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What drives motivation – an animated short

How to motivate people exceeds rewards and punishments

Who would have thought a lecture on sociological factors of business motivation would make a great animated short? The people at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce did – and they were right.

In this amusing (and fascinating) animated short, Daniel Pink discusses the results of scientific studies on what motivates people to work hard at their jobs. What are people motivated by? Surprise: It’s not money – it’s tapping into a person’s own passions and drive.

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What motivates people?

Asking what motivates people to work ultimately gets at a deeper question: What are people motivated by in the grand scheme of life? People are complex creatures whose behaviors are shaped by their values, beliefs, feelings and experiences as well as basic human needs like growth and connection. Research is clear that passion and creativity work together to produce drive. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience demonstrated that the more inspired participants felt during a given activity, the more activated their amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) became. People are ultimately guided by their own values – not by other people’s attempts to control their behavior or even by external circumstances. So to really get to the bottom of what motivates people to work or change anything about themselves, prioritize passion. 

What motivates people to work

Studying what motivates people to work leads to some unbelievably interesting conclusions. Science points to several realities that go against conventional beliefs. For example, as workers (and consumers), we are actually not as easily given to manipulations as “pop” behavioral economics might have us believe. Instead of responding to reward-versus-punishment systems to (de)incentivize various behaviors, humans respond better to incentives that engage their cognition and interests. That is to say, as long as a worker is obtaining sufficient compensation to find fulfillment, there are actually three (non-monetary) drivers that keep workers working hard: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Let’s look at each of these factors to understand what motivates people to work:

  • Autonomy in the workplace. In order to feel like a contributing member of the workforce, employees need to feel they are both skillful and trusted on the job. Therefore, empowering a reasonable level of autonomy in the workplace is one of the most effective strategies when considering what motivates people to work hard.

  • Mastery in the workplace. Whether you are the owner of a small business or the employee of a growing firm, a feeling of mastery on the job is one of the most important parts of what motivates people to work. To effectively learn how to inspire people, make sure everyone onboard has the tools and information they need to excel on the job.

  • Purpose in the workplace. What are people motivated by? One of Tony Robbins’ pivotal business growth concepts is the role of purpose in the workplace. It is not money that ultimately keeps people working hard. What drives people is the sense of purpose and contribution they feel on the job. Invest in employee retention and morale, and you’ll understand not only what motivates people in life but also what creates happy, dedicated employees.

What motivates people to change?

It’s one matter to be driven in life and quite another to change something about yourself. Changing a personality trait or habit can be so daunting that many people resist self-improvement to avoid the challenge. People tend to stick to old, familiar habits unless they have a powerful reason to change. 

What does the research have to say about what motivates people to change? Psychology Today reports that behavioral change occurs along two dimensions: internal/external and positive/negative. These dimensions combine in four distinct ways, each producing a different effect on drive. 

  1. When someone is inspired to change by internal factors (their passions) and positive results (like fulfilled dreams or goals), they are likely to succeed at changing themselves.
  2. When someone is driven by external factors (circumstances) and positive results, they are likely to succeed at changing themselves at least partially.

  3. When someone is inspired to change by internal factors and negatives results (like the threat of failure or loss), they might succeed at changing somewhat but risk relapse into undesired behavior.

  4. When someone is inspired to change by external factors and negative results, they are unlikely to succeed at any level of personal change. 

What have you used to inspire employees (or increase your own drive) successfully? What motivates people to work in your business? To discover the answers to these questions, you must find your driving force. Take our assessment so you can set attainable, inspiring goals. 

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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