Posted on Sun 09 November 2014

Reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

After mentioning that I was reading Influence to my good friend [cached]Adrienne, she recommended [cached]Drive as my next book. The theme is quickly explained: While there are three different ways to motivate us - biological urges like hunger or sex, external reward & punishment, and intrinsic reward from performing a task - only intrinsic reward can consistently foster creative behavior.

Pink starts out by showing how traditional external motivation - cash bonuses et al. - overly constrain our focus, interfere with creativity, extinguish internal rewards and even lead to unethical behavior (think doctoring sales numbers to meet a bonus target). Only in special circumstances can external motivation still be useful: If a task is routine and boring to begin with, then there's not much creativity to lose.

He then makes the case for why intrinsic motivation is better suited to our highly evolved and demanding work environments. Everyone who's ever been in 'flow' will know what he's talking about.

In fact, the most valuable part of the book might be the end, where Pink gives clear instructions on how you can harness intrinsic motivation in your personal life, when raising children, running a business or simply trying to get fit.

Nine Strategies for Awakening Your Motivation

This includes giving yourself a "flow test" to determine how to have more flow experiences, taking a Sagmeister, doing your own performance reviews and asking big and small questions:

In 1962, Clare Boothe Luce, one of the first women to serve in the U.S. Congress, offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy. "A great man," she told him, "is one sentence." Abraham Lincoln's sentence was: "He preserved the union and freed the slaves." Franklin Roosevelt's was: "He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war." Luce feared that Kennedy's attention was so splintered among different priorities that his sentence risked becoming a muddled paragraph.

You don't have to be a president - of the United States or of your local gardening club - to learn from this tale. One way to orient your life toward greater purpose is to think about your sentence. Maybe it's: "He raised four kids who became happy and healthy adults." Or "She invented a device that made people's lives easier." Or "He cared for every person who walked into his office regardless of whether that person could pay." Or "She taught two generations of children how to read."

As you contemplate your purpose, begin with the big question: What's your sentence?

Tags: books, life, psychology, rationality

© Julian Schrittwieser. Built using Pelican. Theme by Giulio Fidente on github. .