I love exploring what exactly makes us as humans tick. What determines this inner drive which determines our actions and how can we increase it? Why...
How often do we consider what lies behind the motivation for our daily actions? And does it really matter where the source of motivation lies? I want to argue that it does and that the quality of life experienced depends on it.
This morning I jumped out of bed when I realised that I had overslept. Not because I couldn’t wait for my day to start, but because I had a very important clinical workshop to get to and there would be dire consequences had I failed to attend. It was raining softly outside and it was very tempting to rather stay in bed, but the fear of the consequences propelled me into action.
Two psychologists, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, have proposed that there are two broad categories of sources of motivation for human behaviour, Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation:
Intrinsic motivation can be described as the inherent tendency to learn new things and to explore and excel and meet challenges and to exercise and expand your capacities as a human being.
Extrinsic motivation on the contrary has to do with external forms of coercion, whether it be the promise of a reward or the threat of punishment that inspires the action.
Most of what we do as human beings are to an extent extrinsically motivated. The clothes you wear, the things you buy and the company you keep often reflects a need for acceptance or recognition or a fear of rejection implying extrinsic motivating factors. Fear can be a powerful extrinsically motivating factor. Although threats or promises of reward can be strong motivating factors resulting in things getting done, they often leave us feeling extremely tired and unfulfilled at the end of the day.
Research done by Ryan and Deci shows that people who are more intrinsically motivated have more interest, excitement and confidence in life and a general heightened sense of vitality and general well-being.
The Self Determination theory looks at conditions which support intrinsic motivation. It presents three factors that enhances the intrinsic motivation in a specific situation.
When you receive positive feedback in a particular situation you will feel more confident about that aspect of your life. Criticism on the other hand can decrease your sense of self-efficacy leaving you deflated and unmotivated. The optimal challenge is also conducive to feelings of competence.
Autonomy is supported when there are opportunities for choice and self direction. Controlling environments with deadlines, threats and pressure are the antithesis of autonomy.
When individuals feel secure in their relationships and connected to others.
The greater your feelings of competence, autonomy and relatedness in a situation, the greater will be your intrinsic motivation. The converse is also true. I think most people want to live life driven by an inner sense of purpose as opposed to feeling like a puppet on a string.
It is important to ask yourself the following questions:
If I am not motivated in a specific situation is it because I don’t feel competent or do I feel controlled or pressured?
Do I feel connected with the people I work with and do I experience a shared sense of purpose and motivation or do I feel alienated?
What can you do if you feel your intrinsic motivation is lacking?
Seek out opportunities where you can experience a sense of mastery and accomplishment.
Do things that you are good at.
Become better at the things you do. Practice makes perfect. Study, take a course or do whatever you need to do to improve your skills.
Seek out feedback and focus on the positive feedback and try to see criticism in a positive light.
Exercise your capacity to make decisions and take responsibility. A victim mentality will leave you feeling frustrated and incapacitated.
Look at the key players are in the situation. Do they support and offer secure relationships? Are there other forms of support that could be enlisted?