Motivation: How do we generate it?

I have been thinking a good deal lately about how to motivate myself and others in my life. When I was a psychotherapist, I spent lots of time helping patients understand their motivations and utilizing those motivations to help them create change in their lives. Knowing what drives us to do things is important to achieving any of our goals or satisfaction in our lives. Of course, my patients were in my office because they felt the need for change. They already had motivation, albeit a negative one…they were in pain…an internal state that they wanted to get rid of. But they did not know how to make change in their lives; they needed a different set of skills. That is what psychotherapy is good for.

I have not looked at the work on motivation in a long time. In order to write this article, I did what everyone who uses a computer today does….I Googled it. I repeatedly came upon the name of one individual and had to get more information about him. After all, he is not even a psychologist or other researcher.

Daniel Pink is a bestselling author who was at one time Al Gore’s chief speechwriter. His book, Drive, explores the psychological research on motivation and performance. And he finds that business and many people at large have ignored the results of this important research. We treat employees as if they must be rewarded or punished to try to motivate them to perform well…using the proverbial carrot and stick. The research, however, shows that rewards result in poorer performance if any degree of cognitive skill is needed to accomplish a task. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the motivators we need to understand.

I have checked Drive out of the library and plan to read it right away. I will let you know the details of what I learn. In the meantime, you can find out some of Dan Pink’s thoughts on motivation and what we do wrong by listening to his TED talk (18:40). If you want a bit more detail, you can listen to him talk to American Psychological Association members at the 2011 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards (38:36).

How do you motivate yourself? How do you motivate others? What secrets have you learned about motivating patients? What motivates you to read this? How can I motivate you to make comments?

Please share your thoughts below. Thanks.


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