Where does motivation come from? Business’s think you can motivate your employees with rewards, or punishments. The big CEO’s get bonuseswhen they do their job well, and in that way, they get motivated to do their best. Is that true? I’ve covered motivation before, but I have something to add now.

Where real motivation comes from

Real motivation comes from inside. Not from the rewards we get for doing what we do, not from the fear we have for failing. When we actually want to do something really good, we need ‘intrinsic motivation’. I’ve based this post on a TED Talk I saw after reading Cal’s post Beyond Passion: The Science of Loving what you do. After seeing that talk, I look different at the phenomenon ‘motivation’.

  • We have to change our view on motivation. How we think about motivation now is only about short-term motivation. We’ve procrastinated, so we have to do a lot of studying in the last couple of weeks and we need to stay motivated. Consider your goal again, reward yourself for studying. Those things work, but only on the short term. In the long term, we need other solutions. Other ways to get motivated.
  • Common sense isn’t always true. The public opinion is that when you reward yourself, you will do your task better. But that works only with tasks you’ve already mastered, easy tasks. Things like cleaning your house, doing the laundry, will go faster, will go better. But when you need to get creative, rewarding yourself won’t work. This is because you are getting some sort of tunnel vision, you can only focus on the reward. And when you need to get creative, you need to have a broad view, everything should be possible.

How can we be motivated in the long term than?

Dan Pink gave us three components of motivation we need to understand if we want to get motivated on the long term: autonomy, mastery and purpose. I will explain those three with the example of Sid, the guy with the business major.

  • Autonomy. Be the master of your own time. You are in charge of what you do when. In college, this isn’t completely possible, you can’t always schedule your lectures yourself and you might have other obligations. But you are the master of your school work. Sid can postpone his homework, procrastinate and have a lot of stress in the last couple of weeks before the test, but he can also choose to get on schedule, finish homework early and be in charge of his own time, also in the last weeks before the tests. We tend to forget that, you don’t NEED to postpone, you don’t need to cram everything in the last week. You can also choose to have a good schedule you stick to.
  • Mastery. Want to learn something. Make sure whatever your major is,¬†it is¬†something you want to master. Sid wants to become a good businessman and wants to earn that suit he’ll wear later. He needs to master everything that comes with the business major. Master a skill, and feel awesome.
  • Purpose. The most important. Sid doesn’t do his major because he wants to work for microsoft and earn a lot of money. Sid wants to set up a non-profit organization which helps other people to build schools in Africa. Sid wants to have a company which can supply the building material and the advice on how to build a school. He needs a good business model for this, because Sid isn’t something who thinks small. Sid does his major because he has a purpose. He feels the greater cause of studying on his shoulders, he goes to college for a reason.

These three things combined equals motivation on the long term. Motivation to change the world, to make great things happen. To conclude: The current view on motivation is wrong, people don’t get motivated to do great things by rewards and punishments, that’s only short term motivation, which won’t work on creative tasks. When you want to get motivated on the long term and want to make great things happen, you need to have autonomy, have a hunger for mastery and you need a purpose. Watch the TED talk, get motivated, change the world.

What is your purpose?

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