Intrinsic Motivation & Joy

Watching the news from the States, I am appalled that there are so many who are blaming the financial crisis on those “greedy” teachers.


Yeah, I’m sure it was the teachers, not Wall Street or big bank executives. Not the guys who are getting paid five to fifty times as much as teachers and don’t care one whit about the welfare of others. Not the guys who created a flawed system, then got bailed out and are continuing to perpetuate that system, no not them of course.

And you’re wondering what this little rant has to do with Motivation and Joy.

Very simply it is this. Those executives (for the most part) are driven by money and power. These are extrinsic motivators and virtually NEVER result in happiness.

Teachers, I think we can all agree, most likely don’t go into teaching for the money (I can’t speak for all of them, but, you get the point). They do it to help others, out of sense of meaning. This is an intrinsic motivator and generally leads to greater well-being and joy.

If more people understood that money and fame and power DOES NOT BRING happiness, then they might start to look at the things that do and change their perspectives on what is worth working toward and having in life.

In his book Drive Dan Pink talks about the three factors that lead to greater intrinsic motivation, which are:

  • Autonomy – having a sense of volition over our choices
  • Mastery – constant awareness and work toward bettering ourselves in a given area
  • Purpose – having a higher meaning to what we do

He also talks about how when companies use money and other extrinsic rewards as motivators, they ALMOST ALWAYS have the opposite effect and are detrimental to performance and the company’s interests.

I have worked in and around some corporations before and I can remember the term ROI (return on investment) coming up a lot. Invariably, companies want a short ROI, a small time frame for anything they pay for to come to fruition.

This is what happens when you give extrinsic motivators, you get a short term burst in productivity, which invariably falls off over the long run, unless you give even MORE extrinsic motivators.

This is why the Big Band CEOs and execs need to be paid so much money. They don’t really like their work, deep down they know it is hurting the company and the larger world in the long run, but they overpower that knowledge with even more short term “motivation” in the form of money and lots of it, until they forget about such things.

Intrinsic motivation has a much longer ROI, but is pays of HUGE in productivity and positive effects on people and companies.

Teaching also has a long term ROI, as the kids that a teacher works with will hopefully take the lessons taught and apply them much later in life. I think (I can’t know because I’m not a teacher) that this knowledge that their actions help to create a new generation of productive members of society is one of the things that really motivates teachers. Not the money.

So you be the judge, is it teachers that are destroying the economy or bankers.

You only need to look at their motivation to know.

My apologies for the rant.

Keep laughing.

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