All You Know about Motivation is Wrong

Motivation – an abstract noun that seems to have become the key word of the 21st century. Motivational speaking, motivational coaching and motivational teaching are some of the most profitable jobs of our days. And it’s only natural. We are living on fast forward and in order to comply with the standards of the Western world, we must turn into production machines. The more we produce, the better. But we all know: We are not always in the mood for a 16h-workday. And here is where the motivation games begin.

Why do that?

Human nature is quite interesting. If we are not obliged to do something productive, we probably wouldn’t do it without a kick up the arse, also known as motivation. The prospects of a well paid job motivate us to go to school and study for our exams. The salary at the end of the month motivates us to carry out even the most tedious of our job tasks. The fear of getting buried under a pile of dirty dishes, laundry and dust motivates us to clean our home.

Carrots or sticks?

You’ve probably heard of the nice story of sticks and carrots. We need a reward to get most of our daily tasks and chores done, let alone big life or career goals. Therefore, positive motivation often comes in the shape of rewards: “If you do this, then you’ll get that”. And it does work when it comes to simple tasks: Take out the trash and you can play computer games afterwards. Just attend school today and afterwards you go and meet your friends. But what about those moments when life gets complicated and we are supposed to use our brains to carry out a task? What if we have a creative job or want to improve certain aspects of our life, but do not have the needed energy or time?

Forget about rewarding

Sharpen our thinking and excelerate creativity. That’s exactly what rewards do NOT do. They just narrow down the road towards our goal and we only focus on the final destination, i.e. the prize. And all that to the disadvantage of our performance. Just imagine you take up a new important project and you get paid for it in advance. What are the chances that you deliver the same work quality as you would have done, had you got your financial reward beforehand.

Rewards are a motivational myth in the goal-setting psychology. Therefore they make us forget what the initial purpose was and we are likely to turn them into the actual purpose. This translates to “work for the sake of it”, without passion, creativity and all the sugar and spice that turns an average performance into a close-to-genius one.

He first wanted to be lawyer, but ended up writing speeches for Al Gore. Today he is finally pursuing his dream, revolutionising the career marketplace with his think-outside-the-box strategies. Dank Pink truly believes that motivation works like a puzzle; only certain pieces fit together and reward is always a corner piece, which always comes at the end. His inspirational talk about the puzzle of motivation will make you rethink all that you already know about the strange mechanisms of motivation.


Photo credits: Cover image by Pixabay

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