Direction And Motivation

The following three types of intelligence influence our direction and motivation in work and life:

  • IQ – academic intelligence that helps us to think effectively.  It tells you how to solve problems and can be source of your strengths in discipline specific knowledge and skills.
  • EQ – emotional intelligence that helps us to recognise our own and others’ emotions and relate to people effectively, especially in professional settings as you navigate your career.
  • SQ – spiritual intelligence that helps us make sense of life and find meaning, purpose and direction.  It answers the question of why we are making efforts, and supports our satisfaction, motivation and resilience.

It is really important to plan your development in all three types of intelligence from the start of your degree and career.  Traditional education tends to focus on the development of the first two intelligences.  While real-world experiences (volunteering, work placements, student competitions, study abroad) enhance your spiritual intelligence and can help you discover what you have a real calling for and why, and supports your sense of direction as a compass in life.

Knowing about yourself (your purpose and values) helps you judge your alignment with an organisation’s values and mission, which is referred to as ‘cultural’ fit.  Employees who share an employer’s core values and purpose are usually happier and more committed, which is a win-win for both parties.  For this reason, cultural fit is one of the top five recruitment criteria that employers continue to identify in the annual Australian Association of Graduate Employers Survey.


Our values affect our feelings and behaviours; they capture what is important to us, what is worth doing, and they guide our decisions – often without us realising it.  They are shaped by our personality type, upbringing, family, community, culture, media and other external influences.  For example, if honesty is important to you, then integrity (truthfulness) in the workplace will be a critical organisational value for you to identify during job seeking.

Self-awareness and understanding and acknowledging our values makes career decision- making easier. If you highly value your time with your family then working long hours will not be attractive to you and you will choose a different work-life balance to ensure greater alignment.

Personal values

Personal values that are aligned with work-related values, your chosen career, and organisation is likely to feel right and meaningful, while a poor alignment may result in feelings of alienation (“what am I doing here?”) and frustration (“I’m wasting my time”) that may lead to ‘job hopping’ or a sense of entrapment, which can affect your wellbeing.

For example, if your core values are kindness, compassion, generosity, social connection, and community, then a role in a caring and sharing profession (Social Work, Community Services, Medicine or Allied Health) would be better than a profit-driven career (investment banking or sales) where most of your colleagues will value status, wealth, adventure and recognition.   You may feel a disconnect with your colleagues and a lack of fulfilment in your role.  Moreover, your manager may give you feedback that you spend too much time and effort on managing existing relationships and too little on developing new business and maximising profit.

Watch this 5 minute video on determining your own values before completing Activity 2.

Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 2

Work values

Work values are important in achieving a sense of fulfilment.  Assessing workplaces and positions against these values will help you find a sustainable match.  Review the list of work values below to understand how occupational alignment can provide professional and personal satisfaction:

  • Achievement – Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.  Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
  • Independence – Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.  Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
  • Recognition – Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.  Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
  • Relationships – Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
  • Support – Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.  Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Working Conditions – Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.  Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.

Source:  O*NET Online

Passion, purpose, mission – your ‘why’

Current careers, life and happiness discourses are dominated by the imperative to ‘find your passion’.  This ideal remains elusive to many people, but it does not mean you will have an unfulfilling life and career.  Passion is often developed over a long period of time with mastery of our work.  The key to clarifying your passion, purpose, values, mission – your ‘why’ – is taking actions in the real world and taking the time to reflect on what you’ve experienced.  Volunteering, study abroad, work placements and internships can offer great insights on what matters to you as an individual and future professional. Experiment with many ideas during your studies, and over time, with deliberate actions and reflection, you are more likely to find one or more agendas that will give you meaning and sense of fulfilment.

Your purpose is defined as the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.  A career aligned with one’s purpose may give you over time more satisfaction, fulfilment and resilience in the face of adversity.  One’s purpose can be developed or discovered in the course of diverse extra-curricular experiences or while reflecting on past experiences, behaviours and preferences.

Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 3

Life view vs work view

Another approach to finding your ‘compass’ in life and career is to put your Life View and Work View in words and look at how these two overlap. Everyone has a life view, though it is not always clearly articulated.  Your life view covers the bigger picture including what makes life worthwhile, your place in the world, your relationships with people, and your priorities in life.  Your work view encapsulates what work means to you and what issues are critical to you in relation to work, such as money, fulfilment, autonomy, creativity or social good.

Burnett and Evans, the authors of ‘Designing Your Life, suggest that reflection on your work life should not concentrate on the description of the job you would like to do, but rather on your philosophy of work, or your ‘work manifesto’.  By ‘work’ we mean all the instances where you take purposeful actions in order to make things happen.  So, it could be your paid occupation, volunteering in the community, blogging, writing a novel, or running a book club at your local library – it’s everything that you do about the things that you consider important.

Why is it worth your while?  Positive psychology posits that we are likely to be more resilient, adaptable and satisfied with our lives when we see that our ‘work’ is making a meaningful contribution to our community or the society more broadly.  Having worked out how your work view and life view interact, how they align or clash, and whether one drives the other will help you live a life that is more conscious, coherent and full.  In that sense you could say that you have found a compass in life that shows you which way to go no matter what challenges you are currently facing.

Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 4

Success in life

An ‘achievement’ is reaching one’s goal (completing your degree), while success in life is the sum of all achievements and a feeling of heading in a defined, purposeful direction.

The media and popular culture abound in images and discourses about success in life, which is usually measured in terms of excessive wealth, property, influence, or even freedom from work.  Is this how you would define success in your life?  In contrast, Maya Angelou (US poet and civil rights activist) defined success in her life as follows: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”.  It is helpful to have some idea of what success would mean in your life, so you have a reference point to gauge if your actions are leading you towards it.