Tuesday, October 17, 2017



Motivation can be defined as ”A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.” We can also talk about getting a prize or having an incentive for doing something. Motivation can also be defined as ”being positively engaged to complete a task. Motivation can have two directions. Away from something and towards something. To be more exact, motivation is a combination of a choice to achieve something, desire to have an effort towards it and drive to persist with that effort.

Examples of sources

The adrenalin burst after having a run, the need for compliments after doing something, bonuses after reaching a predetermined goal at work, the joy of doing something we like etc. Motivation to move away from bad outcomes like spending too much money.

Three primary sources of motivation, intrinsic, extrinsic and altruistic

Intrinsic motivation comes from loving the things we are doing. We are doing something because we really want to do something. Extrinsic motivation is a need for doing something, because we get something else, because of that. Altruistic or relational motivation comes from our social needs like connecting with others. People are not equal in responding sources of motivation. Some people are more driven towards intrinsic sources, and some people are more driven towards extrinsic sources of motivation. These sources of motivation may vary. When we are performing an action, we are enjoying more intrinsic motivators. When we are planning for performing the action, we are incluenced more by the extrinsic facors. In the long run, we may think more about common good. Rewards from doing a particular task should always be personalized depending on the primary sources of motivation people have.

Intrinsic motivations come from our egocentric biases, especially in the adults. The more effort we have, the more we feel motivated about achieving something. The more effort we put, the more likely we will love the end product. Deep engagement in the action itself can be a source of putting maximum effort with no other rewards. This can be satisfying and most of us do something that is enjoyable, satisfying, or personally challenging without getting any rewards. Why does this happen? Because our bodies and brains have biochemical reactions like adrenalin or dopamine or some other feel-good hormones bursting in our bodies. They are the sources in this case.

Extrinsic motivations are a double-edged sword. We have an inner need to get some kind of recognition from others. Wrong kinds of extrinsic rewards decrease our motivation to do something. Getting compliments from doing our work is a good way to motivate us, but we need to feel they are genuine. We are willing to work for a smaller salary, if we feel we get some genuine acknowledgement from our work. We may become less driven when we get monetary rewards. Verbal ”well done” is more effective for some of the people. It will probably lose its effect if it is used too much.

The most powerful source of motivation may be our connectedness to others which can be called altruistic motivation. By getting a higher meaning for our actions, we feel even more motivated than any intrinsic rewards can give us. Favorable perceptions of colleagues are important for all the workers. Doing things for others can make our lives meaningful. Altruistic sources of motivation like meaning and connection are harder to understand, because they can influence the world in a longer timescale. For example, motivation to create a better world is not for just us, but for the future generations.

Motivation is a complex matter and not very well researched or understood

We do not understand motivation well. It is a complicated thing with different reactions from combinations of sources. Same action can have many sources of motivation. Different people have different motivations of doing the same things. Some people respond more to extrinsic sources and others more to intrinsic and altruistic sources. Sources may also have a different long-term and short-term effects. Money bonuses may work well as short-term motivators, but in the long run they may cause problems. We cannot get single answer for motivation and how different sources have different effects on different people. Most people and most companies should use a method of trial and error to maximize motivation.

I have only scratched a surface about motivation with this post. When we get to the mental models of psychological tendencies, we learn more.


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