Where Are You Driving?

Psychologist Edward Deci, among several others in the field, has conducted numerous studies that attempt to pinpoint the genesis of human motivation in a variety of contexts. Most notably, he chronicled the changes in interest and motivation among a group of students whom were paid to complete a series of puzzles and contrasted them with the variances of an unpaid group.

On the third day of the experiment, Deci informed the first group that there was no more money to pay them and asked that they complete the puzzles purely for enjoyment and personal satisfaction. He also placed a stack of magazines in the room.

As you can imagine, the level of interest among participants dropped significantly, as the time it took to complete their puzzles increased dramatically and they quickly took to the magazines after finally finishing.

The second group, however, did not only remain more interested throughout the course of the study, they grew significantly more motivated and engaged as the difficulty of the puzzles increased. Solving the puzzles created a sense of accomplishment in the participants who were never offered anything more.

This case makes an interesting point about the dangers of extrinsic motivation. That is, what we do purely because we’re getting paid.

While it flies in the face of traditional corporate conscious, behavioral science has proven that there is simply not enough money to makes us work harder or perform better a task we hate than we will, for free, a task we love.

Ask yourself if you would do your job for free. The answer doesn’t have to be yes, but if it’s not, what is your plan to advance to a point in your career at which you would be happy performing purely for the fulfillment?

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