When we were younger (whatever that means to you), there were driving forces that motivated us strongly. Like a desire to get good grades, make a new love blossom into a healthy relationship, or make strides in our career. As we get older, especially after reaching many of those goals and milestones we set for ourselves, it may feel like our motivation to grow or achieve has left us.
You may simply wonder what’s next? And what can motivate you to move towards that?
Though it may not solve everything, it often comes down to our personality type. If you’ve been around for long, you know I believe that when you know yourself, it invites you and motivates you to desire more. So, in addition to the MBTI, I sometimes turn to the enneagram to help discover what drives you based on your life experiences. This can help answer why some people want to continue chasing the dream into the middle years and beyond. And why others take stock, reflect on their lives, and fundamentally change their value structure. If only there were an easy way to find out your personality type! (Actually, there is).
The things that motivate us tend to change as we get older and develop as people. Money, in particular, becomes less of a concern. Once you accumulate enough of it, you begin to wonder if it is worth striving for more. The numbers keep going up in your bank account, but it doesn’t add to your life in a meaningful or practical way. It feels a little abstract.
What does research tells us about motivation and aging?
The things that motivate us change as we age – at least according to the science and various surveys on the topic.
Though I would think finding a partner to share my life with would be a motivator in our earlier decades, it turns out that our partners tend to motivate us more later in life. Only twenty-five percent of people in the 18 to 24 age group said that their partner was a significant motivation in their lives compared to 43 percent of folks over the age of 60.
Monetary rewards become much less important as we get older. Twenty-five percent of people in the youngest age group say that they’re essential, compared to just 9 percent in the over sixties.
And when it comes to what motivates folks to be happy, you must consider being social. Spending time with family and friends was identified as the most crucial thing in the lives of people over sixty.
You may be asking: why does what motivates us change?
The changes in our motivations may seem profound. But why does that happen? In part, it’s that personality type I mentioned. Because how we learn the lessons in life gives us clarity around what we most want and what we don’t.
And though it may sound like a cliche, people just starting out into adulthood see the world at their feet. And believe that life will stretch on forever. Over time, though, each one of us gets a sense of how short life actually is. So, that by the time you hit middle age, it’s that old “tickling clock” of time. And the desire to act.
This “action,” however, doesn’t mean working 100-hour weeks. Rather, it involves whittling down the essentials in your life. And that motivates us to focus on the important stuff. With time, you realize that money isn’t the be-all and end-all. Instead, the most important things are often the stuff that you can’t buy – the people and relationships you form.
So, the change in what motivates us really boils down to reflecting on changing priorities. The better clarity and understanding around what gives them fulfillment and happiness in their lives invites us to shift. This means that sometimes, accepting where we are in life is that crucial point that invites us to put more effort into what really matters.
I believe we are never too old to pursue a new desire or dream. So, whether it’s finally beginning to paint or write that novel. Or creating stronger bonds with friends and family, my advice is to go for it. Because once you start taking action, you’ll discover even more reasons to move forward.