Why are some people motivated to conquer the most difficult tasks, while others can’t finish theirs without constant nagging?
When I attended elementary and middle schools in China, I was motivated by, “If you do this, then I will reward you with that” type of external incentives. I always thrived to get that A in classes, earned the faster time on track and field, and signed up for many extra curricula, because I knew I was rewarded by my teachers with gold stars and recognition in our points driven education system.
After reading the book, Drive, by Daniel H. Pink, I learned that people are motivated by “Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose (AMP)”. External incentives like money, grades, or social status tend to do significant harm to one’s long term motivation to do cognitively demanding work. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, crowd out good behavior, encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior, become addictive, and foster short-term thinking.
The best way to motivate ourselves is to spark three intrinsic drivers:
Autonomy – The desire for you to direct your own life.
When money, titles, and recognition can no longer motivate people, we tend to look to a degree of flexibility within a rigid framework with a choice of tasks, free time to work on side projects, choices of technique, and the opportunity to pick team members. Mr. Pink states the four T’s of autonomy: freedom to pick the task, the time, the technique, and the team.
Toastmasters is a non profit organization. My Toastmasters journey is a huge test of my motivation. I wasn’t rewarded by money, titles, or recognition. There’s no money involved as we are all volunteers. Titles at Toastmasters have very different weights, compared to executive titles in the industries. There’s also very limited recognition, as there are tons of thankless jobs behind the scene that made this community possible. I was motivated to lead Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters because it was a new canvas that I got to paint it however I’d like. I was in the driver’s seat to select the most important tasks at the right time, use various free resources (mailchimp, wordpress, anchor, etc.) to build a platform for the community with a stellar group of officers.
“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” ‐ Daniel Pink
Mastery — The pull to make progress and get better at something that matters.
The best experiences are matched to our abilities. If the tasks are too hard, we are anxious. If the tasks are too easy, we are bored. It’s important to challenge ourselves, but also get the tasks done to fill the sense of accomplishment.
During my last six years of Toastmasters experience, I definitely agree with that. When I was asked to deliver a humorous speech, I panicked and didn’t know how to do so until much needed hand-holding training from my mentors was put in place. When I was asked to charter a new club after holding four officer roles prior and a member for many years, it was a good challenge for me to take on, stay motivated, and contribute back to the community.
“One source of frustration in the workplace is the frequent mismatch between what people must do and what people can do. When what they must do exceeds their capabilities, the result is anxiety. When what they must do falls short of their capabilities, the result is boredom. But when the match is just right, the results can be glorious.” ‐ Daniel Pink
Purpose — The yearning to do what you want to do in the service of something greater than yourself.
Purpose is the reason that people will go above and beyond what they are asked to do. It’s important to establish a sense of purpose so people understand why they should care about this, how will solving such problems serve the greater good?
At Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters, our purpose is to provide a safe platform to practice public speaking, build future leaders, empower others, find our voice, and share ideas across cultures. Many of our members are driven by this purpose to build a safe place for all of us to advance together. Now that our club has touched more than 50 countries, we are on a mission to share this platform with many more to come.
“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.” – Daniel Pink
Join our next meeting on Wednesday March 17th, 7-8pm PDT to learn more about motivation.
It’s also St. Patrick’s Day and our open house, so come in green, bring your beer, and let’s celebrate!
— written by Renee Yao, President of Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters