Career Change - Which Direction is Motivating You?

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

If you are currently contemplating a career shift, understanding your motivational direction for this can help you to achieve what you truly desire. Are you thinking in terms of TOWARDS language or AWAY FROM language as you speak about your desire for change? The direction of this language comes down to your internal motivation for the change and ultimately will reflect on your degree of planning, your behavioural responses and your outcomes.


Are you running towards your next career goal or away from your current situation?

Towards Language –This language talks about what you want what you are heading towards eg I’m looking for a role that will allow me to flourish as a team leader. I’d like a team that I can motivate and mentor. I want to be working on the Eastern side of the city with relatively flexible hours in an organisation that values internal talent development and promotion. I want…… I’m looking for…… I will be …….. I want to earn …. I want a manager who communicates and cares!


Away From Language – This language speaks of what you want to aviod, not where you are headed. eg I need to get out because ……. I don’t want another boss who ….. I want to be out of here by Christmas… I can’t stand the way they ……….. I won’t be applying for jobs where ……….. I need less ……… There's no opportunity here…

Both motivational directions can be powerful and helpful. For example “away from” language will help you to avoid problems whereas “towards” language will help you identify and work towards specific positive outcomes. We are all motivated by both language directions at different times, depending on the context.


When it comes to wanting to change your career or job, “away from” motivation is not especially productive. It is a strong driver but does not necessarily help you achieve your longer term goals. It can lead people to “just get out of or away from” the problem instead of “into” the well thought out planned position. The first leads to short term gain in removing the irritant, the second can lead to a well executed plan to achieve the work life you want.


While we have a natural tendency for one or the other, you can choose to switch to that which serves you. As an "away from" thinker, when you identify what is really important to you and why, you have started the process of moving “towards”. Knowing what you want and shaping your language around that, also shapes your thoughts. This affects your behavior, responses, what you notice, what you pay attention to and how you process information.


When contemplating a change, it is important to know what you want and why you want it. Develop a clear picture in your mind, including all the aspects that you particularly need and want to experience in your role. Dig deeper and ask why those things are important to you. Are you hanging on to some old or redundant thoughts or beliefs that you could release? Once you have a vivid picture and the language to go with it, you have started to replace the internal and external dialogue with “towards” language. This can feel a bit like changing the hand you write with so perseverance will be important at the beginning.


Reality checking is important at this stage as you begin to set out specific goals to help you achieve your vision. You may find there are some additional steps you need to take in order to get where you really want to go. Your time frame may need re calibration. You may need to hang in for longer while you prepare for the move properly. Network and research to help you with this reality checking.


This concept is applicable to all of life’s contexts. When something is not working for you, check in with yourself. Am I motivated TOWARDS or AWAY right now, and would I be better off adopting some of the opposite language in order to get the results I need?


Reference: Directional Motivation is discussed in Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence by Shelle Rose Charvet

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