Motivation is its own category, but I want you to watch this talk by Dan Pink because this problem of motivation goes to how and why we make choices in our lives.
Long ago, maybe yesterday, if you wanted to lose weight or get “in shape” you would be advised to follow a strict regimen of calorie restriction and exercise and as you lost weight, to reward yourself with treats. As an example, for every 10 pounds lost get a massage or a new outfit or something you had been denying yourself. As if losing weight wasn’t awesome enough all by itself. As if making time to care for yourself and your health wasn’t enough.
This idea that we are going to fill our days with activities and people we don’t like and that don’t serve us so that we can be doing what we really want somewhere else at some faraway time leaves us hollowed out and unhappy. Never mind the problem of never being guaranteed another sunset.
These contingent motivators — if you do this, then you get that — work in some circumstances. But for a lot of tasks, they actually either don’t work or, often, they do harm.
When you structure your life around what is really important to you, then your life isn’t all roses but you get to experience a deep level of satisfaction and contentment with your path.
The good news is that the scientists who’ve been studying motivation have given us this new approach. It’s built much more around intrinsic motivation. Around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, they’re interesting, or part of something important. … Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Intrinsic motivation.
When you look around in your life, where do you see carrots and sticks?
Where do those carrots and sticks work for you?
What kind of motivation are you working from when you are at your best, most creative, most productive? What do those situations have in common?
What can you do to align your day-to-day with what is really important to you?