Recently, when I announced my intention to create the Didactic Agoge, our good friend from Israel, Dawn Pine, wrote in to offer his help if I needed it. I asked him for some wisdom from an older and wiser man about overcoming fear and improving oneself organically, through simple and powerful time-tested strategies. Dawn responded with not one, but THREE articles. I am most pleased to post them here. This is the first in the series and is about the three types of motivation. You can find the collection in the series page once it is complete, along with all of my other multi-part series.
Much gratitude and major props to Dawn Pine for his excellent contributions, as always. Learn from his examples and words, and I promise you that your life will be better for it.
Motivation is that Holy Grail of “getting things done”. This is something that relates to everyone, in most situations. It is the fuel of our inner engines, but also the force behind our ability to influence others. For without motivation there is no influence.
I came across a few relevant articles, which I will try to summarize here. The basic premise is that there are 3 types (or levels) of motivation. And YES, even writing this article required some of them.
So let’s break them down one by one:
Motivation Type 1: Biological
The first of the three types of motivation is the simplest. Consider: why do we eat? Because we are hungry. Why do we sleep? Because we are tired.
Well, duh. But a closer examination of these day-to-day phenomena shows us that there is a motivation behind it – a biological one. That motivation is a very powerful one, but not all-powerful. The reason is that we wish to survive (that is the actual motivation behind the biology) but that we also postpone it sometimes for a higher motivation.
How do we use it?
Simple – listen to your body.
Well… most of the time. The point here is that, if you want to stay motivated, and your body tells you to get some rest – listen to it. Then resume your activities when your body says you are ready.
Motivation Type 2: Sticks and Carrots
The second of the three types of motivation is on a higher level and concerns rewards and punishments.
Scott Adams, in his first book, The Dilbert Principle, explained that work sucks. As we have all witnessed from (Defender of the Mantle) Didact’s Great Mondaydact Browser Buster posts, he adheres to that notion. [Damn straight, Skippy – Didact] Adams’s reason is that for fun we pay money (o, if the fun is free, we pay with our time), but the work pays us the money that we need for fun. The opposite of fun is “suckiness” and since you get paid to work – this means that work sucks (otherwise you would have paid to work, others wouldn’t pay you).
This brings us to the next level of motivation.
Why do we go to work? Because we get paid (on the most basic level). What if we didn’t work? Well, we will be ostracized and we will have no money. Carrot, meet Stick.
The main problem of that motivation (which reigned supreme till mid-20th century) is that it is limited by nature. Here are some examples:
- Let’s say you work 40 hours a week. If I suggested to double your pay, would you work 80 hours a week? Almost all people are shocked by this idea. “Hell no! I also need to rest.”
- Let’s say that I compensate you based on quarterly sales. You would lose all other perspectives and focuse solely on them. This means that you may be tempted to lie to customers, “cook the books” and even engage in unethical activities to meet your quota. (See below – Jordan Belfort was a great example of this.)
- Let’s say that the reward or punishment are too small – in that case you’ll just ignore them. In time all rewards and punishments lose their influence, and need to be enhanced. Reminds us of drug addicts, doesn’t it?
This is where the “rat race” comes from. You get ever greater rewards – rank, pay, perquisites – to keep you motivated, but you also get ever greater punishments – fear of losing your job and resulting loss of income, social status, living conditions, and so on – to keep you in line. And that is the classic pattern of addictive behaviour.
How do you use this carrot-stick form of motivation? By performing a routine task that does not rely on creativity.
In other words – if you have a routine, boring task, give yourself a reward for accomplishing it and a punishment for failing to do so. This will keep you motivated.
Motivation Type 3: Inner Motivation
The third of the three types of motivation is by far the most powerful, but also the most difficult.
In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink, claims that the carrots and sticks have a very limited influence. People have a DRIVE to enhance the world and improve by learning and creating. That inner motivation is a never-ending source of energy to move ourselves. You don’t think so? Try explaining that to hard core environmentalists or evangelists or any other highly motivated group.
This motivation is based on three tenets:
- Autonomy – Aristotle claimed that most people are slaves by nature. I concur on some level, but even slaves would like to get the job done by themselves. For example – we would like to be compensated based on the value that we provide, not the amount of hours worked. [This also encapsulates perfectly why Marxism is such an idiotic idea – Didact] Another example is that most of us are less inclined to use scripts of “how to” once we have the know-how and experience.
- Purpose – One of the main questions of human existence. What is my goal in life, work, or other areas? Then, what do I believe in (truth, honor, love or other ideals)? And, what will I do about it (policy – the acts I intend to perform)?
- Mastery – A state of mind of continual improvement in order to be better is a main part of mastery. This is an asymptote – one is never going to be so good that he can’t improve, but the better you are the harder it is to improve in your field. Mastery is also “painful” in that it requires effort over an extended period of time.
How do we use this type of motivation?
Focus on and develop these tenets.
Build up your autonomy by adding value to people’s lives – doesn’t matter how, just find something and DO IT.
Seek out your purpose in life. If you can’t figure it out – ask the Big Fella Upstairs. Pray sincerely and often. Your sacred purpose will come to you at times that you least expect.
Develop absolute mastery over whatever you do. Become the best in your chosen field, and never stop trying to improve.
The secrets to keeping yourself mentally strong and motivated and happy are actually pretty simple. Understand your biological needs – rest when you need to, work when you are ready, and don’t ignore your body. Reward and punish yourself for performing mundane and basic tasks. And for higher level tasks, develop the three tenets of true motivation to find your inner fire and push yourself forward.