stop inviting me to parties.

Which is one reason why I think it’s important to know what motivates you. The other reason is that if you’re travelling down a road that requires one kind of motivation when you’ve got a different kind, then you’re always going to struggle.

What about you?

Do you know what motivates you? If so, does knowing help?

Leave a comment. Or write your own blog post about the subject – if you do, please let me know and I’ll link to it


I am an artist & purveyor of obsessive projects based in Hebden Bridge, England. My work involves the accretion of large numbers of small objects - pins in fabric, knots in string or hundreds of envelopes - to make sculptures that deal with fragility, loss, repetition, obsession and time.

7 thoughts on “What’s your motivation?

  1. I like how you explained it. I’ve been self employed for most of my adult life now and could only go back to the conventional work force under great duress.

    My first motivator: Curiosity -the insatiable why?
    Second motivator: Make this better – how?

    The first leads to severely annoying people with wayyyy too many questions and the second means I have to work at keeping unsolicited advice for improvement to myself :)


    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Great comment, Monette, thank you – both of those are big motivators for me too.


  2. Kirsty,
    The article is honest, cool and entertaining, yet effective in communicating the point.

    I’m not sure about what is primary and what is secondary motivation for me. Curiosity, need to explore, and sense of doing my part as a fellow human are the things that motivate me.

    And I liked the gentle humor in your style.



    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Thanks for commenting, it sounds like curiosity and altruism are important to several of us.


  3. Cool Article! I think I always have to have enough of that buzz of excitement and sense of the potential of what I’m working on to stick with it. But normally this has to fight with the daily grind and practical considerations a bit! Money for me is definitely a practical consideration that I wish could just take care of itself! But it can be a motivator too when I think about the new opportunities that it can facilitate. I suppose the underlying motivation is always the excitement of discovering and creating things.


    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Thanks for commenting. I would never rule out money as a motivator and as you say, it certainly is a practical consideration for most of us but if it didn’t exist, I don’t think I’d miss it that much. Some people would, I think.


  4. Wow, am I glad I found your blog! This sounds all very familiar. Newness & optimization motivate me above all else. Congrats on figuring it out — you are way ahead of me on channelling it as a career. :)


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