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Motivation - some musings


In this post I am diving in to a more personal topic - thinking about what motivates us to do what we do.


A couple of years ago I took up running. Not in a marathon way but for a few months last year I was able to run 10km and I am now doing a 6km run a week. I did the 6km run in the Melbourne Marathon in October and the photo shows me at the 5km mark just before entering the "hallowed turf" of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. When I look at the photo, apart from the uncanny likeness to my mother, I see a mixture of bravado and determination. I like the idea of running, I like getting up on a weekend morning and heading out, and I love when its done. But the funny thing is I don't enjoy the actual running part so much. My legs get tired, I get puffed, my mind keeps saying - you can stop now / no you can't - keep going / you can stop when you get to that tree / no you can't - keep going / all right you can walk up that hill / no you can't - just keep running. I'm not even sure who this conversation is between! But I get home and I look at my time and feel a bit proud that I went faster than the week before or a bit further and so the cycle goes.

It is like that in my professional life too - for me being the leader of an organisation is like running a race, loving the idea of things, not so much fun making it happen, but then a great feeling of satisfaction when the outcome is achieved. I was lucky / fortunate / smart to hire the right people in the three library services I led and I have worked with some exceptional colleagues who make things happen. It is a magic thing to work with a group of people that have complementary skills and are all motivated by similar values and wanting to achieve.

The Dalai Lama had an opinion piece in the New York Times on the weekend, Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded. He suggests that the reason for the current upheaval in the US is that so many people have lost their jobs and they no longer have a sense of purpose. This is what is motivating me to run for IFLA President - a desire to keep contributing, to feel useful, to have a positive impact. I get excited about the possibilities, the chance to influence the direction of IFLA, to create value by using my talents. I'm good at creating opportunities, at picking up on trends and thinking how they might be applied to a particular organisation, on setting a clear direction and working out how to achieve it. The Dalai Lama quotes a 13th century Buddhist sage: "If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one's own way."

Last night I attended an ALIA dinner at Parliament House in Canberra. The purpose was to launch the Australian Public Library Alliances' Public Libraries Standards and Guidelines. Two senior politicians from both sides attended and spoke, both were glowingly positive about libraries. It is immensely satisfying to work in an industry that is universally acknowledged as being a "good thing." That isn't to say we rest on our laurels, and librarians are better than most at soul searching and reinventing themselves. But it is a good place to be, knowing that our communities trust us and value us.

I hope I can keep running for a while yet - and even get back up to those 10km runs. It's all about staying motivated (and looking after one's knees.)


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