On Motivation: Love and Real-Time Feedback

Do you remember the last time you were in love? Or perhaps the last time you were with a loved one – a beloved family member or close friend. Pause for a moment and consider how you felt and what you were doing. Chances are, you were enjoying yourself, whatever you were doing.

This is because we humans like to do things that we enjoy. Sounds pretty simple, right? That’s because it is!

Doing an action because we enjoy it is an example of intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is when we do something for a reward. Think about it this way – you’re washing dishes for your friend because she’s rushing off to a very important job interview and you want to help out so her guests don’t come home to a messy kitchen later tonight. She slaps a five-dollar bill on the counter and says, “Thanks so much!” How do you feel? Your priceless kind deed has now been valued at five dollars.

We’re wired to connect and empathize with others and feel like we belong to a group or community. When we do things in this context, it’s like play, i.e. very motivating. When play is turned into work, we become less motivated.

Companies like Google have taken this insight and applied it to make their employees feel more playful and creative at work. I was at the San Bruno Youtube office last week and noticed the funky and colorful décor, as well as the variety of spacious indoor and outdoor spaces, and lots of dogs! IDEO and the d.school at Stanford are designed in similar ways.

Climbing the stairs at YouTube in San Bruno is a colorful experience.

Climbing the stairs at YouTube in San Bruno is a colorful experience.

As Dan Pink explains in his book, Drive, we are also motivated by a sense of purpose, and the desire to create something meaningful. These motivations are salient, or strong, and can be lasting and most satisfying compared to external rewards like awards or raises. Of course, it’s nice to be compensated fairly and generously, but that’s not what drives us.

Once we are carrying out the actions we want to because we care about making a difference or helping a loved one, behavioral tools can be used to keep us motivated along the way. For instance, setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (in other words SMART) and can be very motivating. And, if you’ve ever run on a treadmill or worn your Fitbit or Jawbone while on a run, you know that receiving instant, real-time feedback from the display can be crucial to keep you going till you meet your goal. Sometimes, I get so motivated I exceed my goal!

Why not leverage this knowledge to motivate ourselves to be the best we can be, and make those meaningful contributions to the world? Well, we are! As we move toward a life with more balance, more creativity, and outstanding contributions to nurturing life through the human-nature innovation engine I call Alchemus Prime, we leverage these powerful motivations and behavioral tools to help be the best we can be, and to achieve what previously may have seemed impossible. Impossible is the new goal. Let’s go!

When fully motivated, we can do much more than we think we can. Beyond perception, there is a reality, waiting...

When fully motivated, we can do much more than we think we can. Beyond perception, there is a reality, waiting…

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