How to remain motivated the right way

In life often we find ourselves struggling to stay motivated towards our goals and it doesn’t help that most of what we know about motivation is wrong. In the absence of the right motivations we often fail to cope with our goals. How can we avoid this?

Well, let us understand this – there are two types of tasks.

  • Algorithmic – Involving the repetition of the same steps in a certain way,
  • Heuristic – coming up with a new process each time because there are no set instructions or processes.

For both these types of work the usual carrot and the stick approach has been found to be ineffective:

  1. It kills extrinsic motivation.
  2. It diminishes performance.
  3. It reduces creativity.
  4. It can crowd out good behaviour.
  5. It can encourage ruthless cheating and unethical behaviours.
  6. It can become addictive.
  7. It can foster short term thinking for quick gains as opposed to long term thinking for sustained efforts.

According to research the extrinsic rewards can be effective for algorithmic tasks and for heuristics tasks contingent rewards can be dangerous.

Further, it was also found that self-determined goals are usually more appropriate and healthier than goals set by others.

It was also found that people have three psychological needs – competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Research shows that the secret to high performance is not our biological drive or the reward and punishment drive but the deep-seated desire to live autonomous lives with a sense of purpose.

Therefore, the new approach to motivation has three essential aspects:

  1. Autonomy: The desire to live lives on our own terms
  2. Mastery: The urge to improve at a specific task
  3. Purpose: The desire to do something beyond and above our own selves.

This may be achieved by adopting practices that turn either work into play or play into work also known as the Sawyer Effect. This involves:

  • Promising giving the rewards only after the task is complete.
  • Setting non tangible rewards, such as praise or appreciation for a task done well.
  • Praise and positive feedback are much less corrosive than money and trophies.
  • Providing complete and useful information to make the work meaningful to people.

It was found that through this method people were able to enjoy ‘autotelic experiences’ during the work hour. An auto(self) telic (goal) experience is one the where the goal is self-fulfilling – the activity is its own reward.

This led people to be in a state of flow – that is to say they had clear goals and instructions, the feedback is immediate and the balance between what a person’s duties and their capabilities was maintained. The level of difficulty was also fair, neither to challenging nor too easy and this balance produced a degree of focus and satisfaction that easily led the people to being deeply in the moment, with a sense of control and helped them to supersede themselves an become a part of the process – forgetting themselves in a function and thus leading them to a high degree of satisfaction.

This is the ideal way to stay motivated and connected to our purpose, an approach that has been developed by science as the best alternative to the carrot and stick approach.

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