What Truly Motivates Us

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What Truly Motivates Us

We all have the innate desire built into each of us to create things, to invent, bring order to chaos, to make something beautiful.  Meeting this desire in ourselves can be a great source of self-fulfillment and satisfaction.  This is why consumerism will never bring us as individuals, or society as a whole, joy or peace.  Because it is in creating that we find fulfillment, NOT in consuming.

I know — “Heath, what the heck are you talking about?”  Stick with me for a moment; I do have a point.  In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink talks about what motivates modern man and enables him to achieve his best.  I want to take a minute to explain it and then apply it to Web Development and show you how you can try to find greater happiness and fulfillment in your own career and life.  Many will be surprised to hear that not only is money not the best form of motivation, but can even be bad.

The Carrot & Stick

For the majority of human history men (and women, of course) have been motivated by basic survival.  We worked hard to hunt, gather, plant, harvest, build and fight, just in order to survive. Pink calls this Motivation 1.0.

With the agricultural and industrial revolutions, Man progressed beyond the worries of basic daily survival.  He began to gain a sense of getting ahead.  At this point working hard meant a better future for one’s self and one’s offspring.  Mankind now had the luxury of free time and entertainment.  The rewards of comfort and pleasure became a driving force in motivating men and women to work hard.  Pink calls this Motivation 2.0.

At this point in history the majority of the Western workforce was doing menial task oriented labor.  It required little to no creativity and involved doing the same thing over and over, the types of things that would soon be replaced by computers and machines.

Of course I am over-simplifying it since I am condensing a 200 page book into a few hundred words.  The introduction of Motivation 2.0 did not eliminate Motivation 1.0.

You may see that these two forms of motivation fit inside the “carrot and stick” idea.  Today most organizations and businesses still operate under this mentality of punishment and reward incentives.  Do poorly and you will be punished, do well and you will be rewarded.  For someone digging ditches or someone on an assembly line making widgets this works fine.  Push them harder and, up to a point, they will increase output.

Now enter the information age.  In the information age, it isn’t that people need to work harder or faster; no, to be competitive they need to work smarter and more creatively.  They are designing and developing, and the punishment and reward system of motivation not only doesn’t work, it can damage ones ability to explore unique ideas.

Researchers found that motivation by fear or by reward are detrimental to creativity.  Fear will rob someone of the ability to take risks and motivation by reward will cause someone to put on mental blinders. Particularly, once someone has reached a middle class standard of living, throwing more money doesn’t increase their job performance.  Working towards that big raise or bonus, can cause someone to get tunnel vision and lose the abililty to think outside of the box.

Intrinsic Motivation

Here we need Motivation 3.0.  Instead of the fear of losing one’s job or the reward of making more money, the act of creation itself can be the best and most fulfilling form of motivation.  This is intrinsic motivation, the challenge of the task being motivation enough.  Pink compiled the results of a series of studies and experiments conducted over several decades and came to the following conclusion about intinsic motivation, or as he calls it here “Type I behavior”:

 

“Type I behavior depends on three nutrients: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  Type I behavior is self-directed.  It is devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters.  And it connects that quest for excellence to a larger purpose.”

 

I like to summarize it by saying intrinsic motivation comes down to self-directed growth with a purpose.

Once a minimum standard of living is reached, the amount of personal fulfillment and satisfaction in your career, and in life in general, is not affected by more money but rather is in direct relation to the amount of intrinsic motivation in your life.

In my next article I will write about how you can apply this to your own career in web development, but for now, I want to conclude with this:  If you find that you have very little freedom to choose at least how you do your job, if there is little to no opportunity for personal growth, and you see no greater purpose for what you are doing, it will will not matter how much money you make, chances are you will be miserable with your job and something needs to drastically change.

Next take this information about Intrinsic Motivation read about How to Unleash Your Web Development Creativity and Find Purpose >>

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