Motivation. Honestly that’s why like 50% of the people on here even use Medium. I get it though. Some days you just have it and some days you don’t.
But what exactly is it that motivates us? Is it the same for everyone? Is there one, failsafe motivational tactic that we should all be using?
Well, according to science: sort of.
As with most branches of psychology, there are multiple theories of motivation in humans, some more basic than others. Rather than list and discuss them all here in excruciating detail, we’re going to briefly look at one theory at a time in a Monday Motivation series.
(Cue theme song)
For the inaugural Monday Motivation, we’re starting with a theory of human motivation called ‘Self-Determination Theory’.
SDT was originally developed by psychology researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan and was actually an extension of their older theoretical model called Cognitive Evaluation Theory, or CET. CET examined the effects of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, suggesting that extrinsic motivation comes from external factors like money, meeting deadlines and status; whereas intrinsic motivation is a much more personal desire to work towards the expression of one’s true self.
CET suggested that extrinsic motivation actually reduces personal feelings of autonomy that are achieved by intrinsic motivation, and thus extrinsic factors actually REDUCE one’s creativity and drive. As this is obviously not quite correct (not everyone who makes very little money is extremely motivated and more creative) Deci and Ryan adjusted their theory; thus creating SDT. In this revision, the idea is that the things that we find most satisfying, and thus we are most motivated to do, are things which we perceive to increase our autonomy. Basically, we work hard and are driven to work hard when we feel like we are in control.
Many of us can probably relate to this, as when we feel like a work project or goal is specifically ours that we are in full control of, we are more likely to put in the long hours and hard work required to do the best job possible. This is in stark contrast to working a shitty job that only serves to improve your boss’s position that you feel no investment in.
The theory states that while extrinsic factors such as pay grade and career advancement are certainly motivators, they are no match for the perception that we are working for something for our own personal gain.
So how can you use this to motivate yourself and others?
Well, regardless of your job or position in a company, there are always ways to find bits of autonomy. Set small goals and take ownership of certain projects — research shows that you are more likely to be more motivated to work hard and thus will likely do a better job, probably earning you even more autonomy.
And if you can’t do that, find a way to pivot your career towards something that you actually give a shit about; hard work is a lot easier if you care.
If you’re interested in learning more check out this article.
Do you notice increased motivation with increased autonomy? Do you think it’s possible to find fulfillment in any job?